Style Manual

The modern man’s guide to dressing well every day

A classic staple for many years, you’ve probably worn one or two Oxford shirts in your time. After all, the Oxford shirt straddles the smart/casual line making it a worthwhile addition to your all-year-round wardrobe.

Why you should own an Oxford shirt?

If you don’t own an Oxford shirt, there are many reasons why you should. Not only is it easy-to-wear, you also won’t feel out of place wearing one to the pub or office. But what is it really that makes the ‘Oxford’ such a versatile piece of kit? And does it actually have links to the University town of Oxford?

So why the Oxford shirt?

Let’s kick off with the name – it has nothing to do with the type of shirt. And, shock horror, the shirt wasn’t even made in Oxford. In fact, the Oxford shirt is so-called because it is constructed from a fabric using a unique basket weave, originating in Scotland during the 19th century.

The story goes that a Scottish mill named four fabrics after the four famous institutions: Cambridge, Yale, Harvard and most importantly Oxford (hence the name). Polo players were the first to wear the Oxford during their matches. This could be why it is associated with a preppy and smart-casual style.

What is the difference between an Oxford Shirt and a Formal shirt?

Back in the 19th century, formal shirts were quite expensive. So the cheaper and more versatile alternative for the rising middle-classes, the Oxford shirt had its time to shine. Note that the original version had detachable cuffs and collar.

The main difference today, however, is down to the fabric. Classic formal shirts are usually made from cotton or polyester which is a “fine” material. The Oxford cloth tends to be thicker making it that bit more casual.

Khaki, pink and white Oxford shirts

What can I wear it with?

The best thing about the Oxford shirt is that it is very versatile and easy to wear. This core piece can be easily mixed and matched with other items to create a smart or casual look. If you’re going for the latter – simply team with jeans or shorts and a stylish pair of shoes such as boat shoes or loafers. Take advantage of the warmer weather in a short sleeve Oxford shirt or roll the sleeves up for a much relaxed look. Want to look sharp at the weekend? Simply pair your Oxford shirt with chinos, stylish brogues, a blazer and add a knitted tie for an extra smart touch.

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