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The OCBD (short for Oxford Cloth Button Down) is probably the most versatile and timeless piece you can own. Now a true classic, it evolved from the Polo Player’s uniform to a preppy Ivy League phase, before eventually cementing its place as a true staple in any wardrobe. With the ASKET Oxford Shirt we’ve payed hommage to its heritage while bringing in just the slightest of contemporary touches. Head down to explore the history of the oxford shirt and what to look for in finding your perfect shirt.
The Oxford Shirt finds its origins in Scotland during the early 19th-century. Yes Scotland, the name of the fabric has nothing to do with the city of Oxford, England, but rather was a way for the weavers to add a level of sophistication to their fabrics by naming them after prominent universities. There are also fabrics named Harvard, Cambridge and Yale.
A few decades later, in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the Oxford Shirt made its way to the American Ivy League schools. The preppy look, with the Oxford at its core, usually also included penny loafers and a crew cut. In the 1950’s the style was made more popular among young adult men not attending these schools. They wanted to associate themselves with the upper class at leisure by adopting the preppy look. The Oxford shirt eventually made its way back over the pond and was made popular among the middle class in the UK during the 1960’s.
The allums of these schools as well as actors spread the style across the globe in the 50’s and 60’s, including icons like Paul Newman, John F Kennedy, Miles Davis and Rudolph Valentino.
Our personal favourite is Paul Newman, who was often seen with a light sweater on top of the shirt and either a pair of jeans or chinos. JFK shared the same aesthetics be it in the oval office with a suit jacket and tie, or during summer months with the sleeves rolled-up.
The simplicity of pairing the Oxford Shirt with a clean cut trouser and sweater has not changed, although the fit preference has.
The Oxford has a signature basket weave structure where an equal amount of weft threads are crossed over an equal amount of warp threads. This does not only create a strong fabric that allows mobility necessary for sports but also offers a subtle crosshatch texture.
The button-down collar of the shirt has its own story. The first to wear the Oxford shirt were Polo players of the British Raj. To stop the collar from flapping in the wind while charging on the horses, they sew small buttons to the body of the shirt to keep the collar steady. And that is when the button-down was born.
Other details of the Oxford Shirt are more debatable. Pockets, locker loops and back-collar buttons are not for everyone. What it comes down to is the functionality of the shirt. A pocket makes the shirt less formal and therefore not suitable for everyone to wear at work. However, a chest pocket is certainly useful during hot summer days when you do not wear a jacket and therefore have fewer pockets.
The origin of the locker loop comes from Ivy League schools where the loop kept the shirt from wrinkling in the locker room. The attached hanger adds a different pressure to the shirt compared to a conventional hanger. While nice idea, the extra pressure stresses the fabric and makes it more likely to get holes, not to mention how easy it is to rip off the hanger when you rush out of your home.
Finally the back collar button was added to keep the tie in place and prevent the collar from creeping up. As the use of ties has declined - the button is mostly used to keep the shape of the collar post laundry.
At Asket we have gone out of our way to make what we believe to be the perfect Oxford Shirt, with just the right balance of formality, comfort and function.
Our Oxford Shirt is made of a heavy 100% Organic Cotton yarn, woven into an Oxford fabric and then brushed to add a softer feel and making it less prone to wrinkling. We added the chest pocket for functionality and a less formal look. The fit is straight: not boxy, nor too slim. The yoke at center back features a box pleat that lends more comfort and freedom of movement while maintaining a straight drape. The cuffs are single-pleated for a neatly shaped lower arm, without bulking around the wrist. All buttons, including the button-down collar, cuffs, back collar button and closing are made of Mother of Pearl. Although subtle, the material has been carefully selected to fit with the semi-formal style of the shirt.
Finally, as with all our tops, the Oxford Shirt comes in our 15-size system, in order to fit more men better.
All our garments are co-developed with our customers. With our permanent collection we’re able to take in feedback, listen and continue to develop, evaluate and improve our garments over time, instead of constantly re-inventing the wheel.
The Oxford Button-Down Shirt is all about finding the right balance. Making it somewhere between casual and dressed up. Not to roomy or tailored and have a luxurious feel. Explore the considerations going into creating of our Oxford shirt below.