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A Daily Beater: The Quintessential Oxford Cloth Button Down Shirt OCBD

The Oxford cloth button down shirt (OCBD) is undoubtedly a staple in any modern man’s wardrobe due to its versatility, affording this style of shirt its unique place in bridging formal and casual wear. So what exactly is an OCBD shirt, and what makes it so popular and timeless?

While the OCBD falls squarely under shirting, it technically is not a dress shirt as it was originally meant to be worn for sporting activities like polo. Nowadays the OCBD is rarely worn for actual sports, instead it is worn to bestow a casual yet somewhat dressed up element in men’s outfits.

Because it is wearable dressed-up and dressed-down it forms one of the cornerstones of men’s wardrobes, much like a perfectly tailored suit or a crisp white tee-shirt. The OCBD has its roots in sports as a result of 19th century polo players making the decision to button down their shirt collars to prevent them from flailing around during vigorous movement; paving the way for the modern OCBD that we know and love.

This design crossed the Atlantic and its popularity exploded with Brooks Brothers adapting the OCBD to suit its American audience; the OCBD soon gained ubiquity and became a staple in every man’s wardrobe from presidents to Hollywood stars. Part of the reason was because of its casualness and wearability, but equally important is the trend away from the stiff and highly formal clothing that began in the 1890s.

An OCBD is defined by two things: a soft button down collar with no interlining, and it must be constructed with Oxford cloth. Oxford cloth is a basket weave that is much like a plain weave, however multiple yarns are woven together instead of individually thus giving the cloth its signature appearance and durability. Besides these two things any other details are simply embellishments.

The soft button down collar is characterised by an S-shaped collar roll that is achieved by using a slightly larger collar with the buttons positioned closer than normal, forcing the collar to roll instead of lying flat.

Other typical features you may find are also largely grounded in the shirt’s sporting heritage, for example: a box pleat in the back for increased range of motion, a ‘locker loop’ that is a loop of fabric above the box pleat to hang the shirt with, a button on the collar’s back to further keep it in place, a patch pocket on the chest, and gauntlet buttons at the cuff all emphasize the shirt’s casualness.

At Prologue you will find most, if not all, of the features mentioned above in our OCBDs as we feel that they all play a role in making a modern quintessential OCBD what it is. We recommend wearing OCBDs casually with odd jackets and trousers, or perhaps with a suit and tie whilst leaving the collar buttons cheekily undone!

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