The OCBD Shirt Series, Part IV: The Reviews

We continue today with four more reviews of oxford cloth button downs. Again, basic features and measurements are given, so you can more objectively compare these shirts against each other. You can check part III of this series for our first set of reviews. 

Lands’ End Tailored Fit Hyde Park Oxford

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Size: 15 x 32

Retail price: $49

Features: Curved chest pocket; split yoke; seven-button front; box pleat at the back with a locker loop; collar made with a lightweight floating interlining

Measurements: Chest 20.75”; Waist 19”; Shoulders 18.25”; Length 32”; Collar tip 6.75cm

Impressions: Lands’ End’s clothes are often described on the menswear blogosphere as very full fitting and needing a lot of alterations. That hasn’t been my experience. At least for their “tailored fits,” I’ve found that their shirts and pants fit pretty slim. They’re not as slim as fashion-forward brands, but when you compare them to classic silhouettes, they’re decidedly slim nonetheless. 

Their tailored fit oxfords are no different. The body measurements compare well to yesterday’s slim fitting Kamakura, but here the armholes are a bit bigger. The collar tips are also shorter – too short to produce any roll, unfortunately, even when the collar is worn without a necktie. Additionally, while the oxford cloth they use is quite soft, it’s a bit flat and boring in its color, and less nubby in texture. If Lands’ End produced something with a more traditionally sized collar and used a fabric with more contrasting weft and warp yarns (to produce a bit more visual depth), I’d be a bigger fan. Still, $49 isn’t bad as a price, and aside from the bigger armholes, the body itself fits pretty well. Something to consider if you’re on a budget and don’t plan to wear this with a tie.

Ledbury’s Classic Fit Blue Oxford

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Size: 15

Retail price: $125

Features: No chest pocket; seven-button front; slightly lowered second button on the placket; side pleats on the back; off-centered button on the sleeve cuff; collar made with a lightweight fused interlining

Measurements: Chest 21”; Waist 20.25”; Shoulders 18”; Length 31.5”; Collar tip 7.5cm

Impressions: Our advertiser Ledbury also makes an OCBD, but theirs is a much different animal than the others we’re reviewing. To start, they’re using an oxford cloth from Thomas Mason. It has a very slight, almost imperceptible sheen, and feels much dressier than other oxfords. It somewhat reminds me of Royal Oxford, which is an oxford cloth you commonly see in Italy, but Ledbury’s is more subdued. Their design also doesn’t have a chest pocket at the front or box pleat at the back. All in all, it just feels like a much dressier oxford cloth button down. If you want something dressier and a touch more modern, Ledbury would be a good option. The one they sent me is in the classic fit, but they have a slimmer fitting version as well.

Harry Stedman

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Size: Blue sized small; green sized 36

Retail price: £100-£124 for non-EU customers (~$150-189)

Features: On the blue, there’s a six-button front; box pleat and locker loop at the back; button at the back of the collar; no sleeve gauntlet buttons, and no chest pocket. On the green, there’s a seven-button front; box pleat with no locker loop at the back; button at the back of the collar; a flapped chest pocket at the front; and no sleeve gauntlet buttons.

Measurements: On the blue: Chest 20.25”; Waist 18.25”; Shoulders 17.5”; Length 30”; Collar tip 7.5cm. On the green: Chest 20”; Waist 18.25”; Shoulders 16.5”; Length 30”; Collar tip 7.5cm

Impressions: UK-based Harry Stedman sent me two of their oxfords to review. The green oxford is sized by chest, and fits slimmer than the alpha sized blue oxford. Both fit very slim, however.

Each shirt has a hodgepodge of classic American details – flapped chest pockets (J. Press), locker loops (Gant), and yes, even a fully unlined collars (Brooks Brothers). I favor unlined collars – as they can be more carefree and comfortable – but Harry Stedman’s is perhaps a bit too short to take advantage of their construction. Unlike Mercer & Son’s, who has a much fuller collar, Harry Stedman’s collar leafs measure 7.5cm. It’s enough to produce a bit of a roll, but is still perhaps best worn without a tie.

I do wish these had more traditional proportions and came sized by collar and sleeve, but if you want a more fashion forward shirt, and have the money to spend, Harry Stedman’s would be something to consider.

Uniqlo’s Slim Fit Long Sleeved Oxford

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Size: Small

Retail price: $30

Features: Curved chest pocket; seven-button front; collar constructed with a lightweight floating interlining

Measurements: Chest 20.25”; Waist 18.25”; Shoulders 17”; Length 29”; Collar tip 6.5cm

Impressions: Uniqlo’s OCBD has the hallmarks of fast fashion. The fabric isn’t that great, the stitching is a bit rough, and the silhouette is very trendy. The shirt hugs close to the body (so much so that it feels like second skin) and it’s too short to properly tuck. The collar is also the shortest we’ve come across, so when you button it down, you get something closer to this instead of this.

