The oxford cloth button down shirt

It's been at least two months since my last post. Sorry! My camera-phone and regular camera are out at the moment (for some reason neither of them like their respective memory cards anymore) and I don't have anything that interesting to show right now anyways. All I've really bought was a couple of Brooks Brothers OCBDs in white and blue from the wonderful seller "armyhardhat" on eBay. I also tried bidding on a vintage tattersall one from another seller, but was sniped last second. Too bad, as I'd like to experience Brooks' old standards for myself.

Here's a crappy webcam shot of the white one. True to Brooks, it has a good collar roll and nice, long points. However... (cont'd below)


I keep reading the "unlined" collars from the days of old had a much gentler and softer look to them, so I kind of wish they would take out the interfacing. In fact, I know it for myself. I've seen a Brooks Brothers Black Fleece shirt in person and the collar looks a lot better. The owner of it says it has an unlined collar. (The fabric also looked heavier and softer, but that might just be an effect of the garment washing that line has.) To their credit, at least they have the sense not to use fusible. On point collars it's more acceptable, but it destroys the look of a button down which is meant to look relaxed and un-strict.

A member of Ask Andy says: "I recently talked to Tom Davis (runs the MTM shirt service at 346 madison) about it. He said the ownership of hte [sic] company feels an unlined OCBD looks sloppy and cant understand how anyone would want it like that. They will be lined for the forseeable future. Luckily, you can still get them unlined if you order them MTM."

Guess that's the reason why. It kind of annoys me that they'd feel that way, as the "sloppy" look of the button down is what made Brooks Brothers famous! It makes little sense to change something that was fine the way it was, now or more than a century ago.

The button-down shirt, also known as "The Original Polo Button-Down," was originally introduced to the States in 1896 by Brooks Brothers. It has somewhat enigmatic origins. From the Brooks Brothers website: "John Brooks, grandson of the founder, made fashion history by introducing the button-down polo collar shirt. His design inspiration came after attending an English polo match where he observed the players' shirts secured with buttons to keep them from flapping in the wind. The shirt became an instant success and soon one of the best-selling Brooks Brothers items." Another source, I can't remember which, claims the collars were actually pinned down. Another story, which I have not seen substantiated anywhere else but by Charles Tyrwhitt, claims that a certain Colonel Pinkerton-Portly suggested adding a button when polo players kept complaining of the same ailment. Some members of clothing forums claim they have never seen pictures of polo players from around that time with their collars buttoned or pinned. Maybe we'll never know for sure.

All I know is that right now, the brands to go to for that old-world button down are Brooks Brothers Black Fleece (ironic that they need a "fashionable" deviation to show them how to make a proper button down collar) and Mercer's. The latter is pretty highly thought of by the "trads" at Ask Andy About Clothes. I believe Land's End has one that is unlined and costs as much as lunch, with a slimmer fit also available. Let me know if there's any others I'm overlooking.

UPDATE: I did overlook something. Many Polo Ralph Lauren OCBDs have no lining either, but the collars can be a bit short. There's also the polo player logo embroidered on the chest -- where a pocket should be according to some purists. (However, keep in mind that even Brooks Brothers didn't sell theirs with a pocket without charging extra until a few decades ago. This is a well-documented fact from people like Bruce Boyer and others who've shopped there for longer than I've been alive.) I saw some recently in person and found the fabric decently heavy and with a soft feel already; they're probably garment washed. In any case, give them a look if you don't mind a pony galloping across your left pectoral.

Take care and have a good rest of the week.
-Jovan

Comments

  1. Hi Jovan,

    Agreed that Brooks brothers should simply not change the formula that made them big. I like it even better than (for example) Gitman Brothers' version or Uniglo's (haven't seen these online but in a local shop). The sloppyness is also part of the materials used to create this very OCBD.

    Have you got OCBD's from other brands? How do you like them compared to Brooks Brothers?

    Ebay is a great idea! I must say I barely buy from ebay but I should certainly check it out in the future. I did see 29% discount last week at an online brooks brothers outlet. But it's not there any more.

    Kind regards,

    John

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  2. Hi, John! Sorry I took so long to get back to you. For some reason it never showed that your comment was awaiting moderation until I logged in today.

    Right now I'm testing out an OCBD kindly provided by David Mercer of Mercer & Sons Shirtmakers. (www.mercerandsons.com) I love it. It's made very well and has the perfect collar roll (unlined!). Unfortunately, it's also a bit pricey, but the first time customer deal eases the pain a little. It's also not available in a slimmer fit without extra charge. Review is coming soon.

    I own a couple of Land's End OCBDs, one being technically a PINPOINT oxford. The other seems to be older and a custom order and has a strange, 3" non-rolling collar. The pinpoint one has a nicely rolled 3.25" collar and seems more representative of what I've seen on Ask Andy About Clothes' "Trad What Are You Wearing" thread. I've heard they are starting to use fusing in the cuffs and placket however. Shame on them.

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  3. Btw, BB's OCBD still has one of the nicest rolled collars and is made in the USA (the only shirts there that still are). They also have four fit levels. However, the collar would be so much better without that thick lining. I like my OCBDs to go from work to play without skipping a beat, and soft unlined collars look a lot more easygoing. Not that I work at a suit and tie company, but... you know what I'm saying.

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