HISTORY OF OXFORD SHIRTS

Men Working on the Floor Vintage - History of Shirts

One of the most essential and versatile garments in any man’s collection is an oxford cloth shirt. It is appropriate for most situations, pairs with almost anything, stands up well to wear and looks good on almost everybody.

During the early the 19th century, the heart of European textile production was in Scotland. One mill (name unknown) was experimenting with new weaves. They marketed four new fabrics, which were named after the most popular universities of the day. (Yale, Harvard, Cambridge & Oxford) Three of the weaves didn’t prove to be very popular and therefore they ceased production on those, but Oxford cloth still survives today.

The thing that defines Oxford cloth is not its material, but the style of its weave. It is made up of two different strands of yarn which are woven in a basket weave pattern. (The two heavier warp threads passes over the two finer weft threads and then under one) Usually the yarn in one direction is of a slightly different tone (often white). The color difference of the two yarns + the repeat of the basket weave pattern, gives Oxford cloth its unique, recognizable checkerboard appearance.

Pre 1930’s, polo players of the British Raj played in tops made out of Oxford because the fabric was comfortable & breathable. Eventually, the players started to sew buttons onto the end of the collar points to prevent them from curling up during matches.

The modern button down oxford shirt in this country was initially quite formal and was always worn with a suit and a tie, perhaps most famously by President Kennedy who by position and lineage further reinforced its aristocratic heritage. East Coast Ivy League students caught on and quickly adopted the smart look of the oxford, casually restyling it. (Mixing it up with shorts, loafers, leaving it untucked) This period marked a transition as younger society started to break away from its sartorial conformity. These classic associations: combining comfort & heritage, in an apparently effortless and nonchalant manner began to become the cornerstone of what today is defined as prep style.

Many things in contemporary society have been readapted, whereby the nomenclatures have been repurposed and slid sideways so that they now represent something wholly different than once was. But what makes the Oxford button down so timeless and iconic is that its styling is famously unquestionable. It has avoided irony and represents the “everything good” about traditional American culture. Buy a few, you can’t have too many. Old Bull Lee oxford dress shirts are made of the finest imported materials and constructed with uncompromising quality and workmanship here in the United States.

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