If there’s a single classic and iconic American shirt that every guy’s wardrobe must-have, it’s the O.C.B.D or the Oxford Cloth Button Down shirt. This is the shirt that Brooks Brothers built its name on.
Legend has it that John E. Brooks of Brooks Brothers was on a trip to England, attending a polo match. He noticed that the shirts the polo players were wearing had unique collars. Collars that were fastened to the shirt with buttons - to keep the collar points from flapping during the game. He brought that concept back to his shirts in the U.S, Brooks Brothers introduced their 1st “Polo Button-Down Oxford” in 1896; the rest is history.
What is an Oxford Shirt?
Shirts made from Oxford fabric are Oxford shirts. They can be styled in many different ways, but the most popular style for Oxford shirts is a Button-Down Collar and hence the term Oxford Cloth Button-Down or O.C.B.D.
What is Oxford fabric?
Shirts made from Oxford fabric originated in Scotland. Although the Oxford fabric has nothing to do with Oxford University, it was cool at the time (just like today ;)) for weavers to add refinement and sophistication to their fabrics by giving them cool names.
While there are many varieties of Oxford fabric the classic Oxford that we think of is a 100% Cotton fabric that feels hearty, durable, and resistant to wrinkles.
It uses a basket weave where multiple weft threads are crossed over an equal number of warp threads. Often, one color of weft is crossed with a white warp thread resulting in a two-tone color appearance. The two-by-two weave creates a slightly heavier and rougher texture but is more durable than most fabrics.
While it is considered a casual and sporty fabric, as we discuss further below, the fabric is very versatile and has been used in all possible scenarios.
What is a button-down collar?
The button down is so popular, we are sure you have seen it on lots of shirts. It's a collar that’s fastened to the shirt with 2 buttons. A popular style of button-downis an unlined soft collar that creates a soft s-shaped roll. The s-roll collar creates a very casual look. However, the button-down collar has been around long enough that today, you see it in a range of options including on slightly stiffer-lined collars.
Paul Newman show us how to pull of a casual s-roll collar button-down (see the red lines on the image)
What are the rules of O.C.B.D?
While there are lots of articles and sartorial experts who have waxed eloquently about the rules of O.C.B.D, we think these “rules” need to be taken with a grain of salt. Some rules you may come across include
- “OCBDs are not formal and should never be worn with a suit”
- “True OCBD must have an unlined soft-roll collar”.
- “Do not wear short-sleeve button-downs”
We respectfully disagree.
The O.C.B.D has been around for over 120+ years and for good reason! It’s versatile.
Fashion icons and brands have experimented with every aspect of styling this shirt and there are more ways to be discovered!
Here’s are some O.C.B.D rule rebels over the years
Clark Gable and Fred Astair show off OCBD paired with suits (and ties....gasp!)
So, we say there are only 2 rules to your O.C.B.D
- It should be an Oxford cloth
- It should have a Button-down collar
Everything else is up to you to play around with and style this shirt your way to make it your own.