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How an Oxford shirt should fit

How an Oxford shirt should fit

There are only a handful of shirts that can truly be crowned a classic. The polo shirt is indisputably one of them, as is the plain white tee, but even they don’t lend an outfit the same put-together factor as a crisp white Oxford. The failsafe button-down has the power to make a pair of blue jeans feel smart and a pair of formal trousers feel laid-back. And no matter how many decades have passed, it still evokes the preppy style of prestigious universities that popularised it in the 20th century. And that’s because it stems from Oxford University, right? Actually wrong. 

Despite its name, the Oxford shirt was actually created in the 19th century by Scottish fabric mills. While experimenting with different weaves, these mills created four distinctive shirt fabrics that they named after some of the world’s most elite universities: Yale, Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge. And while the other three fabrics have largely faded into obscurity, the Oxford – woven in a basket-weave pattern that combines two yarns – has stood the test of time.

The earliest adopters of the shirt were the Polo players of the British Raj who pinned their collars down to stop them from flapping in the wind. Eventually Brooks Brothers took notice and designed a signature shirt inspired by this style. Since then, the Oxford shirt has been recreated by countless designers and became a fixture of Ivy League, Mod, and Britpop cultures of the 20th century. Today, its versatility makes it as obvious a choice in towering office buildings as it does as in casual weekend settings – you’ll even see it sported with such relaxed pieces as sweatpants and denim jackets. But nailing the fit is the key to pulling it off, so we tapped Thread stylist Toby Standing to share the elements you should keep in mind when choosing your next style. 


A classic oxford shirt should follow the shape of your body. It shouldn't be too fitted or big and billowy – essentially you don’t want it to hang off you or look skin tight.”


“The seam should meet the corner of your shoulder bone and sit on your shoulder. If it falls below, that’s a sign that your shirt is too big, and if it’s closer to your collarbone, it’s too small.”


“Your sleeve should finish where your wrist meets your hand. Anything shorter will look humorously small and anything longer will just look sloppy.” 


“The collar should rest neatly on the back of your neck, and you shouldn’t have to struggle to do up the top button (even if you never button it all the way up, you should use this rule of thumb to make sure you’re wearing the right size). If there’s an uncomfortably large gap between the collar and your neck, your shirt is probably too big.” 


“The placket (the double layer of fabric that holds the buttons and buttonholes on a shirt) should sit in a straight line – if there’s small gaps in between buttons, the shirt is too small and is pulling because it is tight.”

Words: Allison Pavlick
Photography: Lola & Pani
Styling: Toby Standing