Bear with us for a second here. Stop what you’re doing, walk over to your closet. It’s packed with shirts aplenty, right? Or at least, somewhat packed? And while it’s well and good to have a rotation of freshly pressed dress shirts and Oxford shirts, we know one shirting category that can really top those reliable stand-by pieces in a way that’s casual, rugged and stylish at the same time. Impossible, right? Not quite. The shirt you need in your closet, a real pocket knife or multi-tool when it comes to shirting, is the chambray shirt.
It’s quite literally the perfect shirt for these times when your days are spent on Zoom calls and your evenings are spent on the patio, cold beer in hand. The chambray shirt can do so much for your wardrobe, and we’re not even kidding. Take my own wardrobe, for instance. If there’s a shirt I’ve got too many of (if there’s even such a thing), it’s the chambray shirt. I have a rotation, I have my favorites, and news flash: They’re all made of chambray.
We’ll get into what exactly chambray is in a second, but know this: You can never have too many. It’s become a style staple that every guy looks great in because it’s like the multi-tool of shirting (there’s that phrase again). What we mean by that is, it’s a shirt you can wear with darn near anything in these casual times. It’s rugged and yet easy to wear underneath a navy blazer in a pinch. And it’ll make you look like a movie star, not a cowboy if you wear it with faded black jeans and Chelsea boots.
What Is a Chambray Shirt?
Let’s clear up what is chambray, first and foremost. Chambray is, at its core, a type of cotton fabric. But it’s not woven the same way as cotton denim, or a cotton Oxford shirting fabric. The chambray shirt uses two types of yarn (including a white yarn) woven together to give a chambray shirt its distinctive texture and light blue color. At least, light blue is the most common color for a chambray shirt (you might call this one chambray blue), although the fabric is used in shirts of other colors, too. While dress shirts are made from fabric like cotton poplin for an ultra-smooth and often shiny finished, chambray itself is durable and rugged, with a textured finish that makes it more closely related to a workshirt (you know, the kind your dad wore on Sundays to work in the garage). It’s also different than a denim shirt (it’s lighter in construction and typically color), and that’s not a bad thing.
These days, chambray shirts are the pantheon of stylish guys who want a shirt they can wear with ease, as opposed to miners and prospectors, who favored chambray and denim in the Wild West. No sir, no need to put on your mining boots just yet: Chambray shirts these days are modern and fresh. What that means to us is that they feature a tailored, not baggy fit, plus modern styling potential. A translation: Your chambray shirt is cool enough to wear to an outdoor brewery with grey jeans and canvas high-top sneakers, and it’s polished enough to wear to the office with slim tan chinos. You’ll look put-together, not sloppy, and you can take that to the bank (ideally, as you wear a chambray shirt).
What To Look For in a Chambray Shirt
We can think of plenty of things you might want in your next shirt, but we’ll start with a few of our favorites. First off, your shirt should be made of, well, chambray. It’s going to be lighter and more textured than denim, it’s not going to have as much sheen as a dress shirt, and it’s going to look simple, subtle, and cool. A chambray shirt is also often done in the style of a workshirt, meaning it’s going to have two front button chest pockets. Because it’s typically a workshirt style, it’s going to fit slightly less tailored than your dress shirts, accounting for the fact that you can layer your shirt with your favorite henley or a T-shirt with ease.
That being said, don’t phone it in and grab the first one you find. It’s got to be the right chambray shirt.
For a modern chambray shirt, we know where to start. As a matter of fact, we might just go out on a limb and say that these are the best chambray shirts to buy now. Oh, and if you’ve been standing in front of your closet this whole time, go ahead and take a load off, grab a cold beer and get that credit card at the ready.
Amazon Essentials Slim-Fit Chambray Shirt
Where else to go about the always well-stocked digital confines of Amazon Fashion? The Amazon Fashion brand has a way of taking what every guy needs (or doesn’t even know he needs) and then doing it up in an affordable way. This slim-fit shirt is the platonic ideal of the chambray shirt, with two button chest pockets — like a traditional work shirt — and that classic light blue color (however, light blue is the option we’d go with here).
