What Is an Oxford Shirt?

Your Ultimate Guide to what is an Oxford Shirt

One of the questions I get asked a lot “what is an Oxford shirt”? Today I’ll help answer that question, which is at first deceptively simple but, as with most things fashion, gets over complicated pretty quickly.

Knowing how to identify what is an Oxford shirt, when to choose one for yourself, and how to style it will helps you to be more knowledgeable and selective about your personal style and ultimately dress better. You’ll feel more confident about your fashion choices and have a broader fashion vocabulary.

I’m sure you’ll like the shirt, probably even love it. There are lots of situations when it works so much better than a poplin, that’s probably why it has gained so many fans. With that said, let’s get stuck into what makes an oxford shirt.


Oxford Shirt Definition

What is Oxford Fabric

Yarn Dyed vs Piece Dyed

Breathable Natural Shirt Fabric

Oxford Shirt Collars, Cuffs and Pockets

How to Look Amazing in an Oxford Shirt

Stylish Casual Looks in an Oxford Shirt

Smart and Contemporary Formal Looks in an Oxford Shirt

When Wearing an Oxford Shirt Really Pays Off

Buying an Oxford Shirt


Oxford Shirt Definition

Let’s start by defining what is an Oxford shirt. This’ll help us to understand more about the shirt, so you can get to grips with the more detailed steps later on in this guide such as when to choose an Oxford shirt above another style, and how to make the shirt look best for you. 

The only fixed rule about what is an Oxford shirt, and that is the shirt must be made from Oxford fabric . 

What is Oxford Fabric

So we know that Oxford shirts must be made of Oxford fabric, but what is Oxford fabric?

The origins of the material are up for debate, but it’s features are quite easy to spot if you know what to look for.

Oxford cloth fabric has a very distinctive weave. It looks like this:


This Oxford weave is created by using 2 thicknesses of thread which are woven like a basket – hence the term ‘basket weave’. It’s quite noticeable when you look closely, especially when compared to a simpler fabric such as a poplin.

This fabric weave makes the shirt feel textured and slightly thicker than a standard cotton poplin. The texture creates interest and character which I think makes the shirt more versatile. 

Yarn Dyed vs Piece Dyed

You will often see the material with 2 colours of thread – usually one white and one of another colour. This is called ‘yarn-dyed’ fabric and as the name suggests, the yarn or thread is dyed before it is woven into the fabric. The alternative to this is ‘piece-dyed’ where the material is woven first and then dyed. Even when using two yarns the same colour, yarn-dyed fabric is noticeably different – it looks somewhat deeper than the flatter looking piece-dyed fabric.

Breathable Natural Shirt Fabric

One of the great features about cotton oxford shirts is the fabric is naturally very breathable. The fabric weave has traditionally been used in sports shirts, so it works great for keeping cool and regulating your temperature – whether you are going indoor and out, or just like a brisk walk. Because of the softness and weight, the material keeps its shape well and so should be a prime contender for anyone wanting a shirt to look good throughout the day (and who doesn’t want that?!)

Oxford Shirt Collars, Cuffs and Pockets

casual Oxford shirt

It is common to see button down collars on Oxford shirts, but these are not a requirement to identify what is an Oxford shirt. These collars are usually soft, small, low and look more casual. They work well if you are a fan of open collared shirts, but don’t work so well for a smart or stylised look. They can also look very ‘samey’. 

Because of their softness and the pulling the buttons create, they don’t manage to pull off the ‘effortless casual’ look very easily.

Oxford shirt cuffs are usually buttoned, soft cuffs. Better shirts will have a buttoned sleeve placket for a slimmer sleeve profile. It is usual to have a pleat or two on the sleeves to add some volume near the cuff. Thanks to braver designers, more oxford shirts are moving away from this safe and overly preppy styling, and showing the versatility that these shirts deserve.

How to Look Amazing Wearing an Oxford Shirt

Now you know what is an Oxford shirt, of course you want to look amazing in your oxford shirt, so here we’re going to look at some general styling tips. Note: IF you want some more detailed styling ideas, just carry on to the chapter below, where we look at casual and smart styling tips.

