For winter warmth, today I moved from lighter shirts to L.L. Bean’s Chamois Cloth Shirt — in red, illustrated here:
Whoa, you say, why is this called a chamois cloth shirt? What dies it have to do with chamois leather?
(In passing, I note that chamois cloth has the truncated variant chamois, so that chamois cloth shirt has the variant chamois shirt, which is what I call mine, just because I like the sound of /ʃǽmi ʃŕt/.)
For chamois, OED2 (of some considerable vintage now) lists the pronunciations /ʃǽmɔɪ/, /ʃǽmi/, and /ʃamwá/, while the more recent Wikipedia entry for chamois leather lists only the second (the most nativized pronunciation, which I believe now predominates heavily) and the third (the closest approximation to a French pronunciation).
The sense development starts with the animal:
a capriform antelope [Rupicapra rupicapra, native to the mountains of Europe] … Originally, a leather, prepared from the skin of the chamois; now applied to a soft, pliable leather prepared from the skins of sheep, goats, deer, calves, and the split hides of other animals.
As Wikipedia tells us,
Chamois leather …, sometimes known as a shammy, is a type of porous leather that is favored for its gentle, non-abrasive composition and absorption properties. It has a range of uses
(This covers both the mass N and the count N referring to a piece of chamois cloth, used for washing or polishing, for instance.)
The final (metaphorical) step — from chamois leather to a type of cotton flannel resembling chamois leather in texture (though not otherwise) — is one L.L. Bean takes credit for in its advertising copy:
Eighty years ago, Leon Leonwood Bean introduced a warm cotton flannel shirt to wear on hunting trips. He named it the Leatherette Shirt because of its remarkable resemblance to high-grade chamois leather. It was a hit with our customers and soon became known as Bean’s Chamois Cloth Shirt. (link)
Let’s face it: chamois (with its French resonance) sounds a lot tonier than leatherette (which suggests cheap imitations).