Five Ways to Wear One: The Chambray Shirt

by Beau Hayhoe  |  in Casual Style

Have you seen our other Five Ways To Wear One articles?


We talk a lot at Effortless Gent about building a lean wardrobe filled with versatile, stylish pieces. It can mean different things to different people.

For some, it’s a rotation of classics like dark denim, leather chukka boots and a classic Oxford.

Or pieces that share a similar four-season wearability while incorporating a bit more … zing, if you will.

In that regard, the chambray shirt is a stand-out.

“Can I pull off a chambray shirt?”

Of course you can.

The best chambray shirts on the market today incorporate style, a slim fit (more on that in a second), and versatility. They just look good on any guy.

Although there are chambray and denim dress shirts on the market, today we’re going with the more casual iteration of chambray button-downs.

You can go casual or dressy, sharp or rugged. And you can do it affordably or at a higher price point.

Look for a color that’s not too dark, or too faded. A nice, medium blue chambray like this classic J. Crew chambray shirt is the end goal.

Some of our favorite chambray shirts

Bonobos Chambray Shirts
Starting at $58

A washed-soft, all-season shirt from Bonobos. Tap the button to see all their chambray options.

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J.Crew Chambray Shirts

Softer and lighter than denim (thanks to a different weaving process), chambray looks great no matter how you wear it.

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Polo Ralph Lauren Chambray Shirt

Cut from pure cotton, this button-down style is detailed with Ralph Lauren's multicoloured emblem at the chest

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The vibrant color will stand out in the spring and summer. In the colder months, it pairs easily with darker shades.

Ultimately, there are a lot of brands making this great staple – and making it well. It’s perhaps never been more wearable.

So once you snap one up, how do you keep it working for you all year-round?

Fit and Care

How should a chambray shirt fit?

Concerned about fit? Keep it simple.

You know that classic Oxford you’ve got in your closet? Perhaps it’s perfectly lived-in and maybe a bit rumpled. Yet it fits like a charm, with a slim body and higher armholes. That’s how your chambray shirt should fit.

Remember, it’s a thicker, more textured fabric. You can wear or layer it throughout the year. So take your regular size. If you search for a slim-fit chambray shirt, you should end up with a nicely tailored fit.

It should skim across the shoulders and through the body, not cling as if it’s painted on. And just like your favorite printed short sleeve-shirt, you should look for an option that works both tucked-in and untucked – particularly untucked.

Go with a shirt that hits below your belt, but doesn’t hang beneath your fly. Luckily, chambray is a more casual fabric. So the tail won’t be too long to wear untucked either.

How to care for your chambray shirts

Well, the fine folks at Bonobos put it pretty succinctly on that product page: Machine-wash this bad boy with like colors in cold water, and tumble dry on low.

Conversely, you could hang-dry this shirt. That will save a bit on the wear and tear of the dryer’s heat.

If you look to a reputable retailer like J. Crew or Bonobos – brands with their chambray shirt game in good order – you should be looking at getting plenty of wear out of it.

That’s a great thing indeed, because we have five very stylish looks cued up below.

1. Classic Fall Style

Five Ways to Wear One: Chambray Shirt

Great style, even once you get the hang of it, is still a never-ending process. And when the seasons change from the heat of summer to a brisk and crisp fall (and winter), you need a #menswear ensemble that just works.

Enter the classic combination above. The navy sweater falls right in line with the texture of the chambray shirt, contrasting nicely in the process.

Slim tan chinos – particularly from Dockers – are fool-proof no matter the time of year.

The beautiful wingtip boots from Johnston & Murphy are a fall-ready update (although your favorite pair of wingtip boots would also suffice here).

Finish it off with American-made socks that add a shot of color to the outfit. Then reach for a brown belt that ages over time.

Of course, a watch that’s so minimal and crisp as to work with outfits both casual and dressy is absolutely the right way to go here. The rose gold and brown dial combo is one-of-a-kind.

