What is an Oxford shirt?

In your wardrobe, you probably have many clothing choices including outfits for work, formal functions, and nights out. One key piece of clothing every man's wardrobe should have is an Oxford shirt.

man choosing between 2 oxford dress shirts

"Why should you have an Oxford shirt?"

"What is an Oxford shirt?"

These questions and more will be answered in this guide to Oxford shirts. Read on to learn all you need to know.


Table of Contents

  1. What is an Oxford shirt?
  2. The history of the Oxford shirt
  3. Why choose an Oxford shirt?
  4. How is an Oxford shirt made?
  5. What is the difference between an Oxford shirt and a dress shirt?
  6. The different ways to wear an Oxford shirt
  7. Buyers guide to Oxford shirts
  8. How to correctly measure your shirt size
  9. Final thoughts


What Is An Oxford Shirt?

The Oxford shirt is a wonderfully versatile piece of clothing that can be worn for any occasion. Oxford shirts get their name from the material it's made from called Oxford cloth.

brand oxford shirt original wash

To create Oxford cloth the yarn is spun in a certain way. The result is called Oxford cloth that is then turned into an Oxford shirt. Thanks to the material it makes the shirt ideal for casual or business attire. You can match it with almost any outfit and look fantastic.

The shirt is sometimes referred to as the Oxford Cloth Button Down (OCBD). This is because it often comes with a button-down collar.

white oxford button down shirt

The History Of The Oxford Shirt

The roots of the Oxford shirt trace all the way back to 19th century Scotland. Many mills at the time were creating new fabrics and testing different weaves. There were four cloths created that were named after four esteemed universities-

  1. Yale
  2. Harvard
  3. Cambridge
  4. Oxford

Out of these four, only the Oxford shirt is still in use today. The other three are now obsolete. How did this happen?

Well, it started with polo. In 1896 John Brooks, part of a large clothing brand in America, noticed that the English polo players pinned their collars down. They did this to stop the collar flapping up whilst playing. Inspired by this, John created a shirt that used buttons to keep the collar down. The result of this is what we call today the Oxford shirt.

classic photo of man wearing button down oxford shirt

A surge in popularity soon followed. Partly driven by the fact men no longer had to buy a shirt and collar separately. It now formed part of one shirt. By the 1950s and 60s, the Oxford shirt was an essential part of fashion for young men in America and the UK.

Why Choose An Oxford Shirt?

The main reason to own an Oxford shirt is precisely that it is versatile. The Oxford shirt can fit in with virtually any dress code. Whether you are going to the pub, a formal dinner, or an office the Oxford shirt will suit the occasion.

fashionable man wearing oxford shirt

Men can enjoy wearing this shirt in a variety of settings with many other pieces of clothing including jeans, a suit, and chinos. Thanks to the ability to wear it open or buttoned you can match your attire for the occasion without having to change shirts.

Three of the best reasons to choose an Oxford shirt are


As mentioned, the versatility of the Oxford shirt is a great reason to get one. They go with all kinds of outfits including suits, casual wear, and workplace attire.


The Oxford shirt is made from a fabric that allows for maximum comfort.


A great feature of the Oxford shirt is that it is hard-wearing. You can get many years of use out of the shirt and it will still look amazing.

How Is An Oxford Shirt Made?

To create Oxford cloth yarn is woven together over each other horizontally and vertically. The process usually involves thin yarn being woven over thicker yarn. Doing this creates a thicker piece of cloth that is still comfortable to wear.

blue fabric oxford shirt

Once upon a time, Oxford cloth was always made from cotton. If you can, it is always best to buy an Oxford shirt made from cotton. Many shirts these days include other materials such as polyester.

The fabric is very hardwearing which means it will last for years even if washed many times. Thanks to the cloth used to make an Oxford shirt they are long-lasting, comfy, and age well.

What Is The Difference Between An Oxford Shirt And A Dress Shirt?

