Get To Know Your Weaves

Author: Zachary Lowell

Weaving Fabric

Since the Stone Age, humans have used a variety of techniques and methods to weave fabrics for clothing. Unfortunately for modern men the subtle difference between weaves though can be as mysterious as the Sphinx. So consider this a sartorial public service announcement for all you would-be gentlemen hampered by a lack of knowledge, as we guide you through the wonderful world of weaving.

To start with, it’s important to know some basic jargon, like weft and warp. We’ve mentioned this in a few previous entries but warp refers to the fibers woven length-wise into a fabric, while weft refers to the fabrics woven width-wise. For the layman, it isn’t so important to remember which one is which as long as you know that these terms just refer to fibers woven in different directions.

Also, you should know that there are basically three major weaving techniques – plain, twill and satin – with many sub-styles and variations between them.

Plain weaves, as you can probably guess, produce the simple one-under/one-over fabrics most of us are familiar with. Twill weaves are more complicated and usually constructed in a two-under/two-over (2/2) or two-under/one-over (2/1) fashion to create a diagonal or stair-case like appearance. Satin weaves are not quite so common in the world of men’s clothing (especially men’s shirts) so we’ll just mention briefly that they are used to make more complicated decorative geometric patterns often found on pillowcases, carpets or drapes.

So now that you know something about the differences between these broad categories of weaves, let’s look at some of the more specific variations found within each.

Let’s start with breaking down poplin, one of the simplest weaves out there. Many shirt makers throw around the word poplin (and “broadcloth”, which is basically the same thing) as a way to make their shirts sound fancier and more appealing. In actuality though, poplins are just plain one-under/one-over weaves.

Don’t get us wrong, with the right color and thread count, some poplins and broadcloth fabrics are really something. Consider for instance, fil-a-fil a kind of poplin weave which uses thin dark and light colored threads to turn out airy, yet soft fabric perfect for summer shirts.

There are many different takes on this well-known weave, but all Oxfords are woven with multiple warp fibers under a single weft (or vice versa). Except for white shirts, Oxford shirts almost always use two different threads of different color and thickness to create rich textures and colors without resorting to synthetic fibers.

Two of the most common variations on the Oxford theme include the Royal Oxford and the Plain Oxford. The Royal Oxford usually features small, diamond shaped wedges for a sharp look that goes well with flannel and checks. Some shirt fans consider the Royal Oxford weave too hoity-toity, too P.G. Wodehouse to be stylish for work or hanging out. The Plain Oxford, on the other hand, usually features a blocky, more proletarian pattern suitable for every day use. Opinions differ as to which is more formal and which is more casual, so let your personal styling sensibilities guide your choice between these two weaves.

Twill and Oxford fabrics don’t differ that dramatically in the way they are constructed.  Both feature multiple weft threads woven around a single warp, yet they are woven in such a way that diagonal, raised ridge patterns emerge. Twill weaves are used to construct the herringbone, cork screw, chevron or hounds tooth patterns many associate with vintage and work wear clothing.

Twill weaves are natural stain-fighters (yet hard to clean once you manage to soil them), and usually produce solid, and very durable fabrics. Twill weaves are also used to make stiff pique tuxedo shirts and other formal wear. In general, twill weaves usually feature more reflective finishes than Oxfords for shirt fans looking for something a little more colorful or shiny.

While this is just a small sample of the dozens of different weaves available to, knowing something about the way your shirts are constructed is the first step in transforming yourself from a style amateur into a sophisticated Adonis. Test out your new weaving knowledge the next time you’re in the market for shirts, and we guarantee you’ll appreciate them even more and look even better.

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One Response to “Get To Know Your Weaves”

  1. ruben says:

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