#2. Rugged, Cold-Weather Layers

Five Ways to Wear One: Chambray Shirt

A textured navy sweater is classic. But sometimes, you want to project a bit more of a rugged vibe.

From a park hike to a bar crawl, it can be fun to throw on a few extra layers – especially American-made, investment-worthy pieces like a tough-as-heck chore coat and a soft henley.

The slim stretch denim adds both a dash of affordability and a lot of style to the look.

Keeping things rugged, mixed-media boots that offer traction, comfort, and durability are the way to go.

Ever get tired of wearing plain leather gloves? (It happens.) A pair that mixes beautiful indigo denim and leather brings a touch of toughness and a nice change of pace.

Every rugged outfit can do with a great finishing touch or two. A watch made from Red Wing shoe leather gets the job done admirably.

Last but not least, a made-in-America weekender bag. It’s your top pick for all the gear you might to take with you on a day trip and beyond.

The fact that this sturdy bag is made from military surplus materials and helps employ veterans throughout every stage of the production and design process are both huge positives.

#3. Sharp Office Style

Five Ways to Wear One: Chambray Shirt

The same chambray shirt that can be worn rugged can also lend itself to a crisp, office-ready look.

This ensemble works for chilly fall breezes or light spring and summer weather thanks to the breathable navy blazer and four-season khaki chinos. If you’re going to start somewhere, chinos from Taylor Stitch might just be the best in the business.

Top it of with affordable accessories – like an eye-catching, refined watch and a tipped pocket square.

Ground it all firmly in casual territory with clean sneakers that epitomize casual cool.

Of course, a sturdy leather belt you can wear for years on end only adds to this ensemble. It’s classic, yet offers a dressier look than a webbed belt.

#4. Daring and Dashing

Five Ways to Wear One: Chambray Shirt

Hybrid style is all the rage these days. Be it pairing sneakers with a suit or a tee and blazer, it’s easier than you think.

It doesn’t have to be outrageous – in this case, we’re swapping your classic navy blazer for a cotton bomber jacket ideal for the early days of fall. Of course, it’ll get the job done in the spring too.

Other than that, the outfit’s construction stays largely the same. Slim, dark denim grounds any look in nearly any situation.

A cotton tie adds a welcome bit of texture. Rich and sharp brown leather wingtips – priced darn affordably too – are a suitably tailored footwear choice.

Add this looker of a watch. The rose gold offsets the brown leather shoes and belt nicely. For fall, striped socks in a neutral color are the way to go.

Try this look out at the office, on a slightly dressier date, or when heading to Sunday brunch.

#5. Warm-Weather Weekend Getaway

Five Ways to Wear One: Chambray Shirt

Chambray calls to mind heavyweight fabrics and chilly breezes. It’s truly the ideal four-season shirt – particularly in a wash that’s not too light or dark.

With this outfit, we’re working with other multi-season staplesgrey chinosa vintage ball cap, and classic aviators.

What move pushes it into warm-weather territory? Crisp leather sneakers. White sneakers work all year (yes, even after Labor Day). Yet they still fit best in spring and summer.

Of course, those are two optimal times to hit the road with some stylish menswear in tow. That same highly versatile, refined watch is going to carry you on the road and beyond.

So will a durable navy weekender bag with some beautifully crafted leather accents.

Keep things casual and comfortable with a textured navy belt that offsets the rest of this outfit’s neutral hues nicely.

Chambray shirts: One-of-a-Kind Style for Any Season

Think a chambray shirt is like any other blue shirt in your closet?

Think again.

The slim cut, proper fit, and unique texture of a chambray shirt give it nearly limitless styling potential.

A standard blue dress shirt wouldn’t work with some of the more casual outfits seen above. But an easygoing chambray shirt can do both dressy and laidback situations.

The neutral color makes it easy to pair with all kinds of colors and fabrications, from olive chinos to dark denim. It’s starting point for outfits across all seasons.

That versatility can only be bought if you know where to look – and how to get that shirt fitted and cared for properly. Now you’re on the right track.

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