Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Know Your Fabrics - Twill (and Herringbone)

As you'll recall from last week, we are starting a few ongoing series to expand your book-smarts when it comes to style and menswear. We're dropping knowledge on you again this week, as we bust out our 'Know Your Fabrics' series with this piece on twill, one of the most common weaves throughout apparel textiles.

As I inferred, 'twill' refers to the weave of a fabric, rather than the material - you can have cotton twill, wool twill, linen twill, heck, even polyester twill, although I'd avoid it (big fan of natural fibers here). The defining characteristic of a twill fabric is the 'stepped' or offset weaving pattern, which creates minute diagonal ribs - really, these are most often so small that you can only notice them up close. 
Notice the diagonal 'ribbing.'
In contrast to straight or box weaves, the diagonal weave allows these fabrics to stretch (again, minutely) in the direction of wear, which allows them to drape much more nicely than non-twill counterparts. Also, twill fabrics tend to be just a bit denser and heavier - not that it's all heavyweight, but more that you are unlikely to see super lightweight twill pieces.

Like I said before, twill is everywhere, and is actually a defining weave for some fabrics (as far as I know, the only difference between chambray and denim - both woven with a colored warp and white weft - is that denim is always twill). Another fun fact - the diagonal weave in twill almost always goes in the same direction, but every so often a manufacturer switches it up, resulting in a 'left-hand' twill, like these jeans from Gustin (not currently available, but they return periodically, or you can try out the second option, a bit more expensive, from Naked Famous via Nordstrom):
'The Lefty' Selvedge Denim | Gustin

'Weird Guy' Slim Fit Left Hand Twill Selvedge Jeans | Naked and Famous via Nordstrom

Beyond denim, nearly all (if not all) of your chinos will be twill, whether they are regular cotton, heavier canvas, or lightweight 'summer' chinos. Some of our favorites come from J.Crew Factory, who have a great selection (at great prices) on sale right now:

Driggs Broken-In Chino | J.Crew Factory
This also tends to be the go-to-weave for cotton sport coats (though it can be used for wool or other materials as well). My lightweight blazer in a cotton/linen blend from Uniqlo is made with a twill weave, and is a must-have for the summer, if you ask me. Unfortunately, a lot of other fellas thought so too, and Uniqlo is clean out of the damn things. However (lucky you), GANT has this sharp number marked down to a surprisingly affordable $150 (and that's from an original $500 price-tag):

Cotton Twill Blazer | GANT
Last, I have to mention that I think a bright white twill dress shirt is about as classy as you can get - the beautiful drape and subtle texture, alongside a spread collar and some MOP buttons, well, yum. The bad news is that it can be hard to find a shirt like that for cheap - I had two made custom my Modern Tailor, and those were modeled off this version by Ledbury. Like I said, not cheap, but if you're looking for a splurge, you won't go wrong with this one:

The White Royal Twill | Ledbury
Really, though, twill is such an ubiquitous fabric that we could run an endless list of products made with the characteristic weave. Instead, we'll leave you with this final tidbit - herringbone fabric is actually just an alternating twill weave - instead of allowing the diagonal weave to run continuously in one direction, herringbone fabric switches the direction of the twill at regular increments. The result looks reminiscent of the bones of a herring, hence the name! Where a regular twill will look solid from a distance, herringbone (especially when accentuated with colors or textures), can come out in an almost striped appearance, like these chinos from Dockers:

'Earl' Slim Fit Herringbone Alpha Chinos | Dockers via Nordstrom

And there you have it! One day older, one day smarter. Tune in on Friday (or Thursday night, if I'm feeling industrious) for this week's round of Deals and Steals! Meanwhile, have any favorite pieces in twill or herringbone? Tell us about it!

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