A Man’s Guide to Wearing a White Oxford
Dress codes are changing in the modern office, with many of even the most formal businesses allowing their employees to wear “business casual clothing.”
But, recent data shows that 47 percent of businesses wish that their employees dressed a little more put together. So how does a man strike that balance?
The white Oxford shirt is a classic piece that is a staple of most men’s wardrobes, whether they know it or not. The Oxford can be worn in business casual situations as well as in your personal life and is the ultimate in versatility.
What is a white Oxford shirt?
Although you may not have heard the term, “white Oxford shirt,” you have most likely worn one, even if you are a woman. An Oxford shirt is a fancy name for casual white men’s shirts, the kind made of cotton, linen or other material.
Originally, Oxford shirts were made out of a material that an unnamed 19th-century Scottish mill simply named “Oxford.” The mill constructed three other similar shirts, naming the respective materials they were produced from the Harvard, Yale and Cambridge.
Because they were worn by polo players in their infancy, they came to be known as part of a preppy outfit. Nowadays, men and women wear them to work functions, out to dinner or to any event in which they are required to “dress up.” But, men can also dress them down and keep them looking effortlessly cool.
What is the difference between a formal shirt and white Oxford shirt?
Most men are familiar with the white button down shirt. At first glance, an Oxford shirt might look exactly the same as its formal cousin, but there are a few key differences.
Oxford shirts were originally made for men of the middle classes so that they could look formal without purchasing a closet full of formal shirts. These formal shirts, which used to be very expensive, were mostly made of cotton. Nowadays, they are made out of cotton or polyester, or a blend.
You can also pick up formal shirts in an expensive store, or find one out of a bag at a larger superstore with a men’s range. While the price point isn’t starkly different nowadays, the Oxford shirt is typically made of a material that is a little bit thicker than cotton. This is what makes it not as “fine” or formal.
The easiest way to wear your white Oxford shirt is for a business casual day. If you work in an office where there is a more formal dress code, you will likely have a business casual, or “smart casual” day once a week or once a month. This is where your Oxford shirt comes in handy.
Make sure your Oxford shirt is freshly pressed before you wear it to the office. Pair with a pair of slacks, loafers or Oxfords, and a belt to match your loafers for a polished business casual look. Alternatively, you could go with a khaki material for your pants instead of suit pants, which will give you that much more of a relaxed look.
If your office is strictly business formal, you might be able to get away with wearing a white Oxford button down shirt, depending on how you pair it. With a business formal look, pair your white Oxford shirt with a suit to give you an air of approachability while still being formal. You can opt for a tie or go without one, depending on how formal your office is.
Going without a tie can bring the look down a notch. But, if you do go with a tie, you can go for a skinnier one or a knit version, making your outfit still business formal, but a bit more casual than your everyday look.
Going out to dinner or a date
No matter if you are going on a first date or out with your partner to celebrate your 25th anniversary, wearing a white Oxford shirt can be the perfect pick. Pair your white Oxford shirt with a pair of dark jeans and loafers or wingtips to create a casual but fancy vibe. This is perfect for going to a restaurant that is fancier than your normal date night, but isn’t necessarily a Michelin five-star. It can also work for lunch at a fancier restaurant.
Alternatively, you can pair the shirt with khaki pants. As khaki pants come in a variety of colors, you can play with your look and pick something that suits you. You can also wear this look to any other place where you might be smart casual, such as the theater, a more casual wedding or church or temple.
It is also a versatile shirt to pack when you travel, to ensure that you will be able to put multiple outfits together.
Cold weather look
If you live in a place where the weather can get a bit nippy, a white Oxford shirt is the perfect layering piece. With a bit of a thicker material than a classic cotton formal shirt, you can get a bit extra warmth while still looking smart. Even if you work somewhere that is business formal at all times, the Oxford can be a great addition to your wardrobe for the colder work days.
Pair the Oxford shirt with a cashmere pullover if your office is always formal. You can also slip on a tie underneath the pullover to keep the look as business appropriate as possible. A darker color sweater is perfect for the winter months and gives off a more professional vibe. But, if your office allows it, you can experiment with pinks and pastels to keep some of the morale up during the darkest days of winter.
When the weather is cold, you can pair your outfit with dress boots to help you get to and from the office. Otherwise, carry the shoes you would wear in the office in your briefcase and wear weather appropriate shoes for your commute.
Spring or summer day out
A white Oxford button down shirt was practically made for a day out in the sun, which is why it works perfectly. Although the thicker material may seem as though it doesn’t give way to the hotter weather, it can actually keep you cooler and ensure the sun stays off of your body.
You can wear your Oxford button-down shirt with a pair of khaki shorts and boat or deck shoes for a classic summer look. This semi-preppy look is great for weekend office parties, barbecues and other similar events. To pull the look together, accessorize with a belt matching your boat shoes. You can either keep the shirt untucked or tuck it in if you want to maintain an air of professionalism.
If you are doing an activity in the sun, or simply staying outside for a long period of time, invest in a nice pair of sunglasses. If you are wearing your shirt and khaki combination at a work event, this is definitely a must, as it can really pull your look completely together. When purchasing sunglasses, don’t be stingy, but you don’t need to purchase a $400 designer pair either. Spend a little bit of time trying on sunglasses that suit your face shape and work well with your outfits. A neutral black or brown is the best color the purchase sunglasses in to ensure your outfits look cohesive and that they are versatile.
Go for color or go versatile
White Oxford shirts are only one type of shirt made in this material. You can also opt for short-sleeved Oxford shirts, which are super casual and perfect for an office with a lax dress code. If you still want to maintain a professional air but be comfortable, this is the shirt for you.
You can also purchase these shirts in a variety of colors. White isn’t the only one that is produced, meaning you can play with the palette to get your outfit exactly right. Don’t be afraid to try on bold colors you may never have thought to wear before: you might just like them.
Want more fashion?
If you want to explore the world of clothing beyond the white Oxford shirt, visit the fashion section of our website. We have loads of tips on how to dress for every occasion, including a 2019 fashion forecast post to help you decide what trends you might decide to follow this year.