Woman's Oxford Shirt

Because of their popularity, Oxford shirts they have a lot of very familiar looks. And while we want to take on board some of those looks, we definitely want to add our own style to stand out more. To do this you can follow some really basic ideas, which make the most out of the Oxford shirt’s features. To get a look more unique look and stand out from the crowd when wearing an Oxford shirt try these tips:

Let the fabric drape and use its natural weight to create interesting shapes (don’t go skin tight!). 
Don’t be afraid to get creative with the cuffs or untucking the shirt. 
Partner with plain or patterns -depending on your mood.
Think texture – Oxford shirts have a great texture, that takes other textures really well.

Stylish Casual Looks in an Oxford Shirt

Choose a white, powder pink, or light blue Oxford shirt, pair with trainers or slip-on loafers, deep coloured V-neck jumper that suits your skin tone (anything except a big cable knit will be fine – remember in general the coarser the knit, the more casual it will look) , no tie, and wear jeans or chinos. Pull the cuff through the jumper sleeve and fold the cuff back once outside the jumper. Tuck the shirt in if you’re short or have it hanging out a small amount beneath the jumper if you’re tall. Experiment with tucking just one side on the front to suit your taste. Pair with your favourite watch – the raised cuff will draw attention to your watch and any rings or bracelets you choose to accentuate your own style.

Smart and Contemporary Formal Looks in an Oxford Shirt

Pink men's Oxford shirt

So you want to dress smarter? Maybe it’s for work, or a more formal event, or maybe just because you want to feel a bit more special. Here we’ll look at what oxford shirt will work with your style. Enjoy!

Choose a double cuff Oxford shirt in a strong colour, with a plain front, pair with a suit or jacket and contrasting slim fit trousers. Pull the cuffs of the shirt and fold them back over the jacket cuffs. Dress with your favourite cufflinks (through one buttonhole only). Wear with oxford shoes or brogues, or with trainers for a younger fashionable look. If you wear a tie, choose a simple pattern in a dark colour, complement with a pocket square.

When Wearing an Oxford Shirt Really Pays Off

It’s really important to know when to choose the right kind of shirt. As you probably know, there are loads of different types of shirt. Here we’ll look at when to wear an Oxford shirt, what pros and cons of the shirt so you can get the best experience whenever you wear your Oxford shirt.

Oxford shirts are incredibly versatile. The Oxford fabric texture allows you to wear patterned or textures as easily as plains. The shirts suit a range of styles, from smart to casual. The material is soft and comfortable and hardwearing. It suits people moving between warm and cool areas and because the fabric is thicker, it can easily be worn without a vest or jacket. 

Buying an Oxford Shirt

Buying a great Oxford shirt can be difficult. What to look for? How to choose between shirts that at first glance can look similar. Here we’ll answer those questions and more to help you buy the best oxford shirt.

Knowing where or how you’re going to wear the shirt is really useful – formal, informal or a mixture. 

Firstly, fit is everything. Look for a shirt that fits your shoulder and arm well, and leaves some material to flow and drape on the body – leave a bit of room – the super skinny party shirt looks especially cheap in oxford fabric because we’re so used to seeing them a bit more roomy. 

Next check the buttonholes. These get the most wear on a shirt, and bad buttonholes look uneven. Unfortunately, these are very common.

The unevenness is because the thread tension is wrong, so the thread is not evenly spread, meaning the buttonhole will split more easily – similar mistakes in tension will also be present in the rest of the sewing, but are more difficult to see.

Quality shirts are noticeable by the joins where the most material meets – look at the collar near the top button – lots of material meets there, and needs to be sewn accurately. It should look and feel neat and smooth. Next check under the arms where the side seams meet with sleeve seams – these 4 pieces of material should meet in a neat cross.

Check the Oxford fabric; does it feel smooth and silky or rough? Generally silkier feeling fabrics are higher quality, but modern fabric development means that this is no longer a firm rule. Also, some people just prefer more matte looking shirts, and your shirt must always be to your taste.

Conclusion: What is an Oxford Shirt?

What is an Oxford shirt? Is as simple as knowing if the fabric used is oxford weave. The common features of chest pockets and button-down collars do not define the shirt, indeed there are lots of oxford shirt styles around that are more contemporary and versatile because they don’t stick to these old conventions.

Knowing the fabric is weightier means you can use the natural drape of the material to emphasise your style. The shirts are comfortable in different temperatures and particularly suited to office working because they are comfortable with or without a jacket. 

I hope this helps you to be clearer about what is an Oxford Shirt. I love them because they’re the perfect mix between formal, casual and they’re just so versatile.