Chambray Shirts — Blue Collars On The Red Carpet

An article in The New York Times illuminates the working class roots of the current fashion must-have, the chambray shirt. Turns out chambray in America has a local provenance.

The early history of chambray ­stretches to the French town of Cambrai and a dense linen, cambric, long woven there. It came to the United States in 1790 when, defying laws against exporting textile technology, a Briton named Samuel Slater built a mill in Pawtucket, R.I., and produced cambric’s cotton analog by cross-­weaving a colored thread and a white fill.

While the political and economic co-opting of blue-collar workers is well-known, Times writer Troy Patterson shows that the chambray shirt has also proven irresistible as short-hand to authors from Saul Bellow to Stephen King.

And speaking of horror, the ‘Neal Cassady’ is currently available at certain pricey boutiques, “in an attempt to summon daydreams of a sainted beatnik.” Talk about your signifiers . . . blue shirt as red flag. The guy wearing that item? Run screaming into the night.

(And yes, this is our Labor Day entry!)

Visit Slater Mill at 67 Roosevelt Street, Pawtucket (directions)

1 thought on “Chambray Shirts — Blue Collars On The Red Carpet”

  1. I concur. Step away from the dude in a chambray shirt unless he can produce a valid AFL-CIO card. If the gentleman is found wanting in this respect, he is a fraud and a cultural appropriator. By all means turn your attention to the more genuine males, those who do not hide behind the affectation of blue-collar fashion. Go with the one in the Ed Hardy shirt.

    Sound advice.

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