Shirting 101: Oxford Cloth

The Oxford cloth button-down is my all-time favorite shirt. The look is classic, the texture is distinct — it’s arguably the most versatile shirt in any man’s closet.

The shirt’s origin dates back to 19th-century Scotland at one of the country’s oldest fabric mills. The mill produced a series of four distinct fabrics, each named after the most prominent universities of the time: Yale, Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford. While three of these cloths have been lost to time, the Oxford remains.

As menswear lore goes, while on a trip to England in 1896, shirtmaker John E. Brooks noticed the shirts that polo players were wearing during a match he attended. The tips of the shirt collars were secured by a button to keep them from flapping in players’ faces while riding horseback. Brooks applied buttons to his company’s own Oxford shirts — thus sealing the fate of the two together.

In the 1930’s, tennis players began to wear Oxford button-downs during matches for much of the same reason as polo players, and sometime during the 50’s, the shirt became associated with Ivy League students. For sartorial icons like Miles Davis, Oxford button-downs became signature pieces of clothing for each.

The hallmark, and my favorite, characteristic of this shirt is its collar roll. As you may notice, the collar doesn’t lay flat like those of standard dress shirts but rolls over, adding an extra dose of character to the shirt.

Our latest Short Run features a collection of three Oxford cloth button-down shirts in Blue, Pink, and Purple. Each is constructed from luxurious 100% cotton, making the shirts lightweight and breathable.

Whether if you’re in the office, at a weekend cookout, or riding a horse in a polo match, the Oxford button-down looks right at home. This shirt can be dressed up or worn casual and pairs well with jeans, chinos, or khakis without missing a beat. When I find myself poolside in a pair of trunks during the summer, I often throw on an Oxford with the collar open and the sleeves rolled up.

On the subject of Oxford cloth button-down shirts, Jake Gallagher of Wax-Wane.com puts it best, “they’re somewhat of a collectors item, not because they’re rare but because you can never collect too many.”

Our Oxford Collection of Short Run is now available. View the lookbook and, in the spirit of Mr. Gallagher, collect them all.

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