The best men’s chambray shirts are not denim shirts. Allow us to explain. Like their denim counterparts, chambray shirts often use indigo-dyed threads for the warp (the threads that run vertically) and white threads for the weft (the threads that run horizontally, also known as the fill threads), which gives the fabric a two-tone depth similar to a heathered sweatshirt. Coupled with an indigo dye with its own infinitesimal tonal variations, and you’re left with a fabric that’s transfixed generations of menswear nerds—and yet, somehow still flies relatively under the radar.
Technically speaking, the difference between denim and chambray comes down to the weave. Denim is a twill fabric commonly woven as either a 2×1 or 3×1 weave (two or three warp threads over a single weft thread). Chambray, on the other hand, is a plain weave where the warp and weft threads pass each other in equal number (1×1, 2×2, and on). Armed with that knowledge, though, you’d still be hard-pressed to ID a chambray option in a lineup of denim shirts. One easy way to tell? If the fabric on the inside—commonly referred to as the ‘wrong side’ of the fabric—is lighter in color than the outside of the fabric (a.k.a. the ‘right side’), then you’ve got chambray on your hands.
The Best Chambray Shirts Shopping Guide
Practically speaking, chambray behaves a little differently than denim. It’s often lighter than denim, which makes it an ideal fabric for warm-weather shirts. And because it’s lighter, chambray tends to wrinkle and rumple more easily, much like to a primo linen shirt. In most contexts, the difference won’t really matter. Men’s chambray shirts have similar sartorial superpowers to their tough denim siblings: they fade beautifully, they’re rugged enough to pass as actual workwear, and they look great on everyone. Try a classic western shirt with some deep, dark raw denim jeans for a masterful take on the Canadian Tux. Or wear one with some swishy swim trunks and canvas sneakers like a SoCal native. Hell, with the right collar and pocket, you can even wear a chambray shirt with a suit and tie.
Like a pair of blue jeans, the chambray shirts cant save your fits from unequivocal disaster, and even launch you into the ranks of the most stylish folks to ever walk the earth. But that’s enough conjecture for now. Buy one one of these—the best men’s chambray shirts on the market—and find out for yourself.
The All-Day Everyday Chambray Shirt
Like your morning coffee, J.Crew’s long-sleeve chambray shirts have long been a go-to everyday option. Served straight up with a plain T-shirt and a pair of chinos or gussied up with a tie and a sport coat, the organic cotton, button-down collar, and tailored fit works in every context.
The Platonic Ideal Chambray Work Shirt
Based on vintage chambray work shirts, Polo’s two-pocket chambray shirt features classic white buttons and a sky-blue chambray that’s about as close to the Platonic ideal as a chambray work shirt can get.
The Champagne of Chambray Shirts
Chambray, when done right, can absolutely pass as a dress shirt—Peter Millar’s version is the prime example. The long sleeve button-up shirt features a French placket, spread collar, and lacks the usual chest pocket, making it one of the cleanest, dressiest options out there. It’s giving impossibly swaggy tailored guy traipsing through southern Italy, and we’re here for it.
The Natural Wine of Chambray Shirts
Dyed with a mix of indigo, henna, turmeric, and iron, Indi+Ash takes an artisanal approach to their military-inspired design. Cut with a relaxed fit, French seams, and corozo nut buttons, it’s a quality garment that’ll last you long enough to actually see those gorgeous fades come to fruition.
The Honkin’ Heavyweight Chambray Shirt
At 10.5 oz., the chambray on this shirt is certified beefy, and weighs about as much as your typical pair of jeans. On top of that, with super deep indigo-dyed threads for both the warp and weft, this may as well be a pair of raw denim jeans for your torso. If you really wanted a long-sleeve chambray work shirt that can actually do some damned work, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better shirt for the job.
The True-Blue Western Chambray Shirt
Levi’s may be known for its denim, but is it really a surprise that they make what is arguably the quintessential western shirt? It features a tasteful slim fit, pearlescent snap buttons, western yokes, dual snap flap pockets, and, of course, a lightweight cotton chambray with a nuanced vintage-style fade.
The Vacation-Ready Chambray Shirt
Chambray shirts want a vacation to Hawaii, too. Not only does Reyn Spooner make some of the most iconic aloha shirts in the game, they make one of the coolest short sleeve chambray shirts anywhere. This cotton-blend popover features a classic fit and a bevy of boozy illustrations that would make any Tiki bar jealous. It’s great with some baggy cargo shorts or billowy linen pants and pairs well with your favorite bev.