$345 / $173
Ralph Lauren, $90
Leave it to a city just 12 degrees north of the equator to create the ideal summer fabric. Named for its southeast Indian birthplace, Madras the city was founded by the British in the 17th century (and officially renamed Chennai in 1996). Sometime in the early 19th century, local weavers—influenced by the tartans worn by Scottish soldiers—started making vibrant plaids out of lightweight yet durable cotton. As the British soldiers returned home, they brought the madras fabric with them and it eventually found its way onto color-loving American preps. Originally known as "bleeding madras," the bold colors would blend in the wash because of the traditional vegetable dyes, resulting in more muted patterns. While it was something of a fad in the '50s, much of today's madras is colorfast. But it's still as lightweight and carefree as ever. So whether you want a little or a lot, just remember that one piece of madras is as much as the eye can handle.