A Little Knowledge: Chambray History
06 Jul 2009
A Little Knowledge takes a look at Chambray past and present.
Chambray fabric is thought to originate from Cambrai in France many centuries ago as far back as 1595.
It differs from denim in that it is not a twill fabric, when it is woven - the warp and the weft of the fabric cross equally giving it a 1 x 1 fabric structure. This is known as a chambray structure. This is partly responsible for its lighter appearance as the weft, the lighter unbleached thread, appears on the surface of the fabric. Both sides of chambray are identical meaning it has no right or wrong side.
Chambray has had a bit of a resurgence recently probably partly due to the increase of authentic naval trends in fashion. It was famously adopted by the US navy in 1901 right through to World War II. The uniform consisted of darker denim bottoms with lighter long or short sleeve chambray shirts with the addition of possibly a white tee.
(In the photo above, taken at Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas in August 1942, an aircraft mechanic is fueling a Navy plane dressed in the blue denim trousers and short sleeved chambrey shirt topped by a swabbie hat.)
The shirt often had long sleeves which were often shortened or sometimes removed at the shoulder. It was worn unbuttoned at the neck with a white t-shirt or sometimes a blue sweater.
The 2 breast pockets had buttoned flaps or sometimes button through pockets. When the shirts were new they would have bright white stitching which would darken as the shirts were washed through dye and dirt as would the fabric itself lighten through laundering and contact with the salty sea water. Ending in a salty medium blue colour.
The iconic nature of a chambray shirt was proliferated by the golden stars of the screen; Marlon Brando, James Dean and Steve McQueen.
Its tough, easy to wear nature made it versatile and long lasting and classic manly piece for any man's wardrobe.
Roll on recent days and the chambray and the denim shirt seems to be just growing in popularity so much so that recently we have been witnessing the return of the Double Denim look! This look definitely splits public opinion; do it right and you can pull off the authentic tough guy look do it wrong and your manly ambitions may be reduced to mockery for regurgitating this loathsome look sported by some of the worst crooners imaginable.
We've had it in store in polka dot form from The Black Dollars and sweaters from Wood Wood but we decided to visit it in our collaboration with R. Newbold to try and create what we believed would be the ultimate chambray.
Heres a closer look at the Goodhood X R. Newbold Chambray shirt and some thoughts about the detailing. Here at Goodhood we have a healthy respect for the past however we never want to be constrained by it and always try to let the past inform us about how to create products for our future.
First up the fabric; a lovely 7oz chambray that has been treated with a subtle yet distinctive bleach dip reminiscent of the effect salty sea water would have on the fabric.
The stitch lines are in a unbleached ecru (natural) colour again just as you would expect on a chambray as is the use of triple stitch detailing which was traditionaly used for extra strenght as found on many workwear garments.
However we have used it decoratively and in certain places like the collar, pockets and cuff placket there is a corner detail. Have a closer look: triple stitching is normally done with one machine with 3 needles, however to create these corner details each line of stitching has to be done seperately, and the machinist has to control this by hand and eye. Its a difficult process but a detail we felt strongly brought a unique feel to our shirts.
Traditionaly buttons on a chambrey would be black or navy, we decided to sharpen it up a bit with a white diamond button a rarely found button on chambrays giving it a sharper vintage feel.
All this together helped us create undoubtadly one of the best shirts on the market, its price point is justified in the level of details and fabrication - trust us you wont find them anywhere else, its a modern classic and definately more outlaw pioneer than double denim crooner!