A Brief History of the Oxford Shirt

The Oxford Shirt is an iconic and versatile piece that belongs in every man’s wardrobe. Defining the smart casual look, the Oxford Shirt is a staple piece with a long history.

The history of the Oxford shirt

The fabric of the Oxford Shirt was invented in the 19th Century in a weaving mill in Scotland. The name of this mill has since been forgotten but it is here where they began experimenting with different weave styles. They marketed four new weaves each named after a prestigious university (Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, and Oxford).

The weave of the Oxford shirt is quite unique. The basket weave is a technique where two weft threads are crossed with two warp threads. Traditionally, this is woven using two different coloured threads, one is usually white to give the Oxford Shirt that recognisable texture.

The designers of the Oxford shirt wanted to create a shirt for chic occasions, something that could be used by sportsmen while still looking smart. It was the English polo players in India which took up the shirt and used them while playing. The Oxford shirt’s breathability meant it was ideal for keeping the players cool during the hot weather. It was in the 1930s that polo players began sewing buttons on the end of their collars, this would stop the collars from curling up during matches.

Polo players wearing Oxford shirts

In the late 1890s the shirt makes its way to America where men adopted the shirt as a more casual style, a refreshing move away from the stark formality of the Victorian era. It is during the 20s and 30s that American college students start to adopt the sportswear style and make it a fashion statement that could be worn on all occasions.

It quickly became associated with the Preppy look, and soon became a staple shirt in America. JFK was even spotted wearing an Oxford shirt during the 40s, 50s, and 60s. By the 1960s, the Oxford shirt was a mainstay of campus clothing stores, and soon became an emblem of the Ivy League look.

Beams Plus Oxford Shirt

Combining comfort and heritage in an effortless and nonchalant manner, the Oxford shirt has become a cornerstone of prep style today. It is a foundation piece to every man’s wardrobe due to its limitless options from smart to casual.

At Copperfield we have a selection of Oxford shirt online or head into our St Albans store to explore our selection from Ralph Lauren.