Eminent simultaneously in its identity of occurring both as a fabric and a pattern of definiteness, the make of the Madras is such that incorporates in every strand of weave the essence of the place after which it is named. Very evident happens to be this alluding in its every unfurling, emerging from upon the namesake place nestled in a southern nook of India. From the present day city of Chennai that was earlier known as thus did this garment of wear assume form and shape, acquiring by that account a reputation of its own.
Asserting as a lightweight fabric in the cotton variety of cloth would be this constituent arising out of a relevant indeed history. Such history that holds up in much esteem the specific Indian roots of it no doubt but also expands its avenue in catering all the more to the global reach that it has spanned. For Madras might be one of the other many characteristic versatilities through which cotton- and cloth for that matter might have been granted identity. But even in its stemming as a something out of an universe of greater recognition, this humble piece of clothing would come to tailor an own rendition in reputation.
Marked in both its unique texture and popular design, this essentially handwoven fabric is largely seen as a summertime favorite. That it indeed is in the breezy lightweightedness of what it emerges as in all attributes favourable of the summer character- as comfort enticing from across the striking color spectrum of its breathing. But it is the beauty of the Madras make, in just about any manner of its assertion that makes it lend itself itself also to other arenas of use. Which means that despite its overwhelming finding of favor as a fashion element quintessential to the hotter days of the year, the fabric can and indeed is employed to shape up also other seasonal specifics of wearing.
The very essence of comfort through which Madras makes its case is also what makes it find seamless transition across the turn of the seasons. Its affinity to summer makes it also a conducive proposition for fashion to find expression in the still somewhat warm days of spring and autumn. And specifically in residing along very clearly distinguished dimensions of a certain pattern and a certain color profile and even a certain texture evident even beyond its perceivability, musing in the manner of the Madras is a breeze indeed even outside the peak period of its prevalence.
‘Composing’ the Madrases makes for a striking way in doing fashion as an individual statement, considering the striking as well streaks of what it encompasses as part of its ‘personality’ almost. Teaming up such a shirt for instance with a pair of plain pants can prove to be all the effort one would need to undertake for standing out in own style sensibilities. Or even drape a measured piece of the fabric over a not too extravagant kurti set for that matter and the Madras will ensure that your head is held high up there among the fashionheads. If however you want something more ‘prêt-à-porter’ aka ready to wear style in the Madras spirit, then the options available wouldn’t occur as any restricted as well. Pretty much every specimen of wearing, from shirts to shorts and dresses to jackets are traditionally made in the specific Madras identity.
Apart from these global wears of fashion, the Madras fabric happens to assume a more curated character through its certain conjurings. Prominent among such exclusive manifestations of what is less fashion in the sense of style and more representative of it as bearing the essence in identity while stemming as well as a convenience in comfort would be the very Indian drape of the lungi. The characteristic unfurling of this garment happens to be necessarily explored in some specific strands of what asserts through terms like cotton and plaid, making it therefore emerge as a perfect fit out of the Madras measure.
Equally distinguishing is the manner in which the lungi attains identity as an essential but humble still assertion in Indianess. In its coursing through the route of everyday wear, one that scouts ordinariness by virtue of its comfort and plays along that specific reputation as well to achieve a stature in indispensableness and therefore special, the lungi through its way with the Madras or vice versa in fact has come thus to be a standard of alluding to that ‘desi’ essence- both in origin and in humbleness.
Complementing this esteemed in ordinariness aspect of courting emergent upon the Madras’ home ground would be a stark difference in status entailed from out of its outshore reaches. As the identity in which the national dress of several island nations of the Caribbean including, St. Lucia, Dominica, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, among others has found official status, the dimensions of fame that this iteration of cotton has pursued is much dignified indeed. Additionally, it also is the larger context of the United States and North America where madras has for long scouted ubiquity as specific sportswear staple. It even is some part of the African continent where the fabric has found acceptance and exaltation as well, manifesting under the injiri identity in Nigeria. Injiri itself translates as “real India” and is historically alluding to the real Madras checkered textiles that were exported to West Africa back in the 18th century.
