Tuesday, July 8, 2014

'Know Your Fabrics' - Broadcloth

On to another week of ‘Know Your Fabrics.’ OK, so we’re admittedly kind of cheating here by having a separate article on broadcloth versus poplin, which we covered a few weeks ago. Why is that? To be perfectly honest, they are basically the same cloth.

Both have a one-to-one square weave, both are used almost exclusively for shirting, in fact there really is only one marginal difference: where poplin shirts can, and often do, use threads of differing thickness for the warp vs. the weft, broadcloth uses exclusively one thread for both.

In other words, poplin shirts can be woven in a way that provides a slight (usually vertical) ribbing, allowing for some extra texture which can either add visual depth or even dress down a fabric. Broadcloth is by definition flat and smooth, which means it lends very well to more dressy shirts:

Additionally, the popularity of broadcloth as a fabric for shirting means that you can find it in pretty much any style, color, or weight, and could potentially rock a 100% broadcloth shirt closet, summer to winter, and still inject a solid amount of variety.

Historically, broadcloth is probably one of the oldest textile weaves currently available. Like most fabrics, it was originally woven from wool, and was actually produced in larger-than-standard sheets. These sheets were then shrunk down through a washing process in order to reach the desired size, which resulted in a much tighter woven fabric, with fibers binding together for a felted hand-feel. 

To my understanding, woolen broadcloth is still produced to achieve this felted quality, which makes it durable and decently weather-resistant. You might hear this fabric referred to as ‘Melton Wool’ - and maybe we’ll do a separate article focusing on this subset in the future!

Meanwhile, we’ve picked a few options to try to highlight the range of broadcloth shirts on the market:

A classic, crisp white button-down is the go-to dress shirt for countless stylish men. This option from Club Monaco hits all the right notes, and is marked down by over 60% to just $50:
Slim-Fit Broadcloth Shirt | Club Monaco

These shirts from Ralph Lauren have been brushed to achieve what the call a ‘sueded’ feel that could be great for fall and winter:

Custom-Fit Sueded Broadcloth | Polo Ralph Lauren

Broadcloth’s characteristic smoothness makes it a popular fabric for printed designs, like this black-on-white pin-dot from Uniqlo:
Broadcloth Printed Long Sleeve Shirt | Uniqlo

Sure, it’s a bit out of season to be finding heavy Melton wool garments, but that also means that the pieces you will find are likely to be nicely marked down, like this pea coat by Schott via Orvis for just $220:
Do you have broadcloth fabrics in your wardrobe? What are your favorite pieces?

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