Linen seems to be everywhere in the menswear world when it’s spring summer. Whether the fabric is cool whites, deep blues, or bold stripes, you can bet that some of the best dressed men around the world will be wearing that quintessential fabric. We like to do the same thing, but lately I’ve been wearing something else that has charmed me with its traditional blue shade: chambray.
Chambray is a fun cloth. Firstly, the light blue color, with its mix of indigo and white weaves, provides an inherently casual vibe that is accessible and easy to wear. Diving deeper, it really is just a plain cotton fabric that is similar to appearance to denim, but is actually much lighter and breaks in softer, all the while retaining its durability. This means that it doesn’t wrinkle like linen and can take a beating in the hot sun. All of these details are what makes it so appealing to the world over and why wearing it is the ultimate way to dress down while still looking sharp.
It was traditionally used in workwear (as an alternative to full denim) and was immensely popular among the regular guys. Many casual shirts throughout time were made of this fabric, whether it was a factory shirt worn when camping with your family in the 1950s, or an Army surplus shirt worn by hippies. It’s a shirting fabric that man of all kinds could wear without worrying if they were “pulling it off”. If the OCBD is the quintessential American shirt, then the chambray is it’s much more subtle brother.
Luckily, we live in the modern world where the hard rules of menswear are being broken everyday. This means that the workwear connotations of chambray don’t need to be avoided; in fact this casual nature should be embraced. Wearing it with tailoring is a fun way to put a spin on what was traditionally a blue-collar workers’ shirt. Even the shade of classic chambray is naturally cool, working with complementary earth tones or being contrasted against your summer whites. It truly is a completely versatile cloth for the upcoming spring-summer season.
We believe the best way to get into the chambray spirit is by making it up as a spread collar shirt, the supreme collar design of any shirt wardrobe. It adds a casual, broken flair whenever it’s worn, whether it’s with a nice knit tie or worn open for the breeze. We love combining casual and formal by wearing it with tie, but with one of our custom suede jackets. Hell, it’s the perfect shirt to wear with our gurkha pants, as they’re both a fun, updated spin on a classic piece of men’s clothing.
Of course, other variations exist. A button-down collar with extra roll brings that old Americana feel in a more interesting way. This is my preferred method, since it points toward my vintage interests, but as you can see on Simon Crompton of Permanent Style, it's perfectly suitable for a modern wardrobe. You can also add more character with more specialized variations, like chambray workshirts (to lean into a rugged look) or even a cuban collar to put that workwear look into a true vacation-mood.
In any case, chambray is clearly one of our favorite fabrics to wear as our spring-summer shirts. The blue, hard-wearing yet soft fabric is completely versatile that should earn a loving place in your wardrobe. It’s not as vacation-chic as linen and it’s not as business oriented as regular poplin, creating a new spot that is perfect for the changing world. What other fabric allows you to dress it up with a suit or be worn with a leather jacket? The answer is chambray.