Old Is New Again: Hand-Loomed Madras Shirts Made In India From Castaway Clothing

Even in an ancient culture like India, old traditions can die out — or perhaps we should say “dye” out.

Last year Matt Bridier of Castaway Clothing met with Prasan Shah at the New York office of The Original Madras Trading Company, a multi-generational family-owned business that is truly one of the original madras makers of Chennai, the city formerly known as Madras. The OMTC made madras for Ralph Lauren as far back as the ’80s.

Bridier said he wanted something new (which turned out to be something old): a super cool, crisp and lightweight madras shirt. Shah said the best way to do that would be the very loose and open weave of hand-loomed madras. He had the equipment in the factory, the only question was whether there was anyone left who knew how to do it.

Turned out the sacred knowledge had indeed been passed down, and this spring Castaway unveiled the fruit of the collaboration. The long-sleeved shirts are yarn-dyed, as “bleeding madras” was considered asking a bit much from the consumer — namely, to always remember to wash the shirt separately or it would destroy a load of laundry. But the hand-looming looks and feels different, with tactile and visual character totally different from the machine-made fabrics we’re accustomed to wearing, says Bridier.

 

The shirts have been an instant hit, says Bridier. Here are the details:

Exclusively available for Castaway, We teamed up with our master shirt maker in Madras, India, to offer you our most authentic hand loomed, all cotton Indian madras shirts produced to authentic centuries old standards by cottage handloom artisans. The cotton is grown & spun into yarn just outside the city of Madras, then woven on hand-operated looms, creating colorful, lightweight madras plaids. Sizes: S-XXL $118

Shop the full collection here. 

Kudos to Matt and brother Andrew, descendents of the Murray’s Toggery Shop family (maker of Nantucket Reds) for keeping this old-school tradition alive. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

16 Comments on "Old Is New Again: Hand-Loomed Madras Shirts Made In India From Castaway Clothing"

  1. That collar has no soul. O’Connell’s are hard to beat. The fabric is nice with a generous cut and the collar has a decent roll to it. Just a few dollars more.

  2. Try to be nice, guys. Castaway has been a loyal sponsor for years!

  3. I’m going to try one.

  4. Their size chart doesn’t indicate what the neck x sleeve equivalents of their letter-sizes are. How is one to know what size to order?

    The fact that their XXL is a 46 chest, however, would seem to indicate that these are hipster-sized . . .

  5. From all the info provided, this is the genuine article. Even despite alpha sizing, this seems worth it pending all the usuals – personal preference in collar, fit, and feel.

  6. Mitchell S. | June 6, 2017 at 5:11 pm |

    Question: How is Castaway’s madras superior to Orvis’ madras shirts, also made in Madras? The madras shirts I have from Woolrich are also made in India and appear to be just as high quality as other brands.

  7. CC

    If you know, are these bleeding madras?

  8. It appears from the article that they are not. Nevertheless, they are very nice looking shirts. Very unique patterns.

  9. Roger C. Russell II | June 6, 2017 at 9:03 pm |

    I like the collection. The first thing that came to mind was the collar. I agree that it may not be the fullest collar possible. However, when compaired to most other shirt products currently offered it looks great. The patterns are all very nice. SIzing may kill the deal for me. I am a 16 1/2-33 and my chest measures 46. XXL just does not seem normal. Usually I purchase large and in some offerings medium.

  10. John Carlos | June 6, 2017 at 9:18 pm |

    Kudos indeed. I’ve worn India Madras since I was a teenager in the 1960’s. Everything from shirts to shorts to trousers and ties. Nothing says Summer like madras. It may not be like it was in the heyday but at least someone is trying to keep it alive.

  11. John Carlos | June 6, 2017 at 9:20 pm |

    Hopefully their sizing is not hipster.

  12. Willard Straight | June 7, 2017 at 10:11 am |

    Does “hipster sizing” mean what some of us call “gigolo sizing”?

  13. Vern Trotter | June 7, 2017 at 12:50 pm |

    Yes, we should remember that many of those featured here are advertising sponsors and we should not be overly critical. Maybe offer kind advice since most who post here qualify as experts. I have limited experience with Castaway but have been a customer of related Murray’s Toggery since my first visit to Nantucket in 1968 and have been wearing Reds ever since.

    Tonight myself and 100 members of the BLOHARDS go to Yankee Stadium early to establish a beach head for several thousand more Red Sox fans that will show up. Likely there will be many wearing Nantucket Reds. Look for us on TV as Sawx fans are the most Ivy of all sports.

  14. By “hipster sizing” I mean the notion that what would have been an L or XL in the 80s or 90s is now an XXL, and the shoulders are cut back to resemble a woman’s blouse.

    In many cases, as I’ve found, hipster sizing results, in practice, in a looser waist. They aim to trim the waist, but they do so by narrowing the shoulders. So, unless one has extremely narrow shoulders, one has to size up. And when one sizes up, one ends up with a shirt that’s baggier at the waist.

  15. Nantucket Reds in the Bronx? We’ll pray for you.

  16. To clarify my earlier comment: I would contrast “hipster sizing” with “gigolo sizing”. Gigolo sizing tries to achieve a very trim waist by aggressively darting and tapering the garment. Hipster sizing keeps the garment relatively simple, but aims for a trim waist by simply narrowing the whole thing, starting at the shoulders.

    The result is typically that only very thin, narrow-shouldered men can wear the clothes without sizing up.

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