Bloody English! UK-Based Leith Clothing’s Bleeding Madras Shirt

indigo_folded_small_1024x1024Ivy Style was recently given an exclusive peek at a new startup shirt brand from the UK intent on making bleeding madras shirts the old-fashioned way.

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


29 Comments on "Bloody English! UK-Based Leith Clothing’s Bleeding Madras Shirt"

  1. Christian | May 24, 2013 at 9:37 am |

    Evidently it’s Bleeding Madras Day. Derek over at Put This On posted this today:

  2. Thanks, CC.

    This makes my week. Okay, maybe my month.

    If Mercedes reintroduces a boxy, round-headlight version of the old diesel wagon, I’ll do somersaults on the front lawn.

  3. Thanks for the post, I just ordered one. I’ll report back.

  4. The PTO article references Emma McGinn’s encounter with archival bleeding madras fabric while visiting the library of the Handicraft and Handloom Export Corporation.

    McGinn writes: “Bleeding madras was a type of woven fabric popular in the 1960s, it is no longer available today and the knowledge of the process has disappeared.”

    Yet Leith claims they are using fabric that is truly produced using the historical process (from their blog: “They [Leith’s fabric mill] are among the foremost experts on traditional Indian vegetable dyeing techniques and have been working to refine the process for several decades.”

    How can McGinn’s statement and Leith’s claims be reconciled? Has the “knowledge of the process” or the technology truly disappeared or hasn’t it?

  5. Really interesting piece….even if the shirts are twice as expensive as they need to be….

  6. It’s about time. Good show Leith!

  7. Woofboxer | May 24, 2013 at 12:47 pm |

    Twice as expensive as they need be?

    If you know where to get a traditionally made shirt, stitched in the UK or US from quality materials and by an independent small volume manufacturer for 70USD, well please let us all know.

  8. Ever since my mom bought my brother and I our first madras sport coats in the spring of ’62, I’ve been a big fan of the mad plaid. My closet is stocked with shirts (long & short sleeved) and sport coats just waiting for the cold of spring to be gone in order for the season of madras to begin!

  9. Let’s await Mr.’s report.

  10. Neato colors, and I hope they expand the choices in hopes of many orders. Though, at USD160, I am grateful for the Korean lady who sews me a shirt now and then, and knows my Ivy quirks. She digs out some awesome finds in the LA Garment District. I believe I need to pay her more.

  11. @S.E,

    I’ll do my best to provide a thoughtful review.

    Everyone else,

    I ordered the “olive” (No psychoanalysis needed) I feel the pattern being tighter better suited my tastes.

  12. @woofboxer:

    All of these made in the USA shirts are at least 35% (many 50% or more) less than $140 (plus $20 shipping):

    1. Brooks Brothers:,default,pd.html?dwvar_001E_Color=BL&contentpos=1&cgid=

    2. New England Shirt Co. for L.L. Bean:




    I could go on (and could certainly highlight innumerable ways to find other originally overpriced USA-made shirts currently on sale for far less {Gant, Gitman, New England Shirt Co. among them}) – but, instead will point out that Brooks Brothers offers a wide range of classic, madras shirts – many made from authentic Indian cotton madras cloth, but not manufactured in the USA – for less than $80…this one’s $39.75:,default,sc.html?q=madras%20shirt

    As I’ve said many times before, I don’t believe that because someone – most likely making minimum wage (if not less), with no significant tailoring experience – sewed the shirt fabric in the USA as opposed to another goegraphic location means that I should be willing to pay more than double to purchase the shirt. Much of the stuff “made in the USA” is of the same or lesser quality than items made elsewhere…and, many times, the “USA” labeling is nothing more than a perceived branding advantage exploited by the firm owners.

    The “free market” allows us all to buy madras shirts for far, far less than $160.00 – why then, would any free market loving American not take full advantage of that opportunity? Cue the odd mix of jingoism and empty claims of “quality” and “middle class jobs”…..

    @Nesbitt – nice meeting you. I’m a lot of things, but ignorant on the subject of men’s clothing isn’t one of them. I don’t own much PRL and don’t own a single item made by the modern Gant. But, the reality is that RL has about 400 manufacturing sites across the globe – not just in China/Asia – and many of their and Gant’s shirts cost measurably less than $140.00-160.00. This handsome RL all cotton madras one is $69.00:

    Perhaps you can spend the $60 you’ll save on anti-immigration posters or “No NAFTA” t shirts. As for me, I’ve spent years living in the UK, have grandparents who were born there, and travel to London at least once a quarter for personal and business travel – I’m no Anglophobe….but it must have felt terrific to use such a snazzy word.