Goodthreads Slim-Fit Chambray Shirt
Another day, another chambray shirt, another essential shopping pick from Amazon Fashion. Goodthreads is always a reliable choice if you want affordable fashion that packs in some serious bang for your buck. This shirt is another standard-bearer if you want to dip your toes into the world of chambray shirting without spending a pretty penny. Wear it with your favorite selvage jeans and lace-up some Red Wing boots if you feel so inclined.
Dickies Short-Sleeve Chambray Shirt
Alright, so perhaps this is more closely related to the shirt your dad wore to work in the garage. Is that a bad thing? Not in the slightest. After all, we said that the chambray shirt is the perfect shirt for these times, and we meant it. This shirt can be worn for work or play, it’s got an easygoing fit that you can layer over a white T-shirt, and because it’s Dickies, it’s going to hold up to repeated wear. A word to the wise: Size down for a slimmer fit, or go with your regular fit if you favor something more relaxed.
Dockers Alpha Icon Chambray Shirt
Dockers is getting in on the casual shirting game too, because why not? This is the perfect casual shirt to pair with your Dockers chinos, after all. It’s a no-nonsense shirt, the kind you can wear to the bar to stand out quietly. It’s also the kind of shirt you can wear to the office for a serious upgrade over your normal Casual Friday style. We also think the Coastal Chambray Blue color, to use Dockers parlance, looks great and reminds us of sea breezes. A guy can dream, right?
Key Industries Chambray Shirt
The right chambray shirt has to check more than a few boxes, in our book. Those boxes, precisely, are: 1) Looks great 2) Fits well 3) Priced affordably. Oh, and the fact that you can wear it as this type of shirt was intended to be worn (with blue or black jeans, preferably) without missing a beat. Suffice to say, this Key Industries shirt checks all those boxes, and then some.
Faherty Brand Reserve Linen Shirt in Blue Chambray Dot
Here’s the thing with this shirt — yes, it’s crafted from linen, but it’s finished with a chambray pattern that gives the qualities we like to see in, well, a chambray shirt. We told you earlier that linen shirts were like the multi-tool of shirting, with plenty of uses, and this one is no different. By that, we mean you can wear it with olive chinos or tailored grey cotton shorts, and no one’s going to know that it’s both a chambray shirt AND a linen shirt.
Todd Snyder Chambray Work Shirt
Leave it to Todd Snyder, one of the best designers in the country, to perfect something as all-American as the work shirt. In fact, this is one of our favorite shirts on this list (as biased as we might be), seeing as it’s made from Japanese indigo chambray. All you need to know about that fabric is that it’s quote unquote, the good stuff. This classic chambray shirt is pricier than some of these other options, but worth it all the same.
Buck Mason Tahoe Chambray Work Shirt
If you’re looking for another all-American brand that sells the type of throwback staples your grandfather would have been proud to wear, it’s Buck Mason. And of course, that means they sell a chambray shirt, too. This particular work shirt plays off classic silhouettes but freshens things up by making it slimmer and just plain cooler, too. The only thing this shirt is missing is a pair of faded blue jeans, your trusty chukka boots and a cold Miller High Life in hand.
Taylor Stitch California Shirt in Blue Everyday Chambray
The perfect shirt does in fact exist, and there’s a darn good chance it’s this one from Taylor Stitch. The brand excels at giving stylish guys (that’s you and me both) the perfect sort of menswear in every category. To make a long story short: If we had to chose just one style of shirt to wear day in and day out, it’d be this trusty, reliable chambray number. It’s got durable construction and plenty of style points (who’s keeping score? We are).
Madewell Chambray Perfect Shirt
Alright, we know we mentioned that the Taylor Stitch California Shirt is the perfect chambray shirt. But we’d be remiss not to include this easygoing, essential Madewell number, right? Right you are, sir. If you thought Madewell was only for your girlfriend or wife to wear, rest assured that the Madewell men’s line is actually quite cool, seriously well-designed and filled with the sort of shirts, jeans and blazers that your partner will also love. And you want to look great, right? Again, right you are, sir. Shop accordingly.