Rags To Riches: The $1,200 Madras Sportcoat

The sophistication and sticker shock you’ve come to expect from Ralph Lauren. Gorgeous styling, punitive tariff.

Madras is an inexpensive fabric. So is seersucker. Oh look, there’s a $1,200 seersucker jacket too.

They used to say only a rich man can afford to wear cheap summertime fabrics. Indeed.

Here’s RL’s mid-level madras jacket at $500, and the entry level at $300.

The best is the best, though. — CC

23 Comments on "Rags To Riches: The $1,200 Madras Sportcoat"

  1. My only thought was that Paul Winston reads you your clothing Miranda Rights before he makes anything in seersucker.

  2. Christian | April 5, 2011 at 9:34 am |

    Cotton in general, as I recall.

  3. Madras is a loosely used term these days. Without knowing the fabric manufacturer that it was sourced from, how do you know it is cheap?

  4. Indeed, and the mid-level jacket is only “madras” in pattern, not fabric.

    I’m sure it’s quite luxurious, but how luxurious does madras need to be?

  5. The term cheap in regard to seersucker and madras is not a derisive term. It was just the historical facts of the trade last century. See any of Bruce Boyer’s pieces on madras and seersucker.

  6. I wasn’t aware there was such a thing as a “madras” pattern, I thought madras simply meant the material.

    Anyway, I’m more interested in what the difference is between a $600 Rugby jacket made in Italy and a $1200 Blue Label jacket made in Italy.

  7. Joe Tradly | April 5, 2011 at 11:39 am |

    Ha ha, it’s the “Russell” model.

    How lovely that it’s undarted.


  8. Yeah, I was going to make a joke about that, but only 5 percent of readers would get it, and I wouldn’t want the guy, who’s already ill, to have a heart attack from egomaniacal joy at seeing his non-existent self mentioned on the site.

  9. If you stood ten feet away from all three jackets, could you tell the difference in quality? I doubt that I could, but then I’m not in the biz, I just buy and wear the stuff.

    I recall a post by The Trad where he schooled us on the Madras weave I believe. Some of the madras shirts and jackets I have reveal very small rough threads (almost like a very small thread ball) – I always thought that was the real McCoy – I could be wrong.

  10. Just compare this
    ‘Rags To Riches’ shot with the madras slacked model pictured in the Press interview.

  11. Bill Stephenson | April 5, 2011 at 2:37 pm |

    Hate to be a nit picker, but since Squeeze mentioned it, take a look at the fit of the green jacket on the customer in the Press article. Hand in his pocket, but jacket appears to fit properly.

    I’m aware of the Thom Browne affect and all of that, but the madras from RL doesn’t appear to come close to being a proper fit.

    Anyone here wear a jacket that fits like the one pictured at the top of the article? Didn’t think so.

    In my growing up years, this is what a jacket looked like when it was outgrown by a couple of years, and had to go to the rummage sale.


  12. Christian | April 5, 2011 at 2:49 pm |

    Speaking of suspending judgment, there’s no way you can judge the fit of the jacket without trying it on.

    Everybody knows that for effect the models are given sizes that are too short and too tight.

    What you’re talking about is the styling of the photo shoot, not the fit of the jacket.

  13. For the record, I am a lover and collector of vintage Brooks and J.Press, and I love the way my Polo suits fit. The exaggerate the waist suppression and slimness on the model photos for photogenic and stylistic reasons. I have a Polo IV cut and a Polo II cut, and no, they do not hang as straight as a good sack suit, but I find the shape to be totally classic and the shoulder to be superb. This is coming from someone who has by no means drunk Ralph’s cool-aid.

    Just go try one on.

  14. Christian | April 5, 2011 at 3:03 pm |

    Just to elaborate, I think what Bill is responding to is sizing, not fit. Obviously if a size L was wearing a S, the problem isn’t fit, but sizing.

    And I think Zach should write us an essay on “Ralph’s kool-aid,” whatever that is.

  15. Well, someone has to pay for his wonderful Auto collection. And, the store on Michigan Ave, is absolutely, totally, completely gorgeous. The furnishings just on the first floor probably cost more than the house I live in. (and I live in a nice house). I’ve never been in his NY store, but I hear its more than amazing. That said, when I am in the Chicago store, I see many many suits I fall for, but unfortunately, very few I can justify purchasing at those prices. But then again…..I guess I am getting cheap in my old age.

  16. The too tight jacket on the model reminds me of a story. About 20 years ago, I was on a business trip to St. Petersburg, Florida. After lunch one afternoon, I strolled downtown and wandered into an old time mens’ shop to browse. The proprietor immediately ushered me in and showed me to the suit section. My eye immediately caught hold of a clearance rack, and I zeroed in. There was a madras similar to the picture above, but darker green with wider lapels, a size 40 long with a $ 9.95 price tag. Less than $ 10, I tried it on ( I’m a 44L) I could button it, but it obviously looked tight.

    The proprietor looked amazed when I told him I’d take the coat. I figured I’d tell the wife that I paid the full tag price of $ 250, just for the fun of it. When I got home, my wife saw the coat, saw the tag, and casually remarked that I probably bought it for $ 5.

    I wore that coat a few times, mostly unbuttoned, along with a solid tie and socks. The wife actually said I looked sharp in it. Go figure. I wish I run into another coat like that some day.

  17. Christian I think you take your readers for granted. I have followed your blog for sometime and it appears that your comments are more often than not conceited, condescending, or derisive when directed towards any of your non-regular contributors. I enjoy your blog, but would enjoy it more if you stopped trying so hard.

  18. Christian | April 6, 2011 at 5:57 am |

    DH, I can assure you I’m not trying too hard to sound conceited, condescending and derisive. In fact, I’m not even aware of it.

  19. Old School | April 6, 2011 at 8:47 am |


    Allow me to register my total disagreement with your opinion.
    If anything it is some comment-leavers, rather than Christian himself, who tend to sound conceited, condescending, or derisive.
    An expression of gratitude to Christian is more than deserved.

  20. Wow! It makes the Ben Silver madras jacket, which gave me sticker shock, look like a bargain at $645. I am glad I can still fit into my madras jacket from the 70’s ( a Boston Filene’s Basement find)…just fit that is!

  21. Makes me feel good about the vintage Brooks Brothers madras jacket I picked up in Chestertown, Maryland, for $16

  22. That model in the picture looks like the kind of jackass that would pay $1,200 for a madras jacket.

  23. I must second Old School’s comment. In his comments and replies, CC is nearly always a perfect gentleman, and even when he’s being derisive it’s in such a nice way that perhaps only the person who bears the brunt of the comment takes umbrage (e.g., the tool at WASP 101, whose pretension and cluelessness practically beg to be made fun of).

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