  13. For everyone piling up on AEV, it’s just his opinion. Nothing more and nothing less . I have no clue where Mr. Nesbitt could find anything remotely Anglophobic in AEV’s post. As far as him being ignorant, Kiel James Patrick ( I know he takes a beating here) offers nice looking and US made madras shirts for $98.00, certainly closer to the $70.00 mark than Leith’s. If the fit was off, I’d rather deal with them than having to return the shirt to the UK. J. Press and Brooks both offer madras around the same price. I have an Indian made J. Press madras, and it has held up well. Keep in mind that alpha sized shirts, in general, are more cost effective than numeric. sizes. At $140.00, you’re in Gitman, Mercer, and Ledbury territory, which all use finer fabrics than the humble madras and are all well regarded.

    As far as the Leith’s shirts are concerned. If you can justify the “bleeding” and organic cotton mark up, go ahead buy it, feel good about it, and don’t worry what other’s opinions are. It’s the same thing as justifying Japanese selvedge denim. Unlike selvedge denim that can be shown off by rolling up the jeans, I doubt too many people will come up and ask if that’s “bleeding” madras. I wouldn’t suggest going around telling any one either.

  14. Woofboxer | May 25, 2013 at 5:10 am |

    @Dave T
    I wasn’t intending any ‘pile up’ on AEV, just stating that you will always pay more for a product from a small business who are trying to stick with certain values. I quite agree that it is risky buying expensive items from another country unless you are 100% certain it is going to fit. As for the fuss about ‘bleeding’ madras ….. pure i-gent nonsense.

  15. There’s a tendency to dismiss anything made in China as junk. How ‘phobic’ is that? The Chinese are as capable of stitching a shirt together as the Americans or the British. To think otherwise is downright racism.

  16. Jack Armstrong | May 25, 2013 at 7:38 am |

    Americans here should understand Robert C Nesbitts mindset. He comes from Jimmy Frost Mellors FNB (aka Devils Island) As you read his posts bear in mind that the 2 most important things they believe are, first, Americans are racist (i.e. don’t like jazz or recognize Dexter Gordon ‘s tab collar as a major style influence -You’re racist)

    If you criticize someone or something – you hate the whole group. As Robert so stupidly illustrated: AEV commented that A British shirt maker charges a ridiculously exorbitant amount for a shirt, ipso facto AEV is “Anglophobic”. Or Christian once theorized that Mellors malicious internet stalking of him was caused in part by Mellors use of pain medication. Mellor claimed to use the medication because he was recovering from surgery. Therefore Christian was “mocking” all “cancer survivors”.

  17. Glenn Reynolds, ” Here’s a tip: If you have to have taken Race & Gender Studies 101 to understand why something is racist, it’s not racist.”

  18. Squeeze’s June 2011 offering (topic: bleeding madras) for Ivy Style included the following:

    “…I did find a classic example in Ralph Lauren’s Rugby shop in Greenwich. It was one of three remaining from last year, but passed the test for authenticity with its label marked “Colors will run; clean or wash separately.” The RL spectacular mansion/store a couple of doors down the street had a magnificently inked and dyed sportcoat…”

    With this in mind, I relay that the Summer 2013 PoloRL sport shirt line includes at least two Bleeding Madras shirts. Woven in India. The tag confirms both.

    Ralph receives all sorts of criticism here and elsewhere. Whatever, he has a great team who hunt down good cloth (beefy oxfords, tweeds, and, it seems, bleeding madras woven in India).

  19. For way less than $100.

  20. Okay, slightly less.

  21. AldenPyle | May 25, 2013 at 7:56 pm |

    “With this in mind, I relay that the Summer 2013 PoloRL sport shirt line includes at least two Bleeding Madras shirts. Woven in India. The tag confirms both.

    Ralph receives all sorts of criticism here and elsewhere. Whatever, he has a great team who hunt down good cloth (beefy oxfords, tweeds, and, it seems, bleeding madras woven in India).”

    Good point. You mean this one, I suppose

    which is priced at 105 GBP as opposed to the 95GBP charged by Leith.

