While often confused with one another – and clearly similar in some respects, like how they are both the result of weaving a colored yarn with a white yarn – denim and chambray are not the same. The chief difference between the two is that denim is twill woven – a process by which the fabric’s colored thread makes two passes over its white thread – whereas chambray’s threads alternate one after another. This difference can be determined chiefly by looking at the underside of the cloth, where denim appears mostly white and chambray looks virtually indistinguishable from its outer side. Denim also tends to be a heavier fabric, evident in most blue jeans, whereas chambray is lighter and more breathable.
Typically, chambray can be worn in both casual and dressy occasions, whereas denim tends to lean harder on the casual side of the spectrum. So a chambray shirt can generally be considered a more versatile choice for both work and play. And because, more often than not, chambray is a more lightweight fabric option – it’s also a more appropriate style choice for warmer times of the year. Whether you’re looking for classy late-summer wear for a barbecue, or you want to downplay the stiffness of a company meeting by donning something a little more relaxed to work, a chambray shirt might just be what you’re looking for. So to help you pick the right one, we’ve gathered together 12 of our favorites in the following round-up.
Uniqlo Chambray Shirt
This pre-washed button-up promises to be a very comfortable addition to any set of attire. This shirt features a regular fit, armpit gussets – pieces of fabric added to a garment in order to reduce the tension or stress on certain sections – visible contrast stitching, red selvedge piping on the inside of the collar band, and red chain stitching on the cuffs and placket (the part of the shirt through which the buttons are fastened) for subtle design accents. The end result is a lightweight vintage style work shirt that looks as good with slacks as it does with shorts.
Frank + Oak Carlsbad Brushed Chambray Shirt
Proof that chambray, like denim, is a lot more versatile than people give it credit for, this button down from Frank + Oak is made from a textural chambray cotton that feels and looks more like flannel than jeans. It’s even smooth brush-finished to increase the flannel effect. And, like your favorite winter woolen shirt, this shirt can be worn with casual outfits – like hanging out around the campfire – or more put-together, like a company holiday party.
Gap 1969 Icon Worker Chambray Shirt
For a more blue-jeany button-up look, but without the heavy fabric, there’s the Gap 1969 Icon Worker Chambray Shirt. Made more like an old-school work shirt you might see in a factory or machine shop than under a blazer, this button-up is made from 100% cotton and is completely machine washable. With button-cuffed long sleeves – that look as good buttoned as they do rolled-up – and chest button shirt pockets with pen slot, this shirt offers surefire good looks and just a bit more utility than your average button up.
Howler Brothers Sheridan Shirt
It is important to remember that, despite convention, chambray doesn’t necessarily have to be made with an indigo thread. Such is the case with the Sheridan shirt from Howler Brothers. This western-style button up (which does come in an indigo version, if you’d rather adhere to the classic color) features two button down breast pockets, is constructed of a combination of cotton and linen for a somewhat softer and more comfortable feel, features contrasting visible stitching, and comes with an iconic Howler monkey tag on the side seam. And the chest pocket is lined with microfiber that can be used to clean your eyewear.
United By Blue Wentlock Shirt
Another example of the versatility of chambray fabric, this short sleeved button up from United by Blue comes in either light blue with a cross/dot pattern, or a darker indigo with a geometric stripe pattern. This regular fit shirt is made from 100% organic cotton. And, like with all of their products, United by Blue will remove one pound of trash from Earth’s oceans and waterways for every shirt sold. So if you were ever on the fence about picking up a short sleeved button down, here’s one you can buy in confidence knowing it’ll be both a stylish addition to your wardrobe and help with a good cause.
Bonobos Chambray Button-Down
This offering from Bonobos has more of a professional look that you could wear as easily in a workshop as you could to a client meeting. With contrast stitching, Pearloid buttons, and a solitary chest pocket, this 100% cotton and machine washable shirt is as stylish as it is comfortable and promises to last through dozens of uses – and will only grow softer and more comfortable with each wash.
J. Crew Ludlow Shirt
Endeavoring to create a chambray shirt with a look that is professional enough to be worn with a suit, J. Crew has rolled out their Ludlow button-up. This shirt is made from 100% Japanese, indigo-dyed, machine-washable chambray and features a trim tailored fit and a stiff spread collar that would not look out of place beneath your best wool suit or paired with a navy blazer and khaki slacks.
Buck Mason Bleached Indigo Pearl Snap
Created to mirror the similarly constructed western-style shirts from the 1950s, this “true cowboy shirt” from Buck Mason features custom-built cream pearl-snap buttons and an in-house created indigo chambray. Fitting somewhere between slim and full, these USA made shirts – which are sewn in Los Angeles, California – are easy to throw on at the beginning of your day, offer superb comfort whether you’re working on a ranch or in a high-rise, and are quite literally a snap to remove once your day is done.
Best Made The Chambray Shirt
Best Made is of the mindset that every man should own at least one chambray shirt. They were, after all, once a US Navy standard-issue item and were made popular widely by the cowboys of the past. Theirs, however, offers some modern departures from the rugged classic predecessors. For example, the open left chest pocket features a slot for your EDC pen, the inside of the collar features a locker loop, and it’s put together with double-needle stitching. And, made in Portugal from 100% 5.3oz indigo cotton, this shirt wouldn’t be a bad option to wear every day – if you had to.
Taylor Stitch The California
As they are known to do, Taylor Stitch has again expanded upon both a classic style and a design of their own creation. The California version of their Everyday Chambray was reimagined specifically with aging in mind. That is to say, this shirt was made to get better the more you wear it. From the custom powder coated metal buttons, to the chain stitching, to the 7oz Japanese chambray fabric, this garment is meant to be used over and over again. This tailor-fitted shirt is pre-shrunk, double stitched, barracked at stress points, and handmade in Portugal.
Todd Snyder Chambray Patch Pocket Shirt
Made to weather all four seasons in both style and comfort, this button down chambray from Todd Snyder is sure to impress in any circumstance. Made in Portugal from 100% Japanese indigo fabric, the weathered look of the chambray fabric pairs together with bright white buttons to create a polished look – whether you are tucking it in and donning a tie or rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. And it features a single breast pocket with a button flap for the storage of any small items you need to keep on hand.
Dunhill Chambray Shirt
Founded in 1893 by a man named Alfred Dunhill, this brand has been making quality British style clothing for well over a century. And this chambray button down is another in a long line of superb examples of that very quality. With a very tightly woven blue brushed 100% cotton fabric, this garment looks as sharp as it is comfortable. And the Pearloid buttons stand out as an added style element. And, because of its makeup, it is completely machine washable – so you won’t have to take this shirt to the dry cleaners like you do with other dress style shirts.