Oxford cloth fabric was invented in Scotland in the 19th century and named after Oxford University (a.k.a. England’s Harvard), yet the shirt crafted from it is remarkably democratic. The white oxford cloth button-down (OCBD to the menswear geeks) can span the entirety of the human experience: wear it to your graduation, a job interview, a backyard barbecue, a wedding, a funeral, and damn near anything in between. It looks sharp when crisply ironed; it looks relaxed when untucked; it looks nostalgic with collar and cuffs frayed from years of wears and washes. You can buy a great fitting one for $30 (scroll all the way down), or an obsession-worthy one for hundreds. Which, considering how much use you’ll be getting out of the shirt, is where we found the best white oxford cloth button down: Thom Browne’s Classic Long-Sleeve Oxford Shirt. The menswear living legend has put a luxury spin on the OCBD, but scroll down for two more affordable, GQ-approved iterations of the closet staple that get our approval.
1. It tucks, and stays tucked: This isn’t hyperbole, this is truth: Thom Browne’s white button-down oxford cloth shirt is the best-fitting button-down on the market. Lay it flat and you’ll see why: a taper at your natural waist, a crucial detail that prevents billowing when the shirt’s tucked in. And don’t worry—even though the torso is fitted, there’s enough room for you to still feel comfy after a Chipotle lunch.
2. You get oxford’s finest: Made-in-the-U.S.A. tightly-woven oxford cloth that’s dense—the threads are woven tight as a sail’s—and hefty. This is made-to-last-a-lifetime oxford cloth. You’re often lucky get a year of good wear out of the average oxford shirt before you start to notice some fraying around the cuffs, a permanent ring of grossness settled around the inside collar, and that the color has gone from crisp white to looking like it came from the Westworld set. After 365 days of steady wear and machine washing/dry cleaning/feverishly rubbing a Tide pen over barbecue stains, the only breakdown you might notice on a Thom Browne oxford is slightly faded script on the front-facing label. You’ll be able to pass this shirt down to your (favorite) son.
3. Nice buttons: Genuine mother of pearl. They’re what you’d expect for a shirt that costs more than three bills, but that doesn’t make them any less entrancing in the light.
4. There’s no better collar in the business: There are two tests of a superior shirt collar: the proportions and the roll. Thom Browne’s oxford nails both. Its button-down point collar is classic in shape, but cut to a modern width, meaning you can wear the shirt with a fat cat lobbyist power tie or a silk sliver from Saint Laurent and each looks impeccable. And that collar roll, goddamn. You won’t notice it until you put the shirt on and look in the mirror, but then…you’ll see it. The way the collar arches, catches a little bit of air under its wings. Cheaper shirts scrimp by trimming the collar fabric so that it lies tight, like a three-year-old clutching his mom’s leg. Thom Browne’s collar is generous, framing your face with a subtle symbol of luxury that’s not showy—but it does show.
Gitman is known for producing excellent shirting out of their Ashland, Pennsylvania factory (rumor has it they even produce Thom Browne’s shirts) and their Gitman Brothers Vintage line pays homage to the original button-ups the company started churning out in 1978. (Note: button-up describes a shirt that buttons up the front; button-down describes a shirt with a collar that fastens to the shirt.) This shirt delivers the rugged oxford, slimmer-than-most silhouette, and collar roll of our pricey winner for half the cost. But the slightly stodgy curved collar and the marginally boxier sleeves and body aren’t quite as modern as Thom Browne’s masterpiece.
There’s a good reason Uniqlo stores are popping up across America: the Japanese retailer has mastered menswear essentials that don’t break the bank, but don’t fall apart after three wears, either. Uniqlo’s slim-fit white oxford button-down shirt has a streamlined fit and proportions that make the shirt an ideal wardrobe addition whether you’re tucking it in or leaving your shirttails out. The collar brings some of that sweet roll action, but it’s a tad on the tiny side. And while the fabric is noticeably lighter in weight and its weave is more open than the more expensive options above, this shirt would be a steal at twice its very wallet-friendly price.