    In any case, if you get something like this at a traditional US men’s shop made by a quality US manufacturer, this would be about the going price.
    For example,

    Might be a risk buying from a start-up company. You can no doubt find something made in a sweatshop (in Chennai or LA) for cheaper. Sometimes the quality isn’t so bad either. Good luck with your shopping.

  22. Comment by el primo — May 25, 2013 @ 5:48 am
    There’s a tendency to dismiss anything made in China as junk. How ‘phobic’ is that? The Chinese are as capable of stitching a shirt together as the Americans or the British. To think otherwise is downright racism.
    Your charge of “racism” is ridiculous. The fact of the matter is that most of us have first-hand experience with shoddy Chinese goods. Furthermore, the Chinese have exploited their WTO membership to gut US manufacturing. Over 50,000 American factories—not factory jobs, but factories—have shuttered their doors since China joined the WTO.

    To a certain extent, it’s not China’s fault. China is a rapidly-growing Third World economy whose manufacturers can undercut manufacturers in any developed nation. They should exploit their opportunities; we were foolish to give WTO membership to them. But I don’t blame them for taking advantage of it.

    I have extensive experience with the Chinese, their practices, and culture, and I can say with confidence that while the Chinese are capable of manufacturing fine products, they seldom do. Corner-cutting and sloppiness are the norm, and there are countless examples of intentionally negligent practices that lead to harmful products coming out of Chinese factories. A short list:

    * Radioactive drywall
    * Children’s toys with lead paint
    * Toxic pet food
    * Contaminated candy
    * Pesticide-laced ginger
    * Carcinogenic fish
    * Poisonous pot-stickers
    * Antifreeze-laden toothpaste
    * Poisoned powdered milk
    * Chemical-laden clothes
    * Hazardous heaters
    * Fall-apart tires

    So opposition to Chinese goods is not automatically “racism.”

    God gave you a brain; please use it.

  23. Henry,

    “Over 50,000 American factories—not factory jobs, but factories—have shuttered their doors since China joined the WTO.”

    The fallacy here is “post hoc ergo propter hoc”. Many US businesses have moved their factories for cheaper labor costs…and not just to China. Please blame US-based business directors and managers. BTW, the WTO is an international organization, not a department of the US Government.

    I enjoy your often trenchant comments on clothing. But if anyone’s racist about the Chinese, it’s you based upon your comments. Which I can say with confidence.

  24. @Henry –

    You could replace “Chinese” with “American” in each part of your last comment and it would ring just as true. Shoddiness and corner cutting exist everywhere….and, in many ways (when it comes to hyper efficient, low quality manufacturiung), we invented it and then exported it….

  25. Bebe,

    Much of what you said is sadly true. US businessmen pressured lawmakers to allow them to maximize their profits (a good thing) at the expense of Americans (a bad thing). “Free” trade is no such thing, and is grossly immoral, as it comes at the expense of the well-being of our fellow citizens.

    Yes, I know that the WTO is a global organization (as the “W” means), but it was negotiations with the US that allowed China entry.

    Can we drop the “racist” canard? All it means today is “you’re saying something I don’t like and I don’t have an argument to refute it so SHUT UP!”

    Please point out the parts that mean “I hate Chinese people because they’re Chinese.”

    Please point out any factual errors I made. I don’t like to buy Chinese goods because their practices are often unsafe, resulting in harmful products, injury to workers, and damage to the environment. It’s not that I absolutely won’t; it’s a preference.

    Yep. Sounds racist to me. 😉


    There is some truth to what you say, but how many US manufacturers have made radioactive drywall, or put antifreeze in toothpaste?

  26. Oh, I forgot to mention the other modern usage of racist. People are called “racist” when they make an uncomplimentary comment about a designated minority. It doesn’t matter if the comment is true; all it needs to be is unflattering. In fact, if the true statement makes the minority in question look particularly bad—e.g., according to the FBI’s crime statistics, a certain racial minority commits murders at eight times the rate of whites—then said comment is not just “racist” but also moves into the territory of “hate fact.”

    So I categorically deny your baseless accusations of “racism” (see also above).

  27. Yogesh Gajendran | August 1, 2014 at 6:58 am |

    I am currently residing at Madras and with the help of a local weaver I am planning to revive the authentic Madras Bleeding Shirt, please let me know if anyone is interested.

  28. Vittorio Affanculo | May 22, 2013 at 4:15 am |
    I presume Mr. ‘Affanculo’ is making a bad joke (thinly disguised by adding ‘Vittorio’:
    vaffanculo means f… you in Italian dialect!

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