What Is An Oxford Shirt? (Ask an Effortless Gent)

by Brian Adee  |  in Style Tips

Chances are you’ve worn one already, and probably have one hanging in your closet — but what is an Oxford shirt anyway? And how is it different from a dress shirt?

That’s what we’re here to answer in today’s edition of Ask An Effortless Gent.

In the sections that follow, we’ll be exploring the history of the Oxford shirt, from its collegiate origins to modern styling tips. By the end of the article, you’ll know not just where this shirt comes from, but how to wear it, too.

man wearing blue oxford shirt with red shorts and panama hat

Why Is It Called An Oxford Shirt?

The beginnings of the Oxford shirt lie in its special style of weave.

Originally, two different yarns basket-woven together to create a specific sheen. This “Oxford weave” was debuted in 19th century Scotland alongside special weaves named after each of four famous British universities: Oxford, Yale, Cambridge, and Harvard.

closeup of oxford cloth
closeup of oxford cloth weave

Though the other shirts have faded into obscurity, the Oxford shirt owes its popularity to British polo players.

They appreciated the lightweight material yet durable weave of the Oxford shirt. In response to the high-speed horseback riding of the sport, these polo players added buttons to the collars of their shirts to keep them from flapping in the wind.

What Defines An Oxford Shirt?

Because of its history and development, the Oxford shirt is defined by two things:

  1. A special weave that makes it durable, lightweight, and attractive.
  2. A button-down collar that stays upright and in place.

Other than that, you’ll notice that it’s remarkably similar to a common dress shirt. The cut, sleeve length, and sizing will usually be the same as standard dress shirts.

cropped photo of man wearing pink oxford shirt

Do You Tuck In An Oxford Shirt?

You can choose to tuck an Oxford shirt in or leave it untucked, so long as you’re wearing the right clothes to go with it.

If you’re going for a more casual, sporty style — perfect for a shirt with an active sporting history — then leave it untucked.

Oxford shirts wear well with a pair of chinos or shorts during the spring and summer, where their basket-weave cloth will show off its best lightweight qualities.

Dressier outfits will, of course, use a tucked-in Oxford shirt.

Heading to work in an Oxford shirt and trousers is a great idea, as you won’t be fighting with your collar throughout the workday. For the same reason, Oxford shirts are fantastic when topped with a blazer or sport coat to make a crisp, sharp look.

cropped photo of man wearing light blue oxford shirt

Wrapping Things Up: Where to Find An Oxford Shirt

Here at Effortless Gent, we’re big fans of the Oxford shirt. Whether dressed up or dressed down, tucked in or left out, they’re a wardrobe staple that can be worn all year round.

For a traditional take on Oxford shirts, check out the selection over at Brooks Brothers. They use the traditional basket-weave style and come in a variety of cuts, materials, and fits.

If you’re looking for something a bit more slim and modern, J.Crew has been one of Barron’s go-tos, as well as Uniqlo.

Uniqlo Oxford Shirts

100% cotton with an excellent cut and generous button-down collar

Check Latest Price

Have you worn an Oxford shirt? Thinking about adding a few to your everyday wardrobe? Tweet at EG or DM on Instagram and let us know.