If you think of your wardrobe as one filled with crucial tools to tackle your everyday grind, kind of like a wardrobe with a Swiss Army Knife-like functionality, then there are tools you’ve got to have handy. Take one of the best Oxford shirts. The Oxford shirt is sort of like the T-shirt of your more tailored wardrobe. You can wear it with nearly anything, you can layer it with ease, it looks great on every guy and it’s fit for work or play (when styled the right way). It’s not as stuffy as a dress shirt, nor as rugged as a chambray shirt. Seriously, the Oxford shirt is a true winner. How can one shirt do all of that? Well, it’s a menswear classic for a reason.
Just as you break out your sturdy leather dress shoes or a rugged shirt jacket when the seasons shift, there’s a piece you should turn to more readily on the shirting front. And yet, it’s also the rare fall style essential that’s actually more of a “365 days a year” piece, like your favorite blue denim (for example). Again, we go back to the Oxford shirt.
At the very least, your winter calls for more form over function at times. But fall, well, fall is just right.
The Oxford shirt has its origins in prep culture and uniform dressing (more on that in a second), and you can — and should — treat it like an essential part of your modern uniform these days. That doesn’t mean an Oxford shirt has to be boring, especially as we enter one of the best times of the year for varied dressing: The fall season. You might call it the menswear champion of each season, because it’s got flexibility, variety and adventure at its core. While spring provides time for light layering (depending on where you are), most of us deal with sweltering summers and frigid winters.
At the very least, your winter calls for more form over function at times. But fall, well, fall is just right. You’ve got access to everything from lightweight sweaters or breezy stretch chinos — because even hotter climates tend to cool down. And if you live in a climate with distinctive fall colors and crisp leaves underfoot, a pleasant chill in the air, then you’ve unlocked even more fun and intrigue within your wardrobe, be it thick-knit cardigans, burly tweed blazers, heavy selvedge denim or leather dress boots (all worn at once, perhaps). What goes well with each of these essentials, and in every single climate — no matter how much or how little you love a pumpkin spice latte? That’d be the timeless and trusty Oxford shirt.
Oxford fabric and thus, Oxford shirts, share something in common with other tried-and-true men’s style picks. You have to go back decades, no, centuries, to suss out their true origins, and that’s a sure sign of an enduring favorite. Oxford shirts derive their name from Oxford cloth fabric, developed in Scottish mills in the 1700s. Polo players took to wear the shirt, using its distinctive collar buttons to hold down the excess fabric (hence the term “Oxford cloth buttondown”).
You probably recognize it as the easy-to-wear hallmark of prep schools and then Ivy League colleges. Today, you’ll find it worn in its own uniform-like way: Perhaps with a navy cotton blazer, blue denim and leather chukka boots, styled to head to the office or a casual weekend date. Wear it tucked in and classed-up, wear it untucked beneath a shawl cardigan, but just make sure you’ve got this iconic shirt at the ready this fall. It’s not as easy as buying the first shirt you see, though. To get the best possible Oxford shirt for you, let’s take a look at a few crucial keys to hold near and dear to your heart.
How to Shop for the Right Oxford Shirt For You
- Keep your sizing in mind: While dress shirts tend to go by neck and sleeve measurements, Oxford shirts are less dialed-in when it comes to sizing, often using only Small-Extra Large sizes. Some size guides provide general measurements for your chest, neck and sleeve, but when in doubt, take your true size. Want to go for a slimmer fit? Perhaps look for the shirt in your normal size… in a slim-fit cut. These days, retailers have the market covered with all sorts of sizing options and types, especially for those with more athletic builds. Sizing is key, so be sure the shirt is tailored but not tight, with a relatively high armhole that still gives you room to move around. Look for a sleeve seam that ends where your shoulder hits the very top of your arm, and when buttoned, you should be able to breath comfortably. The key here? Not too tight, not too baggy… just right.
