Subtle differences can vary dress shirts

Men who look closely at their dress shirts will find a new way to vary their business wardrobe. Subtle variations in dress shirt fabrics - broadcloth, oxford cloth, chambray, and end-and-end - can make a difference in appearance.

Broadcloth is the business standard. It is a closely woven, lustrous fabric with a simple, plain weave. Developed in Britain in the 1920s, standard broadcloth was originally woven on a wider, ''broader'' loom than other fabrics, hence its name. At first all-cotton, it is now also woven in cotton-polyester blends.

Another dress shirt classic is oxford cloth, named for the city of its birth. It has a deeper texture, derived from the tight basket weave used in its manufacture. While perfectly acceptable for dress shirt wear, oxford has a younger, more relaxed business tone.

Chambray is a plain weave with a visual difference - white threads run horizontally across the colored (vertical) threads. This gives the cloth a unique color surface. This fabric gives another option to the man who prefers solid-color shirts.

In a similar fashion, end-and-end is a closely woven shirt fabric with alternative white and colored threads running in both directions, horizontal and vertical. The effect is a fine-textured appearance, with a flat weave. Since both chambray and end-and-end have unique but subtle characters, they are ideal for varying and enhancing the business wardrobe, adding depth while sticking to the basics of correct business dressing.

Just remember that the more texture, or surface interest, a fabric has, the more informal it will appear.

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