Over the coming weeks we will be going over the basics that we listed in the previous post, working our way from top to bottom. We start then, with the venerable Oxford Cloth Button Down, henceforth the OCBD. Brennan and I recommend having at least two in your closet, one white and one blue, but ideally you will end up with two or more of each of these, as they will be some of the most often worn shirts in your wardrobe.
The OCBD is an incredibly versatile shirt, with its button down collars that can be worn alone, easily dressed up (with a pair of slacks and a blazer and tie, or sweater), or just as easily dressed down (with your favorite pair of jeans and your favorite pair of Chucks).
Oxford Cloth is a sturdy but comfortable material that wears well and will last a long time. It can handle being washed in the washing machine — on delicate – if you don’t have the budget for dry cleaning. Washing and ironing them yourself will take some extra time, but the money you save can be put toward other things, like beer or more clothes.
The best place to start you OCBD color palette is with a medium to light blue shirt and a white shirt. These can be paired with almost anything in your closet, and you will never have to worry about them going out of style.
The most important thing to think about when picking out your OCBD’s is how it fits. You can pay far less for a shirt that fits you well and it will not look “cheap.” OCBDs are a great place to maximize your budget, but making sure that you’re able to move easily, or vice versa, not swimming in an oxford cloth sail is key.
Off the rack (OTR) shirts are going to be sized one of two ways. First is the standard S, M, L, etc. scale, which can be hit or miss. I tend to need a “schmedium,” but sadly those don’t exist. I opt to get my OCBDs sized based on two measurements, neck and sleeve. If you go to most major retailers and look at their “dress shirts” you will see a combination of numbers on the tag, for example, 15 x 34. Those numbers correspond to your neck and sleeve measurement. Finding those numbers is simple. First, you can ask your tailor to help you measure them. Or, you can take a soft measuring tape and measure around your neck at the widest point and add a half-inch to the total, and measure from your shoulder blades down to your wrist with your arm bent at an angle as though you were reaching into your pocket. Commit those numbers to memory, they will come in handy more than you think.
Companies now tend to make several different cuts of shirts, from the more full bodied “traditional” or “classic” cuts to the skinnier “slim” or “tailored” cuts. What cut you buy is less about the name of it and more about how it fits you. Remember you don’t want it to be skin-tight, nor do you want it to turn you into an oxford cloth kite.
For me, the OCBD has become part of my “uniform.” I wear one to work almost every day of the week, and it’s usually the shirt I throw on during the weekend if I’m leaving the house. I tend to get mine from Lands’ End because they wear well, last forever, and I don’t think I’ve ever paid more that $50 for a shirt. If you sign up for their emails you can usually get a coupon or a heads up when things go on sale. I’ve gotten OCBD’s for as little as $15. J. Crew’s shirting is well made but its sizing is based on the S,M,L scale, so you may want to try them on before you pick one up from their website. Brennan gets his shirts from companies like Stock Mfg Co and Everlane
Let us know if you have any questions about OCBDs or anything else menswear related, we will be happy to help.
Now Bruce has made it clear how we feel about the OCBD. Everyone should own some. They are comfortable and practical. Now if you have not been able to tell I don’t wear a tie to work or dress attire. I wear work wear and try to balance between heavy duty and practical. My WIWT posts should provide some good examples of what I mean.
If you have questions or thoughts, as always, let us know.