Overview of a Modern Classic
The simplest definition for Chambray is a “plain weave” fabric that is woven with a mixture of white and blue yarns.
The resulting effect of this unique weave is a denim-like, heathered blue that has become very popular in American and Japanese men’s clothing for its masculine and semi-rugged appearance.
A Chambray-style plain weave can be understood as a basic criss-cross (“one over the other”) weaving of yarns to make a fabric. This is the most elementary of common fabric weaves. Every time a thread goes over one thread when weaving, it then goes under the next and so on.
Why does this matter to understanding Chambray? Well, if the thread were woven in a more complex way – say, a “Twill” where threads cross multiple threads before going under another – you’d end up with something more like blue-jean denim or another fabric instead of Chambray.
How to Wear Chambray
Because of its weave, Chambray is generally considered to be a lightweight “warm weather” fabric.
Traditionally, Chambray has always been made with blue and white yarns to create a soft blue fabric color. More recently, though, Chambray fabrics have been created in a wider range of colors including soft grays, mossy greens, red clays, and more. Chambray has also been adapted by many designers into modern outerwear – like the Trumaker Chambray blazer or this Chambray bandana.
Without a doubt however, the original Chambray is classic blue, lightweight shirt which can be worn with a range of colors to complete a casual yet attractive look.
Chambray Pairing Guidelines
- Matching Colors – Most Earth Tones
- Shoes – Brown Leather Lace-Ups, Brown Boots, or Classic White Tennis Shoes
- Metals – Fairly Versatile. Works well with silver but brass and gold are also options here.
- Outerwear – Brown Leather Jackets, Brown or Green Wool Blazers
The Right Look 1: Chambray and Khaki Chinos
This look goes with everything from working on your bike to going to church. The Chambray and Khaki combo achieves a fashion medal for effortlessly matching rustic charm with smart sophistication.
The Right Look 2: Chambray and Raw Denim
Classically hip, Chambray with Raw Denim is a popular choice amongst guys who respect craftsmanship with reverence for the past.
The Right Look 3: Chambray and Heavy Wash Denim
While the Canadian Tuxedo may officially be out, this look still pulls off something genuinely rugged and honest.
The Right Look 4: Chambray Formal
In the past few years, Chambray has also taken a firm spot in self-confident, unashamed men’s business and formal wear. Matched with a deep blue or earthy blazer (think – tan corduroy, sturdy tweed, military green, etc.), men in Chambray can achieve a very capable and well suited look.
The History of Chambray
If you’re the kind of guy who wants to know all the facts about everything, this bit’s for you.
While Chambray has without doubt become an iconic part of American Male Style, its name has its roots in old France. In the late 1600’s, France was producing a number of regional fabrics that were being sold across Europe. In the city of Laon for example, a popular and inexpensive plain-weave fabric called “Lawn” was produced and sold across the region. Likewise, the southern city of Cambrai, France began producing a similar but higher-quality variation on Lawn which became known as “Cambric” fabric, from its home name.
Cambric cloth was not however Chambray. Like its cousin Lawn, Cambric was typically a solid and satiny white linen used in everything from drapes to women’s clothing.
Eventually, however, as Cambric cloth grew in popularity some of its weavers began producing gingham-style weaves – where white threads are crossed with groups of colored threads to produce a tight checkerboard pattern that is common in men’s dress shirts today. Over time these same gingham weavers simply tried crossing blue horizontal yarns across white vertical yarns; resulting in the first true Chambray fabric named after its home-city, Cambrai.
In the early 1800’s Chambray began showing up in American fashion and grew in popularity here to become the popular, light weight fabric we know today.