In the canon of classic style, you’d expect to see blue jeans and a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers etched into the pages. And once you’ve settled on which pair of jeans fits you best, or whether or not you like the Chuck 70 or the Chuck Classics more, next on the list is likely an Oxford cloth button-down Shirt. It permeated through Ivy league campuses in the mid-century and is undoubtedly an American fashion staple. Even so, the shirt actually has English roots.
English polo players of the 19th Century sported shirts made of burly Oxford cloth, a tightly woven, plain weave fabric made of cotton. These shirts also had a unique feature at the collar, where buttons were sewn in order to keep the collars from flapping in the wind. John Brooks, one of the presidents of American fashion brand Brooks Brothers paid a visit to England in the late 1800s and, among his travel activities, spectated the rousing polo matches. Upon returning from England, Brooks introduced his own version of the shirt to the American market.
While Brooks Brothers still calls their shirt a Polo shirt, most people will refer to the shirt as an Oxford cloth button-down, or OCBD. In more recent years, however, another American East Coast brand called Gitman Bros. gained traction with style enthusiasts. Gitman Bros. was born in the 1970s and built its brand on dress shirts. Today, its contemporary line, Gitman Vintage, draws on archival fabrics for its modern silhouettes.
Both brands are often considered when shopping for a top-tier shirt that’s made in the USA. So, we looked at both side by side, to help you decide which one is right for you.
Fabric: Gitman’s fabric is washed soft with a slightly peachy hand and tight weave. It’s a classic blue oxford cloth, the kind of shade you’d expect for the category — a clear sky blue.
Fit: Slim. These shirts are cut for a modern silhouette that’s got high armholes and a lean waist. You’d want to stick with your normal shirt size if you’re going for that leaner silhouette. Ready-to-wear models come in alphabetical sizing — XS through XXL — so you won’t have as much control in your fit compared to the traditional neck and sleeve sizing. That said, Gitman does offer a fairly robust Made to Order shirting program. But, as you might guess, that’ll cost you a few extra bones.
Buttons: Gitman’s chalk buttons come in a bone white color with a matte finish, reinforcing its less formal look.
Collar, cuffs and placket: Gitman Vintage forgoes the usual interlining you’d expect on most dress shirts. This interlining gives collars, cuffs and plackets body and rigidity, preventing wrinkles. The effect is a purposely rumpled look that begets the shirt’s casual air. But that doesn’t mean you can’t press and starch it if the occasion calls for that.
Other details: Smaller details include a split yoke, which requires an extra step in the shirtmaking process, but theoretically yields a better-fitting shoulder. It also features a center box pleat at the rear yoke and comes with a locker loop. At the back of the collar, there’s a center button to help keep the collar from unfurling while also keeping a tie in place.
Fabric: Brooks Brothers’ fabrics are made from Supima cotton which has a smooth hand and great durability to back it up. It’s not as peachy as Gitman’s and feels like it’s presented more on the dressy side of the button-up spectrum. Though it’s available in a variety of blues, the Oxford we compared has a slightly more grey tint than Gitman’s.
Fit: Brooks Brothers’ Polo shirts come in four different fits, ranging from the classic fit Madison to the extra slim Soho fit. Plus, each shirt is sized according to collar and sleeve length. The Milano fit is the closest to what Gitman Vintage offers.
Buttons: Here, Brooks Brothers uses luxurious mother-of-pearl buttons, which style enthusiasts laud for their luster and iridescence.
Collar, cuffs and placket: Brooks Brothers updated its OCBD back in 2016 to meet the demands of its fans who longed for the heyday of the shirt. This meant scrapping the interlining at the cuffs, placket and, most importantly, the collar. The result is a debonair collar roll that epitomizes the style.
Other Details: Brooks Brothers uses single needle stitching which, in addition to a cleaner aesthetic, takes a little extra work to do — we appreciate that. The addition of the gussets at the side is also reassuring.
Which One Is Right for You?
Gitman Vintage: Gitman Vintage is a solid choice, regardless of how you look at it. Of the two, it leans into the mellow, unfussy side of the OCBD. Though you could press and starch it, it feels more at home with an open collar and roughed up jeans. The collar is a tad shorter than Brooks Brothers, meaning you won’t get as satisfying of a collar roll. Then again, it’s not going for a dead-on revival of an Ivy classic.
Brooks Brothers: If you’re looking for something that has the history and the caché of being the definitive OCBD, Brooks Brothers is it. They’re slightly cheaper and come in a greater range of fits, so if one silhouette isn’t quite right, there’s likely another that is. Though this update makes prep fans happy with the unlined collar and sweet collar roll, it still feels like it could take on dressier occasions and not look out of place.