This fall, chambray and denim fabrics, rugged staples of men's wear, are lighter and more urbane-looking,

Denim work shirts by Joseph Abboud are in faded and dark indigo, stone-washed for a soft hand. "We're stressing versatility -- the same shirts with a tie and tweed jacket and with jeans," Mr. Abboud said.

The roomy medium-weight shirts have an easy drape, deep armholes, a small soft pointed collar, two pockets and rivet-style buttons. Mr. Abboud's blue jeans are snug at the seat but loose on the thighs.

"The '90s denims are anti-fit, relaxed, not uptight, meant to be worn with suede wingtips, not just boots," he said.

The Gap's classic denim shirt, $40, looks well-worn. It's medium-weight with a button-down collar, just right as a jacket over a T-shirt, or alone.

The Gap also makes many chambrays, a square weave of finer cotton than the dense slanted twill of denim; there are six variations of pocket and collar styles for the classic $30 shirt and a variety of striped models, each $32.

Banana Republic has denim shirts in every weight and shade of indigo and a range of pocket and collar styles. Among medium-weight shirts, the Laramie in faded indigo with a suede collar is $58; the single-pocket dark indigo Folsom with frayed button-down collar is $44.

The Trapper has horn buttons, double-flap pockets and comes in faded hemlock, butternut, dusk and plum, $48 -- perfect fall hues. Chambrays are in a dozen variations, $30 to $42; any work, under a sport coat.

"It's not just about cowboys and country and western anymore," said Larry Hotz, a spokesman for the Men's Fashion Association, a trade group. "It used to be that denim meant play clothes; now men want to wear it to the office the next day."

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