Essentials: The Chambray Shirt
Recently, I read an article pondering the “comeback” of the chambray shirt.
This style shirt has had so many comebacks by now that I think we can fairly plop it right down into the essentials column. It’s a very versatile shirt. It can be dressed up or down; used as a shirt or light weight jacket; and it can be used as a work-shirt, which is where the term blue-collar originated. Incidentally, the reason for the blue collar had to do with dirt and grease not showing up too much on shirts that couldn’t be laundered very often due to the expense. The darker color hid the dirt/grease better.
This history of the chambray fabric dates back to Cambrai, France around the late 1500’s. Today, the chambray fabric is mostly associated with denim, but chambray isn’t a twill fabric (like denim). Chambray is more closely related to linen. The process for making chambray is by warp (lengthwise yarn on the loom with tension) and weft (in and out weaving yarn) cross equally which gives it a 1×1 structure, which means that both sides of the fabric are equal. The original Cambrai fabric was used to make handkerchiefs and intricate lace-like pieces.
In 1901, the US adopted denim and chambray as the official Dungaree uniform for Navy sailors. The official guidelines for the uniform included a white t-shirt, black belt, black shoes and black socks. The buttons on the original uniform were either black or navy. The regulation Navy shirt had three distinguishing features: loose fit, double stitching and unique pocket configurations. In 1944, the Navy changed the official uniform to o.d. green, but the 1901 uniform was so popular, it was worn well after the change.
In the 50’s, the chambray shirt become a symbol for bad-asses thanks to Marlon Brando, James Dean and Steve McQueen.
Today, I’ve chosen to wear my chambray shirt as a light jacket with a dressy casual outfit. I love this shirt and am very sure it’ll make a “comeback” in many more outfits to come.
Here’s my list of what I consider essentials:
Basic White Tee
Black pencil skirt
Straight legged jeans
Black Skinny jeans