Of all the classic menswear fabrics, chambray is a favorite of many, and for good reason.
The origins of chambray fabric are expectedly rather vague – the weaving process is pretty darn generic, and the color choices have been typical and widely used since textiles were first developed.
Some attribute the specific creation to a Jean-Baptiste Cambray, but this history is widely refuted and has no real verified standing. That said, the name itself is likely derived from the term ‘Cambric,’ which refers to the French town of Cambrai, where some of the earlier plain-weave workwear fabrics were heavily produced.
So what exactly is chambray? As mentioned, it has a close relationship to denim, largely in what one could call their defining characteristic – the use of a white horizontal thread in the weave of the fabric (also known as the weft, while the vertical thread is called a warp).
The real beauty of this process shows as the fabrics age and the white weft becomes more and more visible, lending to the beautiful fades so revered by denim-heads and chambray enthusiasts. Even in a brand new piece, the contrasting threads offer a nice texture and visual depth over the relatively flat appearance of poplin.
In the modern era, chambray has seen a proliferation both in appearance and application. Primarily woven in indigo initially, you can now find the fabric in any variety of colors – some will even classify fabrics with colored weft threads (as opposed to white) as chambray, just so long as the warp and weft are two different colors.
Additionally, though chambray has traditionally been a more casual fabric, the advantage of its aforementioned versatility has encouraged more and more designers to start incorporating the unique textile into formalwear.
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He Spoke Style