That Dapper Chap shares the history and origins of the Chambray shirt and shows us a few of his favourites.
What makes a shirt a ‘Chambray’ shirt?
Following a recent post on Instagram of my new shirt from Racing Green, I had a question from a fellow instagrammer asking me what makes it a ‘chambray’ shirt. A lot of people assume that because they are predominantly blue that it is simply a lighter weight denim shirt. While the chambray shirt is at the more casual end of the shirt spectrum, and similar to denim this is a misconception and I’ll explain why.
|Chambray Shirt available at ASOS £25.00|
|Polka dot chambray shirt from J.Crew £82.50|
The Origins of Chambray Cloth
Going way back in time chambray fabric is directly linked to the French town of Cambrai where a particular type of cloth was made in linen yarn. The term ‘chambray’ is all down to how the garment is woven. When cloth is made there is a weft and a warp, which make up an interwoven criss cross pattern and holds all the threads together. On a chambray shirt there is traditionally a white or cream coloured weft and a blue warp. Denim is similar in its construction but the threads are woven differently, producing a different look and texture when finished. Chambray will often have a higher thread count compared to its denim cousin.
|A close look at the chambray weave|
|A patterned chambray shirt by j.Crew £82.50|
|Collarless chambray shirt by Next £25.00|
The Chambray Shirt
Once again, as with a lot of menswear, the Chambray shirt originates in military design and was a standard item worn by the US Navy. These days you’re more likely to seem them worn by office workers and factory workers alike. The chambray shirt is a versatile wardrobe staple and one that can be worn formally under a suit with a tie or thrown over a plain white T and jeans.
|The Classic Ralph Lauren shirt from Mr Porter|
Styling a Chambray Shirt
The chambray is a classic mens item because of its colour and versatility, and it can be worn in a number of ways. I’d categorise these as: Casual, Smart Casual, Smart and Formal and I confess to have worn mine in all of these situations and I’ll take you through each option in turn using the same shirt in each styling.
The shirt I am using is by Racing Green and is available online now for £30.
|The racing Green chambray Shirt|
For a casual look on those Sunday mornings when that hangover has taken hold and all you want is some aspirin and to chill out on the sofa (and we’ve all be there) I’ve worn sports socks, joggers and my favourite battered T-Shirt with the shirt over the top for comfort and warmth.
|The shirt over my favourite T by Instagrams GreyCardigan|
For a smart casual look wear your shirt with chinos or something a bit less casual than jeans and joggers, although a pair of smart denim jeans would be fine. A collarless chambray shirt would be great here. Wear a great cardigan or sweater over the shirt, something plain will look great but a classic pattern, such as fairisle will work just as well. Add some boots or some Chucks and you’re all set.
|The chambray shirt under a Uniqlo fairisle sleeveless sweater|
Think work to pub, something smart enough for the office but which won’t get you beaten up in the boozer. Below I have styles the shirt with a more causal blazer, this one is a cotton, unlined Jasper Conran blazer. I’ve teamed it with a knitted tie. So while its a smart look it isn’t to stuffy.
You could just as easily wear a waistcoat instead of the blazer in warmer weather or in colder weather under a heavy coat. A smart cardigan would also work here.
|The shirt worn under a cotton blazer with a knitted tie|
Okay, some will argue that you cannot wear a chambray shirt in a formal way. While I personally would wear a cotton shirt or a cotton mix, I wouldn’t rule out the chambray shirt as a contender. You can see below that with a bow tie and a double breasted blazer, it works. Would you question the wearer?
|A formal affair with a Double Breasted blazer and bow tie|
However you decide to wear your chambray shirt, consider your options and make the most of this most versatile of shirts and when you do, make sure that you post an image to Instagram and #thatdapperchap!