Chambray, or the Franco-American Naval Uniform Connection.

Several ago weeks, Chandler Small & Co. introduced the first addition to its designs—a chambray kids’ sailor top. For Chandler Small’s designer, your correspondent, a chambray top was the clear choice for the next design. The hefty twill of our navy blue kids’ sailor suits needed a lighter, softer summer counterpart. Since Chandler Small & Co.’s designer-proprietor is a father of four, he understands that summer whites—which so temp fate at fleet weeks the world over every summer—are hard enough for adult sailors to keep clean and will lead to boundless frustration for parents of small children. Thus, chambray.

Chambray was the fabric-of-choice for the shirts for the U.S. Navy’s enlisted uniform for over a century, having first entered the uniform regulations in 1901. The fabric takes it name from the French town—Cambrai—from whence it came. Chambray’s distinctive feature is the color and pattern created by combining a blue warp with a white weft. It shares the blue and white thread combination with denim, but it’s plain weave and light thread makes it more light and airy.

Originally your correspondent thought that the chambray kids sailor suit top would be made without braid on the collar and cuffs. This seemed fitting given long association of chambray as a working uniform material and the absence—only recently ended—of braid on the U.S. Navy summer white jumper. However, after putting side-by-side a sample with braid and one lacking it, the decision to include the braid was clear.

As it happened, the resulting top bore an almost complete likeness to a chambray sailor’s uniform found in the French Navy of the 1950’s and ‘60’s (Pictured below). The experience of designing the chambray children’s sailor top underscores the idea—discussed in an earlier post—that our design has a rather uncreative element insofar as it seeks create nautical kids clothing based on design whose enduring charm and functionality are hard to improve.



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