The OCBD Shirt Series, Part VI: Reviews and Conclusion
Our series on oxford cloth button downs started with a short history of America’s most beloved shirt design, and then covered two sets of reviews for contemporary makers. Today, we finish our series with a final set of reviews, which naturally will include the company that invented them: Brooks Brothers.
Size: Traditional Fit: 15 x 32; Slim Fit: 15.5 x 32
Retail price: $79.50
Features: Curved chest pocket; box pleat, seven-button front; slightly off centered cuff button; no gauntlet button at the sleeve; lightly lined unfused collar
Measurements: Traditional Fit: Chest 23.5”; Waist 22”; Shoulders 17.75”; Length 32”; Collar tip 8.5cm. Slim Fit: Chest 22”; Waist 20.75; Shoulders 18”; Length 31.25”; Collar tip 8.5cm
Impressions: 125 years or so after they invented them, Brooks Brothers still makes some of the better OCBDs around. The fabric they use is nice, hefty, and nubby, and fairly comparable to what you’d find at some of the other traditional clothiers (such as O’Connell’s and J. Press). The collar tips are also long enough to yield a roll, and the body comes in three different cuts: traditional, slim, and extra-slim.
Unfortunately, the Brooks Brothers store near me ran out of extra-slim fit oxfords, and they didn’t have any slim fits in the same size as traditional. So, I picked up a traditional in size 15 and a slim in size 15.5. This doesn’t make comparisons very easy, but even with the half size up, you can see the slim fit is considerably smaller than traditional.
It’s been a long time since I’ve tried on Brooks Brothers’ extra slim fit, but from memory, I thought it was too tight on my thin frame. The problem with clothing this slim is that they can make heavy men look heavier than they are, and thin men look thinner than they are. If you’re considering the extra slim fit for the first time, at least give the regular slim fit cut a shot. It may be more flattering. And if you have more traditional taste, consider the traditional cut, which fits something like this.
Brooks Brothers’ Black Fleece
Retail price: $195
Features: Curved chest pocket; box pleat, seven-button front; split yoke; fabric loop at the top of the yoke; side gussets at the hem; lightly lined unfused collar
Measurements: Chest 20.5”; Waist 19”; Shoulders 18”; Length 30”; Collar tip 8.5cm.
Impressions: A $195 off-the-rack shirt is hard to swallow, especially when you consider that good bespoke shirts can be had for around the same price. Still, Brooks Brothers’ Black Fleece collection (which designed by Thom Browne) has a number of really nice oxford cloth button downs. The collar is a bit nicer than Brooks Brothers’ mainline shirts, and the body is slim, but still fairly classic fitting. These might be a good buy if you can find them on discount.
Cottonwork and Ascot Chang
Retail Price: ~$75 and up for Cottonwork; ~$180-200 and up for Ascot Chang
Features: Variable, as these will be custom shirts
Impressions: You can get custom shirts from any number of places, and every one should be able to make you a custom oxford cloth button down. The two I have experience with are Cottonwork (who’s one of our advertisers) and Ascot Chang (who’s my main shirtmaker).
Cottonwork is an online made-to-measure operation while Ascot Chang is full bespoke. As is the nature of these things, there are different advantages to each. If you can find a highly skilled, local tailor that can make you a bespoke shirt, you have the advantage of being able to see and feel fabrics before placing an order. Then, after you receive your shirt, you can have the tailor access the fit in person and decide whether or not any changes need to be made. However, good bespoke shirts are expensive (rarely less than $175/ shirt in the United States) and not everyone will have access to a good tailor in their area. If bespoke isn’t an option, consider online made-to-measure. They’re cheaper, and if you’re willing to do a few orders and play around with adjustments, you can dial in on something pretty good. Of the six or seven online made-to-measure shirt makers I’ve tried, Cottonwork was easily the best – in construction, fabric quality, and fit.
Cottonwork and Ascot Chang can make you a custom collar, but they do have their defaults. Oversimplified, Cottonwork differs in that it has longer collar points – 9cm as opposed to Ascot Chang’s 7.5cm. If you go with Ascot Chang, I’d recommend asking for something a bit more traditionally sized. Or, if you have a collar you like, you can send it to either company and have it copied.