Madras is a pattern – or rather a family of patterns characterized by eye-catching stripes or checks in many bright colours, almost like a kind of tartan. Named for the Indian city where such bold fabrics were first discovered by the British, it is usually reserved for sport shirts and, in North America, summer shorts. Indeed a pair of Madras shorts has been a mainstay of the preppy look whenever it rises to the top of fashion’s wheel.
Monkstraps really are inspired by the footwear worn by monks – most probably by 15th-century Franciscans in the Italian Alps. Halfway between a lace-up, a slip-on and a sandal, they are fastened by a single or double strap that crosses over the instep to be buckled on the side. Monkstraps offer a delightful alternative to the dress boot, their versatility extending from the suit to casual trousers.
The monogram on a man’s shirt, like the family coat of arms embroidered on his velvet slippers, can serve as a useful aide-memoir for someone who is uncertain of his identity. Most men, however, don’t feel the need to have their initials stitched onto clothing – unless it’s a bespoke or made-to-measure shirt and therefore a pleasant reminder of its unique quality.
Also known as nacre, mother-of-pearl is made from the inner shell layer of pearl oysters and mussels, the same substance that makes the layers of a pearl. It is very strong and its luminosity makes it desirable for a variety of men’s accessories, such as inlay on shaving sets, cufflinks, tie bars and buttons.
The navy blazer has more to do with the navy than a mere shade of blue. The name dates back to 1837, when the captain of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Blazer ordered double-breasted, gilt-buttoned, navy blue jackets for his crew in honour of a visit by the future Queen Victoria. Today, blazers vary greatly in the formality of their cut, structure and in the fabric used but their usefulness remains as a classic garment of great versatility that can be dressed up with dress pants and even jeans.
Neat patterns refer to small, geometric patterns that often appear on ties or on dress and casual shirts. These patterns can often be successfully mixed with stripes or checks for those with a keen eye for combining.
Novelty patterns are strictly for fun. Like golf-patterned ties or Hawaiian shirts, they’re for more informal occasions and for showing the world you don’t take yourself too seriously.
Nylon is a man-made fabric originally manufactured by DuPont in 1935 as a replacement for silk. While still used for this purpose it is also blended with natural fibres to make a variety of performance fabrics for sportswear. Nylon can also be made into denser fabrics like ripstop, which is used for rugged and waterproof coats and other outdoor needs.