History of the Oxford shirt.
The origin story:
The Oxford shirt originates in 19th century Scotland.
Due to the competitive nature of the textile industry it was common for Scottish weaving mills to experiment with fabric structures.
One such mill created a line of shirting fabrics in varying weave structures, and decided to name each design after an elite university as a marketing strategy. The four fabrics in this line were Yale, Harvard, Cambridge, and, of course, Oxford. If you’ve never heard of the other three textiles, this is because they were quickly discontinued due to lack of successful sales.
The Oxford design, however, took a very different trajectory. It exploded in popularity and became the reason for the subsequent Oxford shirt’s namesake.
The revolutionising aspect of the oxford cloth was its specific basket-weave pattern. It’s essentially the way in which the threads of cotton (called warp and weft) are put together to make a fabric. Oxford cloth is made up of multiple weft threads crossing over an equal number of warp threads.
The original sports jersey:
In the early 1900s, polo players of the British Raj needed comfortable and breathable jerseys and so they played in tops made from Oxford cloth. Sports teams of today use a light breathable fabric for their jerseys and these fellas were no different.
Eventually, the players started to sew buttons onto the end of the collar points to prevent them from curling up during matches and that is how the oxford shirt, as we know it, came to be.
The Oxford starts to become mainstream:
Although Oxford shirts faded out of fashion for polo players, they remained highly popular with people who watched the games- mainly Ivy League students.
In the 1950’s, they began to approach styling the shirt in typical college student fashion: very casually.
The Oxford became the 1950’s version of college sweats. The shirt was worn untucked, with the sleeves rolled up or even with a pair of shorts. The look was the initial iteration of “sport casual.
The 1960’s marked a period in which fashion began to move away from more formal attire- the Oxford was the perfect shirt for this transition. Casual yet still smart, the garment became a closet staple for men. Even President Kennedy wore them, further cementing the Oxford as a respectable sartorial decision.
The Oxford goes to Hollywood:
Hollywood icons such as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and Robert Redford embraced this new way of dressing on and off screen and elevated it to the height of cool that the Oxford so deserves. Unsurprisingly, these legends cemented the Oxford as an iconic staple.
Oxfords became so popular; women began wearing them as well. Ralph Lauren was one of the first to re-interpret the shirt’s tailoring for the female body. Inspired by how beautifully a boy’s tweed jacket fit on his wife, Lauren decided to start designing women’s wear.
His first piece was the classic Oxford shirt, cut for a female figure.
The Oxford is a truly revolutionary piece.