Style Suggestion: The Chambray Shirt

It’s been a while since it got truly cold in most parts of this country, but that doesn’t mean we don’t all need a reminder on the certain types of textures and fabrics that just work well in the winter. The key here is to continue to look for items with a rougher texture, things that just seem to blend nicely with stark, cold landscapes.

In fact, the desire to change things up in terms of outfits and texture can be quite tempting this time of year, but there’s something to be said about doing what works, time and again. Filling this gap is, surprisingly (or not) where something like a chambray shirt comes in. It’s been written about and suggested on this site a good number of times, but with good reason. On a personal level, a chambray shirt in the rotation (as pictured below) is becoming a frequently worn item because of its versatility — they exist in that perfect space where they can be dressed up or down.

J. Crew's chambray shirt. Nice texture for winter, without a doubt.
J. Crew’s chambray shirt — dressy with a workwear feel.

Notably, chambray shirts are the perfect antidote to a look that might be too dressed up. In some cases, a crisp white shirt worn under a more casual, rumpled cardigan might just look too stark. Or with a more casual patch-pocket blazer, for example, the white shirt just might stand out a bit too much, even if it’s a white OCBD. Enter the chambray shirt. In a lighter shade like blue (like the J. Crew option pictured), it works in just as many different outfits as a blue Oxford cloth button-down might work. (See option #1 here for a reminder). If you’ve got a v-neck sweater under a navy blazer, throw a lighter chambray shirt in there to flip the look on its head. Wear it on its own under that same blazer, too.

Heck, GQ is even a proponent of wearing it under a suit (a bolder move, but one that definitely works). The texture of the shirt is the key here — it’s marled and weathered, and it’s got a great workwear feel to it. More importantly, it’s a item that’s trendy yet most likely won’t die out anytime soon — it’s become, in some ways, the modern-day version of the OCBD, as it exists in an older dimension with a workwear vibe and yet is cut slim for current times. It can be worn under layers in the cold, and it’s the perfect type of shirt to pair with a thicker-weight tie. A wool tie (or a knit tie) has more going on texturally than a silk tie, so the combination just works well together. Underneath the odd vest or a heavier blazer, (as seen in the photo below), the chambray shirt falls right in line with a lot of different textures going on.

The base layer on the top here is a nice chambray shirt.
The base layer on the top here is a nice chambray shirt.

For what it’s worth, many (including J. Crew’s head of menswear) count the chambray shirt as an essential, a highly versatile item that lends class and a rugged feel to any outfit — two things highly difficult to do at the same time. If you’re into it, it’s also got a very old-time Americana feel to it in terms of style — details like the tab collar option on the J. Crew shirt and the front-button pockets lend itself to that. Look for one cut slim and in a lighter color, and it might even continue to be worn into the spring and summer months. That’s the definition of versatile style right there.

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