A Lightweight Classic Of Warm Weather Appeal: The “Chambray Shirt”

Comfort & Style:  The Versatile Chambray Shirt
Comfort & Style: The Versatile Chambray Shirt

The Chambray Shirt is certainly a classic. A lightweight essential that is continually reinvented within fashion’s archives. A fabric of a soft hue of pale blue, the ultimate chambray becomes better with wear, softening over time. Often, the appeal of what seems subtle effects reminiscent of the effect of “salty sea water” beckons us from the confines of our closets. Lightweight style, indeed. The softening of the color pairs beautifully with a fabric that can be cooling in the heat. And of the chambray “shirt”? The lightweight, comfortable and durable shirt offers not only a relaxed look but the versatility to pair with an elegant or casual attire. Beyond everyday apparel, it is a staple of classic style. Alas, timeless…

With French origins, Chambray fabric is a fine, soft spun, lightweight but dense fabric of woven cotton fabric with white threads across blue colored warps. It is the warp and weft of the woven chambray fabric, that crosses equally, that gives it a fabric structure known as “Chambray”. The fabric is thought to have originated in the Northern City of Cambrai, France between 1595-1600’s. Credited to Jean-Baptiste Chambray, the fabric that has not faded in its appeal. Etymologists believe that the word, first used in the 1500’s, was a synonym for the French word “Batiste”, which is a type of fabric. The fabric was eventually termed “Chambric” which would further evolve in the 1800’s as “Chambray”. Of interest, during the 18th century, Chambray fabric was made from flax linen. Diverse, indeed. Additionally, in the 18th century, French fabric was banned in the United Kingdom. Who knew? Indian Chambray, known as “Nainsook” thus became a popular alternative, arriving to the appeal of the British. It is said that the British referred to these Indian chambrays “Scotch Chambrays” in order that they would not be banned like the French fabrics. Determination of fashion’s desire, for certain! After the 19th century it was made from cotton that was commonly made into shirts, collars, cuffs, handkerchiefs, scarves, sun bonnets, baby clothing, bed linens and table cloths. Again, who knew?

With a history of being a “workhorse”, the chambray shirt was once also referred to as the “blue collar working shirt” or the old term “blue-collar working shirt”, perhaps the importance of chambray can be linked to its use by the US Navy. Adopted by the US Navy in 1901 through WWII, the chambray shirt became part of a uniform of dark denim pants paired with lighter, long sleeve or short sleeve chambray shirts worn unbuttoned at the neck with a white t-shirt or a blue sweater. Quite a history of a shirt. It is perhaps no wonder the salty air seems to denote the sky blue appeal of Chambray. Although the choices of the fabric itself can vary from a heavier weight variety that has the feel of denim to the lightweight appeal of the linen-like or oxford style linen, it can be said that there is an ideal “chambray” for us all…

Vintage Archives Of The "Working Shirt":  Chambray
Vintage Archives Of The “Working Shirt”: Chambray
Vintage Chambray:  "President" Chambray
Vintage Chambray: “President” Chambray
Relaxed Elegance In Chambray Fabric
Relaxed Elegance In Chambray Fabric
Lightweight & Relaxed "Chambray"
Lightweight & Relaxed “Chambray”
Durability & Style With Detail Stitching:  The "Chambray" Shirt
Durability & Style With Detail Stitching: The “Chambray” Shirt

And of the masculine edge of Chambray? Hollywood perhaps granted the iconic nature of a chambray shirt. The rapid rise of a fabric that layered such golden stars of the screen, such as Steve McQueen, certainly promoted its tough, durable and relaxed nature. A timeless classic that became an icon in its own right. Again, the power of a shirt….

Masculine Appeal Of Iconic Nature:  Masculine Edge In "Chambray"
Masculine Appeal Of Iconic Nature: Masculine Edge In “Chambray”
The Classic Chambray Shirt
The Classic Chambray Shirt

Consider the lightweight layering of chambray. An instant classic to draw upon time and time again. The traditional bright white stitch lines or triple stitch detailing that provides extra strength will verify the craftsmanship of the chambray shirt. Details in fabrication and style. The fact that it is a layering piece or can stand on its own certainly proves it is seasonless. But, oh, the perfect layer for a Spring day or after a day at the beach! Everyday apparel? For certain. But a timeless classic. Warm weather appeal that will remain a fashionable constant. Effortless and relaxed. Perfection, indeed…

Kristin

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