As Strong as an Ox(ford Cloth)

January 2023 | Written by Nicholas Sarnella

Oxford cloth is the unwavering pillar of Ivy League clothing. Staunch and austere in its appearance, Oxford cloth was first produced in a Scottish Mill in the 19th century and was named after the iconic British University. Traditionally, Oxford cloth is produced from a durable cotton fabric and features a basketweave structure created by weaving various yarns over one another in both horizontal and vertical directions.

Ivy and Seoul popover 2

During the dying process, the yarns passing in one direction are coloured, whilst the opposing yarns are left white, resulting in a very subtle iridescent effect, which imbues the cloth with a subtle sheen. Oxford cotton is typically heavier in weight than finer ‘dressier’ shirting fabrics, and it is perhaps for this reason that a certain John. E. Brooks, of Brooks Brothers fame, first applied his novel invention, the button-down collar, to this very fabric in 1900, whilst seeking to improve the playing conditions of Polo players.

Oxford cloth presents many practical benefits; to begin with its heavier weight means it avoids wrinkles more so than its lighter counterparts. Likewise, its weight results in insulating qualities which are sure to keep one warm, whilst the basketweave provides a degree of breathability so as to avoid discomfort. Crucially, Oxford cloth softens and ages beautifully with repeated laundering and wear. This is perhaps the most important quality of the fabric, particularly within the Ivy context; on the one hand, the cloth’s substantial weight and structure pairs beautifully with the button down collar, allowing the collar points to cascade and roll, whilst the progressive softening of the fabric adds an air of relaxed cool to the garment, perfectly encapsulating the smart/casual tension at the heart of Ivy League style. 

Given its rich history and pedigree, John Simons continue to produce shirting in Oxford Cotton Cloth. Shop the Ivy Shirt range here. 

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