It’s hard to find a #menswear “essentials” list that doesn’t include the oxford cloth button-down collar shirt. Everyone tells you to buy one and pretty much every retailer carries some version of this shirt.
Sure, it’s “classic” and J.F.K. wore one and it’s an Ivy staple. You have guys on forums and blog comments whining about how the collars used to have a much better roll to them decades ago compared to the ones now or how they used to take sandpaper to the collars to wear them down a bit for that “worn in” look. (And don’t even get them started on this “slim fit” business all the kids like!)
It’s easy to read that and laugh. But you have to realize the reason why they talk in such detailed curmudgeonly ways about this particular shirt is because they love it. It’s like meeting someone who is a complete nerd about a particular thing they’re really, really into: they love it so much that they want to tell you all the reasons why so that you’ll understand and love it, too.
And the OCBD nerds aren’t totally crazy! It’s a fantastic shirt. I particularly like mine from Brooks Brothers in a certain non-trad fit (“extra-slim”, which makes it sound like a diet drink supplement) for a variety of irrational reasons.
Yes, the collar is great. It’s softer than a stiffer collar from most off-the-rack dress shirts. It’s a bit more substantial, too, in its collar point length — not some wimpy tiny collar that’s currently in fashion — that gives it a decent roll. Not the best roll, mind you, that you see in black and white photos of “Take Ivy”, but better than what else is out there in retailers today.
I also love the shirring of the sleeves where it attaches to the cuff instead of the pleated look a lot of other shirts use. And it’s even more ridiculous that I like this unique detail on the shirt because you can’t even see it when I roll my sleeves up anyway, which I do most of the time when wearing the shirt, but I know it’s there.
I’ll also add that I love the pocket on the shirt. People are adding all sorts of useless crap to their shirts like epaulets, grosgrain trimming or monograms, but I’m a fan of functional things. I know a growing number of people prefer the French front placket and no pocket on shirts, but I can’t stand it. I use my pocket all the time. I put a pen in there, or my glasses when I head outside during the day and wear my prescription sunglasses. I don’t know why anyone would turn down a free pocket on their shirt.
The shirt’s construction is pretty solid with single-needle stitched seams. It’s also still made right here in the United States (something that unfortunately cannot be said about the majority of Brooks Brothers’ shirts). The best part about the OCBD is that you can wash it, dry it and hang it up. That’s it. No need to worry about ironing it, as it looks great a bit wrinkled and just feels comfortable, which is the most important thing.
The shirt doesn’t feel terribly stiff when first worn, but it just feels better several washes in. You can throw it on when you’re mildly hungover or just about to head down to the grocery store to buy some cilantro for some tostadas because you’re an idiot who forgot to check the fridge before you went to the store yesterday.
Of course, it goes well with almost anything. You can wear it untucked with jeans or tucked into chinos with a madras, seersucker or navy wool blazer on top. And while my personal uniform most days consists of the blue OCBD, the white OCBD probably gets a fairly high amount of time covering my torso. I consider it a casual shirt to just wear around the house or on weekends. It’s what I do chores in and take naps in.
You want that “lived-in” look? Pick up one of these shirts and live in it. There will always be time for you to put on a really dressed-up outfit to get dinner or go somewhere nice or even sit in your office cubicle. People always say that you should dress up for the important moments of your life, but the rest of your life’s more mundane and non-Instagram worthy moments ought to have a place in your wardrobe, too. For me, that’s the Brooks Brothers OCBD.
(“Investment Pieces” is a series about the items in my wardrobe that have gotten the most usage and wear. It’s part review and part paean to the clothes I really would recommend to anybody. These aren’t luxury items or limited in availability — you can get them anywhere at anytime for a fairly reasonable price.)
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- jakejarvela said: What do you think is the appropriate length for an OCBD when worn untucked?
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- This was featured in #Menswear