Through the course of history along which the identity of Madras in its fabric form has advanced therefore is wherein lies the basis of its diverse reputations. In the region of its stemming, its ‘reducing’ to ordinariness as against the significant assertion of an international fame has come to be a state of affairs rested upon its roots of arising as a very British venture. Back then the identity of the cloth as Madras had not yet occurred but it would be definitely an imperial ploy in exploiting the country of their governing that saw the fabric take steps in attaining that specification. With the British setting up their trading post in small fishing village of Madraspatnam (Madras) sometime in the 17th century, the foundation was laid for this interpretation of cotton to find expression.
The times that followed obviously saw this concentration of British interest stretch out its appeal and the fine qualities of the fabric found it in much demand abroad. This meant obviously an exploitative technique of production that which would be disregarding of the condition of the many Indians employed as labourers in this industry. No wonder the product has failed to mightily impress the traditional producers of them, having never really found exploration beyond the span of the lungi even when contemporary fashion choices would not be indicative of that reality. And thus in between this chasm of decimated pride and elevated humility, the Madras resides as a fabric that is more than celebrated indeed in the versatility of its style but not so much in the original historical account of what led it to be in the first place.
And yet, the fabric itself manages to be as eminently evident as ever in proud embodying of the ‘flaws’ that tell a tale of handmade traditionality. Because it is woven from the uncombable fibers of a fragile, short- stapled variant of cotton, every measure of madras is marked by bumps or slumbs upon its texture thus uniquely identified. Hand dyed as well in nature based colors derived from vegetables, earlier in such sources that were highly prone to bleeding, the Madras would continue to unravel through numerous such fibers of intriguing distinction.
Even the use of such agents in coloring that would necessarily bleed came to be curiously a matter in advocacy, due to the unique look it ended up endowing on each garment of such make. In fact so ‘reputed’ would this ordinarily unfavourable prospect in color bleed turn up as in the madras context that the ‘property’ was assured to be a marker of authenticity! And it was in such appreciation of authenticity indeed that madras would come also to be assertions in status and affluence. As the breezy essence of the Madras shirts most specifically meant that they would be taken away back homes as exotic almost ‘souvenirs’ of pleasure vacations, they found for themselves an even prouder place of popularity in possessing.
This popularity alluding to the madras description in fabric might be a centuries long continuum but the distinction of it taking after the place where it was made to accrue from would be quite late a phenomenon. For it would only be as recently as the year of 1844 that this form of fabric would be accorded the name even when the material has prevailed since much, much earlier. Outliving its genesis in etymology would also be the first madras itself, that which is very certainly a muslin overprinted or embroidered in elaborate patterns with vegetable dyes.
The exact origins therefore of what would strike as madras exactly seem to be a bit warped therefore in the overlapping chronology of occurrence. But there exists no ambiguity whatsoever in the extent of what determines a madras. Because every specimen of this traditionally Indian made fabric of subsequent global appeal emerges as a show in a vivid plaid pattern identically playing out on both sides of the cloth. The slubs or thick spots emerging upon the entire span of the fabric is as characteristic of that identity even as the final fashion flair flowing through this dimension can be as sophisticated and refined a style as any other of comparable international prominence.
Interestingly though, even in its assertive plaid glare, madras had not been always occurring on the radar upon this horizon. Originally striped or even elaborately embroidered, and emerging thus in a delicate essence even in quite striking a visage, the madras ultimately came to assume the now universal mode of its identity in a tartan like depiction. Such contrasts of sorts manifests throughout the entire madras narrative- in the stark saturated tones of even its essentially darker residing among the blues and the blacks and the reds originally to the opulence of its fashion recognition even when it happens to be first and foremost a recipe in comfort, the madras is indeed a classic that has endured not just time but also withstood the disruptive forces in exploitation and oppression to emerge more prominently as a revered legacy out of the larger canvas in spanning.