Men On A Mission: The Perfect Button Down Oxford

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button-down-perfect

As I’ve mentioned before I’m looking to produce clothes under my own label. Based on my own personal philosophy, wants, needs and desires, after years of writing about other people’s clothes I reckon I’ve learnt enough to make a go of it.

I’ve already highlighted a couple of pairs of shoes I want to offer, if I can find a manufacturer willing to make them up.

There will be other bits too; for one, I want to offer a few shirts, which not only represent what I consider to be value for money of themselves, but also classics that every man should have in his wardrobe.

On this mission I have a willing accomplice in the form of Erland who runs Stephan Haroutunian shirts, my shirt maker. It’s natural that I would want to offer their shirts to the world. Firstly, they are well made and, secondly, they are a fair price. And what are we working on? A truly egalitarian offering, worn by the Wall Street banker and the man in the mail room alike, and in its day the college professor and the undergraduate. A timeless aesthetic, I’m talking about a proper button down Oxford. A pretty ordinary offering you’re thinking. Well not necessarily. Let me explain.

I have two problems with what’s on the market at the moment. Firstly, I have button down shirts from just about every label and not a single sodding one has ever produced that beautiful roll, which is the essence of this classic. The collar either just sits straight or curves inward not out. A couple of years ago I even bought one from hallowed Ivy League retailer and originator of the shirt, Brooks Brothers. I thought I’d be safe here after all, even Cary Grant bought off the peg Brooks Brother’s button down Oxfords. Frankly, it was pish the worst offender of the bunch.

It seems almost no one has a clue about getting a roll. As I understand it thus far, the key is the placement of the button and the construction of the collar. Famed chronicler of all things Ivy, G. Bruce Boyer, points out that the original Brooks Brothers shirts had no interlining. And it seems this is crucial.

This leads me onto the second issue. Christ almighty these shirts are expensive. The thing I love about the button down oxford is its universality. The original shirts were worn by film stars and students.

For example, recently I’ve been between. Topping up the bank balance I work in a pub in the morning, and Parliament in the afternoon. I therefore wanted white button down Oxfords to pull a few pints in and then put under suit in the afternoon. It had to look smart enough in the latter case and be cost effective in the former –beer and food stains are the ruin of good shirts. But finding such a shirt has been impossible.

The craze for American work wear has certainly brought many new entrants to the market, but most seem over priced and over pimped. A button down Oxford should be the work horse of your wardrobe, but at £100 plus for better examples, that’s hardly a definition of universal.

I’m currently trying to get hold of an original 60’s Brooks Brother shirt to see just what they did and understand the territory I’m hoping to conquer. I have Emporium’s owner Jonathan Hale keeping an eye out for me on his next trip to the US, but I’m also asking for your help. If you have one festering at the bottom of the wardrobe that’s of no use and wouldn’t mind sending it to me I’ll obviously pay you for the postage.

So that’s my challenge; to produce a button down Oxford with a guaranteed roll exclusively for everybody.


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Andrew Williams blogs at BespokeMe and is based in London. His clothing label Bulldog & Wasp represents his philosophy that style is a frame of mind not just a state of dress.

Comments

  1. J.H. says:

    Modern Tailor’s MTO shirt, choose your own oxford, so called “medium” collar. Instruct them that you want 0,5cm (1/5″) longer collar tips than normally. That’ll give you a beautiful roll. Copy the measurements of your favourite shirt for the rest.

    That way, you get your oxfords cheap (especially when hunting for their “weekly sales”), fitting and with that beautiful collar roll you wish for.

  2. allen says:

    Supposedly Mercer shirts in the US has the best collar roll, but I’ve no experience with them. But they make a point of stressing that their collars are unlined.

  3. Jim says:

    Good luck and please keep us posted.

  4. Andrew says:

    J.H., Allen,
    Thank you chaps, useful suggestions.

    Jim,
    Will do.

    A

  5. david webb says:

    You must try Mercer and Sons in the US. Their shirts are expensive, but they are as classic as they come. They are made old school Ivy league style and will probably be just what you want.

  6. Tobias says:

    It’s not something I’ve pondered greatly, but having a little experience in pattern cutting, I would say that as well as button placement, collar shape would be of great importance. The length (and shape) of the collar outer edge will dictate how closely/tightly it fits to the neck when folded down.

    I would imagine to create a the nice outward curving roll you’re looking for the collar tips must be long enough (as J.H. commented) so as to give allowance for the ‘fullness’ of the outward curve. Then obviously the buttons are positioned so as to push the collar tips up, forming the roll. They should also be close enough inward towards the center front so as to stop the collar lifting from the ‘chest’/shoulder. Then the collar edge must be ‘tight’ enough to hold the collar into the neck and ‘chest’/shoulder, which I think would also help stop the collar edge gaping where the buttons push it up.

    Also I wonder about not using interfacing, would that not run the risk of the collar wrinkling/buckling? Well, obviously if they were made like that then it must not have been a problem, but I would imagine it would make the fabric choice more important.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble, I hope it was in some way of use.