American OCBDs: Oxford Cloth Button Down Shirts

Made of a basket weave patterned cloth with a soft collar, Oxford Cloth Button Down shirts (OCBDs) have been icons of the American man’s wardrobe since the turn of the last century. And now, American OCBDs are making a comeback.

Brooks Brothers & the Glory Days of American OCBDs

The first “Brooks & Co.” store opened in 1818 in New York City. Nearly 80 years later, in 1896, John E. Brooks discovered the button-down shirt at a polo match in England. An American icon was born!

Brooks Brothers—About Us: A company with a history of value (from the timeline)

1896: The Original Button-Down Polo Shirt (read the Brooks Brothers: About Us page)

Brooks Brothers popularized American OCBDs from the 1920s through 1940s. And, while measurements and details varied over the years, the shirts remained much-loved with the soft unlined collar. Until the 1980s, that is. Per Ivy-Style.com:

At some point in the late ’80s Brooks Brothers suddenly changed the collar to one that was lined and fused, eliminating the distinctive shape.

Since the company’s acquisition in 1988 by British Marks & Spencer to its current ownership by Italian billionaire Claudio Del Vecchio, it took a while for Brooks Brothers to regain its footing. In 2016, after losing their way (and lining their collars), Brooks Brothers brought back unlined collars, Mother of Pearl buttons, and other original OCBD details. See the company’s announcement: An American Icon Returns.

Shop American-Made OCBDs

Browse these shirts, find your favorite American-made OCBD, and place your order! All prices are retail, but deals exist (especially if you buy multiple shirts or wait until the next holiday).

  1. Mercer & Sons — Mercer & Sons was born in 1982 in the face of a wave of outsourcing (and the aforementioned undesirable changes to the Brooks Brothers OCBD). Since then, Mercer & Sons has crafted custom shirting right here in the U.S. of A. There are so many fabric types and colors, you might want to pace yourself! First-time buyers get 25% off.

    Brompton Blue Royal Oxford by Mercer and Sons

    Brompton Blue Royal Oxford from Mercer & Sons Peek Into Our Closet (Prices Start at $140)

  2. Michael-Spencer — To shop Michael-Spencer, research your options ahead of time. You’ll be building a shirt from scratch—collars, cuffs, pocket (or no pocket), etc. Watch the video featuring construction of the various collars, including an unlined construction “Legacy Buttoned Down Collar” needed for the OCBD. All shirts are “crafted with pride in the USA.”

    Soft Unlined Button Down Collar by Michael Spencer

    Soft Unlined Button Down Collar by Michael-Spencer (Prices Start at $135)

  3. Gitman Bros. — Gitman Bros. shirts are made in Ashland, PA by the brand that began its journey as the Ashland Shirt & Pajama Company in 1932. After running as a contract shirt factory since 1965, the Gitman Bros. brand launched in 1978 to sell direct to market. To browse OCBD options, from The Gitman Shirt Collection page, select “Button Down” for Collar, “Cotton” for Fabric, and “Barrel” for Cuff. While Gitman offers many ready-made options, Made to Order is also available.

    American OCBDs: Button Down Oxford Blue

    American OCBDs: Button Down Oxford Blue (Price: $155)

  4. Ratio Clothing — Selling their first American-made shirt in 2011, Ratio is the new kid on the OCBD block. Each Ratio shirt can be built just for you with a button-down or 11 (!) other collar types. Choose your Cuffs, Shirt Front (placket), Pockets, and Buttons as well as a Monogram, if desired. The collars on Oxfords have a “Soft, sewn (not fused) interlining for a comfortable and casual appearance.” If in doubt, e-mail customer support.

    Blue Campus Oxford by Ratio Clothing

    Blue Campus Oxford by Ratio Clothing (Price: $98)

Just Us Girls

  1. Kirrin Finch — And now for something completely different! Menswear-inspired OCBDs cut for women, by Kirrin Finch, with white corozo nut buttons and red logo cuff buttons. Made in New York City with a nine-button front to reduce the dreaded “boob gape.”

    Kirrin Finch: March - Pink Oxford Button-Down Shirt

    Kirrin Finch: March – Pink Oxford Button-Down Shirt (Price $145)

OCBDs with a Made in USA Selection

Both Brooks Brothers and J. Press have OCBD fans. But, since many of the shirts are imported, it’s up to you to look for the Made in USA label online (in photos or descriptions) or in the store (on the inside tag).

  1. Brooks Brothers — Shop  the relaunched American OCBDs online or in stores. Available in various cuts including Milano (slimmest cut), Madison (classic fit), or Regent (modern trim fit), and Traditional (the most generous cut).

  2. J. Press — According to Wikipedia, J. Press began in 1902 on the campus  of Yale University. Like Brooks Brothers, J. Press was sold to a foreign (this time Japanese) company in the 1980s. To shop for American OCBDs, look for “Oxford Button Down” and then the Made in USA label. Imported shirts and, sadly, imported American flag pins are at least clearly labeled.

OCBD & Possibly OCD

Compulsive about collars? Perturbed by plackets? You’re not the only one.

Use the OCBD references below to do a deep dive into the history of Oxford cloth button down shirts. Warning: Measurements and specifications galore!

  1. An Ode to the OCBD at Historically Irrelevant (Jan. 2013)
  2. Measurements of Brooks Brothers OCBDs Over the Years at The OCBD Blog (Jan. 2016)
  3. Instant Like: The Millennial Fogey Tries On The New Brooks Oxford at Ivy Style (Jan. 2016)
  4. Rolled Back And Forth: The Strange Trajectory Of The Brooks Brothers Oxford at Ivy Style (Jan. 2016)
  5. Brooks Brothers Revives the Preppiest Shirt Collar at The New York Times (May 2016)
  6. The Oxford Cloth Button Down Shirt at Gentleman’s Gazette (Oct. 2016)

More Made in USA Menswear & Your Favorites

Need American ties to match those American OCBDs? Search the Made in USA List for “menswear” or “ties.”

What are your favorite American OCBDs?

 

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