I think I might be wearing chambray today
chambray is white hot right now.
is leading the charge....
IT’S NOT OFTEN you hear men boasting about how worn-in their suits are. That may be about to change. A number of labels—from classic luxury brands like Valentino and Giorgio Armani to chic upstarts like AMI and Michael Bastian—are selling suits made of chambray, a relative of denim. A lightweight cloth densely woven with white and
indigo yarn in shades that can range from pale blue to dark gray, it’s associated more with Depression-era factory workers than business wear.
Chambray softens over time, which means your new suit could theoretically become as comfortable as your old jeans. “It flows naturally as you move,” said Giorgio Armani, by email. “I particularly like it because, while it is as rough and resistant as denim, it’s also light and fresh to the touch.”
That freshness makes the chambray suit an ideal option as the weather warms up. But with its suggestion of the “Canadian tuxedo” (the term for a denim jacket paired with jeans), head-to-toe chambray may require a mental leap.
Thankfully this crop of indigo two-pieces has little to do with the denim leisure suits of the 1970s and ’80s. “You can compare it to seersucker,” said Frank Muytjens, J.Crew’s head of men’s design. “It works in so many ways. It’s perfect for a wedding. It’s great to wear to work, even. It’s a very versatile fabric.” J.Crew debuted its first chambray suit this spring—cut in a rigid Japanese variety made in the denim capital of Kojima—and reports that it’s already a top seller. Details magazine fashion director Matthew Marden bought one recently. “I have a bunch of suits in cotton and light summer-weight wool. I was looking for something different,” he said.
This season’s chambray suits vary in degrees of formality. While Canali and J.Crew offer classic, sharp-shouldered two-button styles, Giorgio Armani and Michael Bastian’s skew more casual with fashion-forward silhouettes. Meanwhile AMI’s dark indigo suit is so soft and pliable you might think you could toss it in the washing machine. (You can’t.)
For some designers, the suit’s unfussy air is exactly the point. “We wanted to interpret something which is very street style into something with couture values,” said Pierpaolo Piccioli, who designs Valentino with Maria Grazia Chiuri. AMI designer Alexandre Mattiussi concurs: “I like the idea of keeping the elegance of the suiting, but we’re not trying to make it too sophisticated.”
Men looking to impress in a more executive setting should go with more classically tailored chambray looks. For them, the material’s breathability can be a boon. Matthew Moneypenny, CEO of image licensing agency Trunk Archive, says he will likely be packing one for a business trip to Portugal and Spain this summer. “It’s going to be brutally hot, but I need to look professional,” said Mr. Moneypenny. “A chambray suit serves the purpose. You can pull a chambray piece—whether it’s a shirt or a suit—out of a suitcase and hang it up, and it’s fine after a half-hour or so.” He added, “I can see a lot of my former colleagues at Hollywood agencies wearing them. Chambray suits read professional, but would also get you a lot of comments from clients interested in the look.”
Commercial-producer Luke Bryant, who’s based in Toronto but often works in Los Angeles, isn’t so sure. “Wearing a chambray suit to work might not exactly say ‘Make me partner,’ ” he said. Mr. Bryant would consider buying one for a different reason: “For me, outdoor summer weddings are really a celebration of my sweat glands,” he said. “If a lightweight chambray suit can keep me a bit cooler, I’m in.” Indeed, the summer wedding can be an ideal place for chambray, particularly if it’s outdoors, in a garden or at the beach.
Some men, however, are wary of wearing the more refined takes on chambray in any situation. “I think the dressier versions are a risky move and should probably stay on the runway,” said Chris Black, a brand strategist. “When styled well, the casual versions could look very cool.”
For others, like Theophilus London, a New York-based recording artist whose style has landed him in various fashion magazines, the material is out of the question when it comes to suiting. “I’m more of a classic suit guy,” said Mr. London. He added: “Chambray is over.”
This assertion made Mr. Bastian laugh. “That’s like saying denim is over,” he said. “Maybe for him it’s over, but these things don’t go away.”
Early indications point to tailored chambray’s staying power. Who knows? It might even inspire its own slang. “If denim-on-denim is the Canadian tuxedo, then the chambray suit is the new Brooklyn tux,” saidJon Jackson, a creative director for the global digital agency Huge. “It’s lightweight for the summertime but still dark enough to mean business.”
With a relaxed reputation but a wholly refined look, this suit can take you (different) places when topped off with the right touches