In "The Outsiders," the division between the Socs and the Greasers is marked not only by their economic differences but also by their distinct fashion sense. Socs, or Socials, are the rich, privileged teenagers who live on the west side of town. They are known for their preppy style, which includes pastel-colored polo shirts, khaki pants, and loafers. According to Ponyboy, the narrator of the book, "You could tell they were Socs from the way they looked: clean-shaven, well-groomed and from the East Side."
One of the fabrics that is frequently associated with the preppy style is madras, a lightweight cotton fabric that is often used for summer clothing. In the book, Ponyboy describes the Socs' fashion sense, saying "Madras is a plaid cotton material that looks like a tablecloth." The term "madras" means a specific type of plaid pattern that originated in the city of Madras (now Chennai) in India. The fabric became popular in the United States in the 1960s and was frequently used for preppy clothing.
The use of madras in the book serves to highlight the economic and cultural differences between the Socs and the Greasers. The Socs wear expensive, stylish clothing that is beyond the means of the Greasers, who often wear hand-me-downs or thrift store finds. The use of the term "madras" also serves as a reminder that fashion can often be a marker of social status and cultural identity.
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