The Oxford Shirt Defined
Oxford shirts are well known for their durability and uniquely textured appearance, attributes that come from their classic “Oxford weave.” The Oxford weave was first introduced during the 19th century and named after the prestigious English university of the same name.
During their early years, Oxfords were more popular on the polo field rather than the classroom, and this kicked off their longstanding association with the preppy style and rugged sportiness.
The Oxford weave is a unique form of the simple basket-weave that couples two yarns side-by-side which together cross over and under one or more threads during their weave. The next pair of yarns follow the same pattern but alternate the order to build a ‘checkerboard’ weaving. This structure provides the toughness that is so ubiquitous in Oxford cloth.
If the two yarns cross over one thread, under the next, and so on, this is referred to as a traditional Oxford weave. If instead the two yarns cross over two and under two, this is a “Royal Oxford” weave.
How to Wear Oxford Shirts
The Oxford shirt might be thought of as “the English Bulldog of button downs.” It has a rough-and-tumble past, has inherent personality, and fits in well for business. But it truly shines in casual contexts.
These shirts work great with relaxed chinos or any denim and can even be paired with slacks depending on the workplace. Because of the casual confidence of these shirts, the Oxford button down is a real must in any man’s wardrobe.
One thing to keep in mind with Oxfords is that their thick weave does come with some amount of warmth (though nothing close to Flannel) so you might opt for a lighter fabric (like a chambray) in the southern summer.
Stylist Note: Oxfords — and especially Royal Oxfords — are usually opaque because of their tight weave. If you are in need of a white button down and don’t want to wear an undershirt, these are fantastic options.
The Right Look 1: The Oxford Alumnus
Oxford button downs are some of the best for layered styles. Whether paired with a vest, tie, and jacket or worn under a beautiful wool sweater, the visible texture of the Oxford provides a fantastic foundation for cool-weather style.
The Right Look 2: The Weekend Meeting
Oxford button downs are also perfect for pulling off a competent yet casual style. Keep the shirt untucked and opt for nice denim or relaxed chinos to complete the look.