In Yankee dollars, Leith Clothing‘s shirts come out to about $140, plus about $20 in shipping, so they’re not the most viable option, save for those with money to burn or an excessive infatuation with madras. But the brand’s story is interesting.
According to co-founder Guy Barley, the fabric was woven in Chennai (formerly known as Madras), India, on Victorian-era looms using organic cotton and natural vegetable dyes. “We think it’s pretty darn — or should that be yarn? — authentic in both hand and color tone,” said Barley in an email.
“We were keen to avoid the infamous cloth of the 1960s,” he continued, “which was often of very low quality and dyed with crude, poorly fixed vegetable dyes that were prone to bleeding all over your underwear.
“What we were aiming for was a cloth more in line with that from the pre-war/1950s period, when the fabric was still predominately only used on quality garments sold by higher-end retailers. This cloth, though still lightweight, loosely woven and slubby, had much greater stability in terms of colorfastness, and would usually gradually fade over time rather than suffer the rapid hemorrhaging of later madras fabrics.”
Manufacturing was handled by one of the England’s oldest shirtmakers, Barley said.
As for the styling, “They are fairly classic Ivy League buttondown long-sleeved sport shirts with an unlined three-button collar, locker loop, box pleat and small side gussets. The body has an easy taper and can be worn both tucked in or out.
“We have also actively sought to avoid any ‘retro’ or ‘heritage’ type imagery in our presentation,” Barley added. “We feel that the madras shirt is a completely timeless piece and shouldn’t just be placed within a 1950s/60s bubble. You can look just as good and relevant in one today paired with jeans and plimsolls as you could in 1961. On the other hand, we are still details obsessives and see no need to update’a classic if you don’t have to.”
Although the initial production run only consists of two fabrics, Leith Clothing “has dozens more ready to put into production in the near future.” More on Leith’s madras can be found on its website here. — c C m