- Consider the color wheel: Oxford shirts were an ultra-traditional style move for a number of years because they could be made in exacting fashion, while using the same design, repeatedly. Brooks Brothers shirts gained a reputation for their consistency and widespread appeal, perhaps because of the fact that, hey, it’s easy to throw on a white Oxford shirt and look great. You’ll see Oxford shirts in every shade imaginable these days, but white and light blue are probably the most commonly. Other options include charcoal or navy, grey and lighter shades like salmon (all the better for the warmer months). When in doubt, classics are your friend.
- Level up the layers: Like we said before, fall is that perfect sweet spot when it comes to dressing for all manner of pursuits. You can start your day wearing an Oxford shirt beneath a lightweight cotton sweater, then you can add a waxed jacket for an evening stroll. You can — and should — use the Oxford shirt as a base layer alongside a wool blazer. And you can even wear the Oxford shirt as your base layer with a thicker flannel shirt jacket in more casual situations. Because it’s made from cotton, it’s more breathable and easier to wear, so feel free to add layers when necessary. Oh, and for all those times in between? It’ll do just fine worn untucked alongside slim blue jeans.
There’s a whole world of bonuses you unlock when you find the right Oxford shirt. That trio of tips can help you do that nicely, but at the end of the day, you’ve still got to find – and wear – the shirt itself. Step right into the season ahead with our preferred picks for the best Oxford shirts.
Our Favorite Oxford Shirts for Men to Buy Now
Taylor Stitch Jack Shirt in Smoke Oxford
The Oxford shirt is as reliable a shirt as it gets, with the potential to be worn repeatedly (and stylishly) with chinos, denim and even tailored joggers and retro sneakers. And for your hard-earned cash — and ours — Taylor Stitch offers a heck of a lot of bang for your buck with its Jack Shirt. The organic cotton rugby Oxford fabric is substantial but breaks in the more you wear it, the Smoke color is rich and pleasingly faded, and this shirt can be worn untucked with Taylor Stitch denim or tucked in with chinos and a patch-pocket blazer. It checks all the proper boxes, and plenty more.
Everlane Slim-Fit Japanese Oxford Shirt
When you want to dip your toes into the waters of wearing an Oxford shirt casually, Everlane is a great place to start. Although you’ll find agreeable pricing across the board (especially with its line of well-made basics), that doesn’t mean Everlane cuts corners with its shirting. This particular shirt is made from high-quality Japanese Oxford, a durable take on Oxford fabric that delivers long-lasting quality. Throw in the fact that this shirt comes in colors like sharp White or even a preppy Blue and White Stripe pattern, and you’ve surely found one of the best Oxford shirts to wear, well, as often as you please.
Nordstrom Oxford Button-Up Performance Shirt
Although Nordstrom uses “button-up” rather than “buttondown” with this shirt, they’ve got all the details right. You can count on Nordstrom’s Men’s Shop to deliver the classics, and nothing but the classics, at excellent prices (this shirt retails for just under $50). You can also count on them to deliver fits that are cleanly cut but not overly slim, not to mention a range of other complementary pieces. For instance, you can use Nordstrom to get a straightforward, subtly stylish V-neck sweater to wear atop this shirt, then you can team that look with crisp, dark blue jeans and leather wingtip boots. Just like that, you’ve put together a polished and eye-catching fall outfit with just a few clicks. It all starts, remember, with an Oxford shirt, though. Oh, and last but not least: This shirt should prove stretch-filled and breathable, hence the “performance” moniker.
Billy Reid Arnie Oxford Shirt
Contemporary takes on the Oxford shirt are best done when they honor the past and yet fall squarely in the realm of modern fashion. Billy Reid is a designer that knows what he’s doing in this regard. Built with a standard fit (somewhere between relaxed and super-slim — think tailored), this 100 percent cotton shirt switches it up with a right-side chest pocket. It’s an homage to golfers, who used this opposite pocket to hold their scorecard and other essentials (Arnie is a nod to Arnold Palmer, naturally). It’s the cool details that make this shirt just different enough from the pack, in a great way. Twill tape neck and cuff detailing is a small touch that adds both durability and style points, in a way that only Billy Reid can do. The details make the difference, and your Oxford shirt should make a difference in your wardrobe, too.