Still, it’s $30, and currently on sale for $20. If you’re a student, on a tight budget, and are around people who wear trendier clothes, this could be the right buy for the time being. The shirt is difficult to tuck in and the collar is too skimpy to wear with a tie, but you may be unlikely to do either anyway. If these seem right or you, consider Lands’ End Canvas. A few years ago, those used to be discounted to ~$17 on clearance, which is about how much I think they’re worth, but I’m unsure if that’s still the case. 

On Monday, we’ll review our last set of shirts, which of course will include Brooks Brothers’ contemporary line.

It’s On Sale: Ledbury Shirts
Gilt City National has a promotion for Ledbury right now, where you can purchase $150 worth of store credit for $75. Customers have a limit of using one coupon per transaction, but may purchase up to two coupons.  
Note, Ledbury is an advertiser of ours, but I genuinely think they make nice, well-made shirts. The best part about them, in my opinion, is the slightly lower second button on the placket, where you’d button up the shirt. It allows you to wear the shirt a bit more casually without having to risk looking like a disco dancer. (Not that we have anything against disco dancers). 
If you’re not yet a member of Gilt, you can use our invite link here. 

It’s On Sale: Ledbury Shirts

Gilt City National has a promotion for Ledbury right now, where you can purchase $150 worth of store credit for $75. Customers have a limit of using one coupon per transaction, but may purchase up to two coupons.  

Note, Ledbury is an advertiser of ours, but I genuinely think they make nice, well-made shirts. The best part about them, in my opinion, is the slightly lower second button on the placket, where you’d button up the shirt. It allows you to wear the shirt a bit more casually without having to risk looking like a disco dancer. (Not that we have anything against disco dancers). 

If you’re not yet a member of Gilt, you can use our invite link here

Cool-Wearing Shirt Fabrics for Summer
Warmer temperatures call for open weave shirtings - those lightweight, airy fabrics that allow your skin to breathe and body heat escape. My favorite summer shirting is linen. It’s so gauzy and open that it allows you to feel every gentle breeze passing through, but it’s also quite prone to wrinkling. Personally, I find a lot of charm in that, but it’s not to everyone’s taste. Additionally, depending on the quality of the linen, you may find that new linen can feel a bit rough. You can trust, however, that it will soften considerably over time.
In addition to pure linen, there are all of its variations. Linen-cotton blends, for example, will give you some of the benefits of linen but look less messy. I also recently came across a pure cotton that’s woven to feel and look just like linen. You can find any of these - pure linen, linen-cotton blends, and pure cotton woven to feel like linen - from a variety of makers. Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, and Howard Yount are good starts. Brooks’ shirts are better in their slim to extra-slim fit cuts, depending on your size. For more affordable options, you can check Uniqlo (which you can shop at through Suddenlee) and TM Lewin. For higher-end models, browse the stock at Ledbury, Mr. Porter, and Barney’s. The latter two are holding sales right now, which means you can get particularly nice ones at a more affordable price. 
I’m also a fan of pure-cotton oxford cloth (the stuff used to make OCBDs), but not everyone thinks they’re well suited for summer. For example, Michael Anton, author of The Suit, has written that he thinks they’re too warm for high temperatures. On the other hand, Alex Kabbaz, arguably the best custom shirtmaker in America, has recommended them. Personally, I find that my OCDBs wear cooler than many of my other dress shirts, but you should try wearing some for yourself and seeing how you fare.   
For those who have shirts custom-made, I also recommend cotton-batiste, cotton voile, and chambray. The first two are rather popular in Southern Italy, where the weather can get quite warm, but they have the problem of often being too translucent. Fortunately, A Suitable Wardrobe has some cotton voile shirting that’s very wearable, as well as a very nice, fine chambray. I would heartily recommend either of those if you can afford them. If you’d like to find other sources, check with your shirtmaker. He or she should have some from a variety of makers such as Thomas Mason.
And last, but not least, there’s madras, which we’ve already talked about here.
Of course, being that the world of shirting is wide and varied, it’s best for you to always check for yourself whether a particular fabric is good for hot weather. One trick you can employ is holding the cloth up to the light. If the fabric is lightweight and you see a lot of light passing through, it’s more than likely perfect for summer. 
(Pictured above: Bolts of fine chambray shirting at A Suitable Wardrobe. Photo taken from StyleForum.)

