Anatomy of an Icon: The Oxford Shirt

Anatomy of an Icon: The Oxford Shirt

Roll with the button down collar

When it comes to foundational pieces, an Oxford cloth button-down ranks high on the list. It works with jeans or joggers, with a suit, in the winter and in the summer.

And even though it’s known as an American icon, this shirt has roots that can be traced across the Atlantic to the polo fields of England. In 1896, John E. Brooks (of Brooks Brothers fame) introduced the original button-down polo - inspired by shirts worn by the players of a polo match he attended. He was intrigued when he noticed the player’s shirts had collars which were fastened down to keep them from flying up while riding horses. 

The buttons gave the collars a slightly arched shape - now known as a collar roll - that differentiated them. They were first worn as a traditional dress shirt, but by the ‘30s tennis players and other athletes across America were pulling on the Oxford for sports, for much the same reason as the original British polo players: they’re breathable and durable.

The Oxford cloth is distinctive due to its unique texture. Made up of two different strands of thread, they’re woven in a basket weave pattern. A heavier warp thread is passed over two finer warp threads and then under one. Sometimes, threads of slightly different tones are used and the repeating pattern gives the fabric a recognizable feel and finish. 

That loose weave and athletic-influenced collar made the shirt an enduring wardrobe workhorse for guys of all ages. And while they’ve been offered in a spectrum of colors over the decades, the classic white remains the number one option. Perhaps it’s a nod to a time when serious men couldn't be bothered with so many choices. A white Oxford button-down worked for everyone from early athletes to Ivy League students to mid-century office workers and back again.

A white Oxford button-down worked for everyone from early athletes to Ivy League students to mid-century office workers and back again.

It soon dawned on us that this was the prototypical performance shirt. And it was long due to be updated with modern technical improvements. Our recently released City Oxford is the answer. The fit is relaxed, yet tailored with classic details like a chest pocket and the signature button-down collar. It’s engineered to move, built to take a beating and stay looking fresh. It’s available in two neutral shades, a steely dark grey and a light silver - a sharp update on the standard white.


Our reworked Oxford cloth is a unique stretch cotton that’s been yarn-dyed and woven in a basket-weave pattern. It not only provides a greater range of motion, but wicks away moisture to keep you dry and comfortable no matter what the weather brings. Wear it on its own, buttoned up, or thrown over your favorite tee with the sleeves rolled up.

Game on.

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