What is an Oxford Shirt?

Written by kayla layne crawford
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What is an Oxford Shirt?
The Oxford shirt can be worn in a variety of different ways. (shirt and tie image by Christopher Hall from Fotolia.com)

The Oxford shirt, or dress shirt, is one of the most important pieces of clothing ever developed. Because of its versatility and straightforward design, the Oxford shirt can be worn in a variety of ways. Traditionally a men's garment, Oxford shirts can be worn by women. Women's shirts are cut differently to flatter the female form.

Anatomy of an Oxford

An Oxford shirt has a button-down front and can be either short or long-sleeved. The length of the sleeve usually determines the formality of the shirt. Traditional Oxfords have long sleeves with buttoned cuffs. Just like the length of an Oxford's sleeves, the collar of an Oxford shirt may determine if it is a casual or formal item of clothing. Oxfords can be made with a variety of materials including cotton, ramie, wool and broadcloth. However, some Oxfords are made with a blend of synthetic fibres and natural; the most common being cotton and polyester.

Wearing an Oxford

In a formal or business setting, an Oxford shirt is worn with a tie under a suit jacket or sport coat. However, a tie may still be worn if a jacket is not. An Oxford is buttoned from the first button down when a tie is worn to give a smooth and neat appearance. Although seen as less formal, a short-sleeved Oxford may also be worn with a tie. When an Oxford is worn without a tie it appears more casual in nature. Usually the first button of the Oxford is not fastened when worn without a tie. When worn in a casual setting, a long-sleeved Oxford's sleeves may be rolled up creating a relaxed appearance.


Ready-to-wear shirts consist of two numbers. The first being the girth of the neck in inches and the second being the length of the sleeve in inches. Casual Oxfords are usually sized small, medium, large and so on. Oxfords come in a variety of fits to suit different body types.

Oxford Shirts for Women

Women's Oxford shirts are usually cut slimmer as opposed to the boxy cut of a traditional men's shirt. An Oxford designed for women has the buttons positioned on the left as opposed to the right like on a shirt cut for men. However, designers such as Ralph Lauren sometimes position the buttons on a women's Oxford on the right side for a chic men's wear approach. Women's Oxfords are usually sized in even numbers like dresses.

Popular Oxford Shirt Designers

Some of the best shirt makers include fashion icons such as Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Thomas Pink. These designers tend to lean towards creating more formal type Oxfords. Other manufacturers like J. Crew, Tommy Hilfiger and Van Heusen design both casual and formal Oxford shirts.

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