Some clothes are invented to be used for a period of time only to disappear. Others stay with us and become timeless classics. Blue jeans, the blazer and brogue shoes are as obvious choices today as when they were created. One of those garments is the Oxford shirt. Created over a hundred years ago, it’s now the foundation of every man's wardrobe.
The history behind the Oxford shirt takes its journey from Scotland to India through the American East Coast to becoming the foundation of every man’s closet. Like so many other types of textile inventions, the Oxford weave was originally designed in Scotland. Originally it was designed as a formal dress shirt. However, because of its durability and fair price it became popular among a broader public. The shirt became popular among the English stationed in India, where they discovered the functionalities of the shirt while playing polo. The Oxford shirt was perfect for the climate because the fabrics ability to breathe and keep you cool and at the same time staying dressed.
When introduced in the States it quickly became associated with the Ivy League and the Preppy fashion. Here it was used as the formal dress shirt it was originally intended for. In addition, the the button down feature was widely introduced - a clever functionality used by the English polo players to keep the collar away from the face. It was a certain John E. Brooks who picked up the button down feature during a visit to England. He brought the idea to the States and started the production of the first Oxford Cloth Button Down Shirt - OCBD, which is now one of the most popular looks on an Oxford shirt.
In the States, it was the unique combination of a durable shirt that works both with a blazer and a tie as well as for summertime leisure that made this shirt so popular. To add to the popularity, the fabric combines not only durability and flexibility, but the thicker type of fabric is also less inclined to wrinkle. We dare say that this feature is as important as it’s versatility.
The great variety of use, it’s durability and ability to make you look good are features that are hard to find in any type one of garment. We like clothes with a great variety of use and we like kläder that make us look good. The Scottish knew it, the English knew it and Americans knew it. And so do the men who have a few Oxford shirts in their closets as well.
Given the versatility of the Oxford shirt, it’s almost easier to answer when not to wear it. The sturdiness of the fabric makes it a perfect companion on cooler days, and at the same time it breathes, which makes it cool enough for warmer days. It can definitely be worn in the office if tailored well enough. It’s perfect when you want to be dressed and informal at the same time, like family gatherings or with your friends on an after work occasion. The only times you might want to choose another kind of shirt is when you need to look a bit more formal, such as someone’s wedding or your important business meetings. Bear in mind the Oxford shirt’s history as a sports garment. As stated before, the Oxford shirt goes well with a tie. If you’re wearing a classic button down you should consider a smaller tie knot. If you choose a cutaway collar you can have a bigger one, which is a look that goes well with a blazer for a little more formal look.
What makes an Oxford shirt an Oxford shirt is the weaving technique. It’s a simple basket weave, which is a technique where the two weft threads are crossed with two warp threads. Traditionally it has been woven with threads of two colors, with one of them being white, creating that easily recognizable texture. The texture is a bit rougher than for instance poplin. A version of the Oxford that gives a smoother texture is called pinpoint Oxford, woven in a thinner yarn.