The history of the Oxford shirt: From the British elite to casual Fridays

SANVT Journal

But why do we associate the shirt with casual Fridays today? Here’s some insight into the history of the Oxford Shirt:

The origins of the Oxford Shirt

The fabric that makes the Oxford Shirt was invented in the 19th century in a weaving mill in Scotland. The innovative Panama weave ensured that the fabric had high durability but thanks to the natural fibers, the fabric was highly breathable. This was also due to the processing: two yarns were woven into each other – like a basket weave. 

The shirts made from the fabric were originally named after the country’s elite universities, to make them more attractive and easier to sell. But only the “Oxford” shirt prevailed with massive success – as we can see for ourselves (because none of us has a “Cambridge shirt” in our closet). 

The image of the polo player wearing the Oxford shirt is no myth though: Originally designed by its inventors for chic occasions, the shirt’s durability and breathability enabled the sophisticated men, the students of the elite universities, to look smart when playing sports like polo. The button-down collar was practical, because an athlete would have no use for a fluttering collar and could attach the collar ends to the shirt. The students liked the new kind of shirts so much that they even continued wearing them after graduation – and thus shaped the Smart Casual Look. This became so popular that it was adopted widely among other social classes. 

From the United Kingdom to the United States of America

During colonisation, English gentlemen wore the shirts in other countries where it was often compatible with the daily life and climate. The use of the shirt spread globally this way and was brought to the USA. Despite the shirt’s previous popularisation, in the United States the trend took the the opposite direction (which was actually intended by the inventors): it was seen as part of the “preppy” fashion – associated with the formality of the rich or “snobs”. Thus, from then on both “images” (popular vs. preppy) shaped and influenced the current universal use of the Oxford shirt. 

The Oxford shirt – today

The shirt is now typically made of natural cotton and with all its characteristics intact (durability, breathability, minimalist design). It’s now an all-rounder in men’s fashion. The button-down collar, where the collar ends can be attached to the shirt, confirms a neat but sporty look – even without a tie. The shirt can be worn in combination with suit trousers or chinos in the office (tucked in) but also informally with jeans on a casual Friday, beer in hand.

The Oxford shirt from SANVT


1. OXFORD-GARMENT:  Due to the special weave (basket weave), the material is highly durable and thanks to the brushed finish it also has an exceptionally soft feel.

2. MINIMALIST DESIGN: The simple cut of the shirt has an elegant look that avoids complication but with discreet luxury and detail. The buttons of real mother-of-pearl are made in Italy. SANVT’s promise – No button-lossThe bar between shirt and button is wrapped with thermo-fusible yarn and the buttons are heat-sealed on – making it impossible for the buttons to fall off.

3. ORGANIC COTTON: The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) that SANVT complies with is the world’s leading standard for the processing of textiles made from organically produced natural fibers. Thus we guarantee fair and sustainable production. If you would like to learn more about SANVT’s sustainability initiatives, you can read all about them here.

4. UNISEX: All SANVT products have a unisex design. The minimalist cut based on men’s sizes allows both genders to create looks ranging from a narrower cut to an oversize look. 

Check out SANVT's Oxford Shirt here.


Thanks to the individually selectable length options, the SANVT Oxford shirt can have both an office look (tucked in) and an everyday look. If you want to learn more about our sizes, you can find our size finder here