Cool-Wearing Shirt Fabrics for Summer

Warmer temperatures call for open weave shirtings - those lightweight, airy fabrics that allow your skin to breathe and body heat escape. My favorite summer shirting is linen. It’s so gauzy and open that it allows you to feel every gentle breeze passing through, but it’s also quite prone to wrinkling. Personally, I find a lot of charm in that, but it’s not to everyone’s taste. Additionally, depending on the quality of the linen, you may find that new linen can feel a bit rough. You can trust, however, that it will soften considerably over time.

In addition to pure linen, there are all of its variations. Linen-cotton blends, for example, will give you some of the benefits of linen but look less messy. I also recently came across a pure cotton that’s woven to feel and look just like linen. You can find any of these - pure linen, linen-cotton blends, and pure cotton woven to feel like linen - from a variety of makers. Brooks BrothersJ. Crew, and Howard Yount are good starts. Brooks’ shirts are better in their slim to extra-slim fit cuts, depending on your size. For more affordable options, you can check Uniqlo (which you can shop at through Suddenlee) and TM Lewin. For higher-end models, browse the stock at Ledbury, Mr. Porter, and Barney’s. The latter two are holding sales right now, which means you can get particularly nice ones at a more affordable price. 

I’m also a fan of pure-cotton oxford cloth (the stuff used to make OCBDs), but not everyone thinks they’re well suited for summer. For example, Michael Anton, author of The Suithas written that he thinks they’re too warm for high temperatures. On the other hand, Alex Kabbaz, arguably the best custom shirtmaker in America, has recommended them. Personally, I find that my OCDBs wear cooler than many of my other dress shirts, but you should try wearing some for yourself and seeing how you fare.   

For those who have shirts custom-made, I also recommend cotton-batiste, cotton voile, and chambray. The first two are rather popular in Southern Italy, where the weather can get quite warm, but they have the problem of often being too translucent. Fortunately, A Suitable Wardrobe has some cotton voile shirting that’s very wearable, as well as a very nice, fine chambray. I would heartily recommend either of those if you can afford them. If you’d like to find other sources, check with your shirtmaker. He or she should have some from a variety of makers such as Thomas Mason.

And last, but not least, there’s madras, which we’ve already talked about here.

Of course, being that the world of shirting is wide and varied, it’s best for you to always check for yourself whether a particular fabric is good for hot weather. One trick you can employ is holding the cloth up to the light. If the fabric is lightweight and you see a lot of light passing through, it’s more than likely perfect for summer. 

(Pictured above: Bolts of fine chambray shirting at A Suitable Wardrobe. Photo taken from StyleForum.)

We Got It For Free: Ledbury Shirt

I recently received a free gingham shirt from Ledbury, a relatively new shirt company that was founded about a year and a half ago. The two owners, Paul Trible and Paul Watson, apprenticed under a master tailor from Jermyn Street, one of the most famous shirtmaking quarters in the world. While Ledbury’s designs feel very American, the founders’ English tailoring background is pretty evident in their shirts’ quality. 

The gingham shirt they sent me is made of a 2-ply Italian cotton poplin. Poplin is a “plain-weave” fabric that typically holds wrinkles a bit more. Ledbury’s poplin, however, is fairly high quality and surprisingly wrinkle resistant (in a natural way). In addition to the quality fabric, the shirt features mother-of-pearl buttons and a high stitch count, all of which are hallmarks of a good shirtmaking. 

The more interesting bits of the piece, however, are in the design details. First, the collar is bigger than what you’d find on most shirts. The collar points are about 3 inches and the back of the collar is about 2 inches - exactly how big I like my collars to be, as I think it gives the most handsome frame to a face. They’ve also lowered the second button a bit so that you can get the perfect V at the neckline when you’re not wearing a tie. 

One criticism I have, however, is that the pattern on the placket doesn’t line up well with the shirt, but a quick look on their website shows that most of their shirts don’t have this problem. As well, there’s the issue of pricepoints - these seem fairly priced for what they are, but bespoke shirts from a quality tailor are often only $20-30 more. If you don’t have access to custom shirts, however, Ledbury’s prices aren’t bad for what they’re selling (assuming you get one without the pattern matching problem on the placket). 

All in all, I think the company is definitely worth considering. Many of their shirts feel very appropriate for summer, especially if you enjoy a kind of casual American style. Check their sizing chart to see if one would fit you. If you order a shirt and it doesn’t work out, don’t worry - you have a full year to make the return and Ledbury will even pick up the tab for the shipping back to them. I wish other companies would stand behind their products as much as Ledbury does.