A perpetual symbol of varsity chic, the tailored Oxford shirt has become synonymous with Oxford University.
But did you know that the Oxford shirt does not actually originate from Oxford? Unlike toponyms – words named after their places of origin – such as bikini, calico, jersey, paisley etc, the Oxford shirt does not possess geographical roots.
In fact, the Oxford shirt has origins in Scotland. Invented during the 19 th century in a Scottish weaving mill, the staple clothing item was made from Panama entwine to ensure its durability and breathability.
Although it was originally designed as a formal dress shirt, the Oxford shirt soon developed traction for British gentlemen during the British Raj due to its fair price and functionality.
The lightweight and cool material were identified as the optimal attire for polo players in the hot climate of India. These sportsmen were even responsible for adding buttons to the collar to prevent it from flapping as they rode.
It wasn’t until the Oxford Shirt made its way back to Britain that the item of clothing became a symbol to represent the academic elite. The shirts’ prominence was notable university cities, particularly Oxford and whilst there was also a Cambridge shirt, it fell into obscurity.
Once introduced to the United States, the Oxford shirt quickly became fashionable amongst the preppy Ivy League. Its demand is still notable today across both sides of the transatlantic.
As the reigning symbol of varsity style, the Oxford shirt’s versatility has secured an impressive legacy for itself within the history books of superior British fashion.
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