In the quest for versatility, the Oxford cloth button down (OCBD by fashion communities) is as versatile as it comes. The OCBD originated from the menswear powerhouse Brooks Brothers when one of the grandsons saw the practical uses for the shirt when watching a game of polo. He sent the designs to a founder of Brooks Brothers, who instantly fell in love with the idea. The shirts were first made purely for sport because of the stability of the collar in combination with the casual appeal of the design but over the years the designs have modernized, disappointing original consumers of the shirt.
Small designs – like the collar roll – captivate fashion enthusiasts. The collar started out as a full roll, giving the look of volume and signaling superior construction. Present day collars have a very small roll, or god forbid, lay flat with no roll at all. While all OCBDs are made from oxford cloth, the cloth can differ in stiffness and weight. Obviously, a lighter-weight and less dense oxford weave is ideal for summer, where a thick weave that is a little stiff points toward cooler weather. I have a preference for a stiff cloth because I like the way the fabric creases on the arms.
The best part about Oxfords? Little to no maintenance! OCBDs are traditionally a casual shirt allowing the wearer to throw them on straight out of the dryer. I prefer mine a little wrinkled; however, if you left them on your floor, 1), get a better method of storing clothing, and 2), iron out the major wrinkles. Just like any other button down or piece of clothing, put the occasional detergent stick on stains. And if the shirt is white, remember to hit near the neck and cuffs because of dirt build-up. I tend to wait three to four wears (my white OCBD is usually two) before washing because with an undershirt, the cloth takes longer to to truly dirty.
I have been searching for two years for the perfect Oxford button down that fits me off the rack and have yet to find one. My favorite one that is well constructed and fits a reasonable budget is from Uniqlo. It has a slim silhouette and a low price point, making it ideal for students or beginners. Meanwhile, Brooks Brothers has been doing OCBDs longer than anyone, giving them the time to perfect the design. If you want the best and money is no object, start there. My only holdout with the Brooks’ Oxford is they took out the extra-slim fit. To hit the middle road, you can’t go wrong with J.Crew. Make sure you look for sales because they aren’t worth the retail price.
It’s hard to find something that doesn’t go with an Oxford cloth button down. Maybe sweatpants? Even then I think it can be done. With a full suit, I would be careful of the OCBD making it look too casual. But as with all things style, it’s all about experimentation and finding out what works for you.
My suggestion is to play around to find what shirt fits your style when seeking out that perfect Oxford. Want a nice collar roll for your new job? Go with Brooks Brothers. Want something to get you through school? Go with Uniqlo. No matter the time frame though, every man should own at least one Oxford cloth button down..