24 septembre 2021
Way up high in France is the town of Cambrai. Just add an 'h' and replace the 'i' with a 'y' and the name changes to 'chambray'. Just add an 'h' and replace the 'i' with a 'y' and the name changes to 'chambray'. Is this a strange coincidence? No, it's said that it was in this French town that the chambray fabric was born. And for oxford, it's a bit of the same story : it's the prestigious city of Oxford across the Channel that lent its name to the fabric. Oxford and chambray, the two leading fabrics in men's shirts, are frequently compared to each other. But are they really as similar as they seem?
Although chambray originated in France, it was in the United States that it became popular. Worn by sailors in the U.S. Navy, it was after the Second World War that this fabric was adopted by the entire American working class. Historically speaking, oxford was initially a material favoured by sportsmen and women, particularly polo players. Being a hard-wearing yet flexible fabric, it's also breathable, which is ideal for sports. Associated with preppy style, oxford was popularised by Ivy League students.
From a more technical point of view, both fabrics are principally made of cotton, linen or a mixture of both. In terms of weave, both chambray and oxford belong to the plain weave category. This means that the weft thread runs alternately over and under a warp thread, and vice versa. Oxford, on the other hand, has a plain weave. The difference is that, unlike a plain weave, the weft and warp threads are multiplied, which gives the illusion of a grid. In terms of feel, chambray is smoother and can therefore feel a little softer than oxford.
Both chambray and oxford promise absolute comfort, simplicity and lightness, depending on the weight. A reminder: the heavier the weight, the thicker and warmer the fabric. In fact, these two fabrics adapt rather easily to the seasons and bad weather. If we were to associate a season with each fabric, we could say that oxford, with a high grammage, is often the star of autumn. The chambray shirt usually makes its appearance in the spring. Another common advantage is that these fabrics are particularly easy to care for.
Initially, both chambray and oxford were used for casual shirts. The raw look offers this casual look. Nevertheless, both fabrics can be used in all situations. Thanks to the preppy style, oxford can also be worn a little more dressy. Ivy League students used to wear the oxford shirt with a chino and a varsity jacket. Since then, it's a must-have. The chambray, which can be lighter, is ideal for summer evenings, sleeves rolled up in Cap Ferret. It is also increasingly seen in elegant cuts for weddings. For chambray lovers and fans of authenticity, there is a rare commodity in this category: Japanese chambray. We'll come back to this very soon !
This is now the end of our French-English getaway. So, even if the two fabrics are similar at first sight because of their casual look, we will distinguish them in the more technical details, like the weaving for example. We like both of them, so we'll allow you make your choice !
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