A dress shirt usually has a collar and long sleeves plus it is normally worn with a suit. The Oxford shirt meets these criteria to be classed as a dress shirt but there a couple of notable differences that mean the Oxford shirt isn't the same as your usual dress shirt.

The key differences are -

  • The Oxford shirt usually has a button-down collar. This is great to prevent the collar from flapping around or getting stuck under a jacket.
  • An Oxford shirt gets its name from the type of cloth it is made from, Oxford cloth. This particular fabric makes a great shirt that is versatile whilst helping make it unique.


The Different Ways To Wear An Oxford Shirt

Whether you are dressing for work, a night out, or a formal function here are some tips on how to wear your Oxford shirt.


When at work a white shirt is one of the best looks to go for. Make sure to button up from the collar to the cuffs. Wear slim-fitting trousers with the shirt tucked in and to complete the look add a jacket and loafers.

Party Time

man wearing smart casual oxford dress shirt while drinking cup of coffee

After work, you may head out to relax. Thanks to the versatility of the Oxford shirt you can fold your cuffs and loosen your collar, now you are ready to unwind. Change into jeans or chinos and sneakers to further relax your look.

Smart Casual

Many workplaces have a clothing policy of smart casual. This can work well with the Oxford shirt. First, you can choose to keep buttoned up or be a bit more relaxed with cuffs rolled up and collar loosened. Next, wear a sweater over your shirt. Sweaters go fantastically well with the Oxford shirt and help you look smart but also relaxed whilst in the workplace.

Double Trouble

man and woman taking selfie wearing oxford shirt

You can wear two shirts at the same time. You can wear one buttoned up with the other over the top and open. Alternatively, you can wear both shirts buttoned up. The reason some choose to wear shirts this way is to provide a contrast of colors.

The Weekend

Relaxing at the weekend is a must after a hard week of work. A great way to wear your Oxford shirt is over a t-shirt. Add chino shorts along with sandals and you are good to go. Just fasten the collar but leave the shirt open as if you are wearing a jacket.

Buyers Guide To Oxford Shirts

Like most things, there is no substitute for the real thing. You can get imitations of the Oxford shirt but to really stand out it is worth taking your time to make sure you get the real thing. Keep these points in mind when buying an Oxford shirt -

man out shopping in blue oxford shirt



What material is the shirt made from? Shirts could be made from cotton or manmade fibers such as polyester. Cotton is always the best choice. This is because it is durable, comfortable, and keeps you cooler in hotter temperatures.


You can choose from a wide range of colors. It is recommended you should at least have sky blue, white, and pink. These three colors can form the base of your wardrobe and will go great with virtually any outfit.


Versatility is the key benefit of the Oxford shirt. When considering which one to get, look for a cut that suits your body size.


The collar comes down to your personal preference. Usually, formal outfits require a shirt without a button-down collar. Otherwise, you can pick whatever makes you feel most comfortable.

How to style an Oxford shirt for you? Here are simple ways to style Oxford shirts, a guide that you can apply everyday.


How To Correctly Measure Your Shirt Size

To find the perfect fit you should measure yourself in the following way:

  • Neck circumference. Use a tape measure to measure around the base of your neck where the collar would be. Then, add half an inch to make sure the collar won't be too tight.
  • Arm length. To measure your arm run the tape measure from the nape of your neck to the wrist. Add one inch and round up.
  • Waist. Some shirts have a waist measurement. If so, measure your waist as you would for trousers, then add half an inch.
  • Body size. There are some guidelines to follow depending on your shape. If you have a muscular build, an athletic fit is best as it offers more room in the shoulders, arms, and chest. If you are lean, then a slim fit is a good choice. For heavy set men, a full-cut shirt will be best as it gives the body lots of room.

Final Thoughts

The Oxford shirt is a wonderfully crafted piece of clothing. It looks fantastic with any outfit and can be worn on virtually any occasion.

Adding various colors of Oxford shirts to your wardrobe is a great way to complement your outfits no matter what the occasion is.

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