Dress shirts are available in a wide range of materials and weaves (like Poplin, Twill and Oxford), but cotton has long been a favourite. Within the types of cotton, Oxford is without doubt one of the most popular. But what is an Oxford weave and why does it make a great shirt?
There are a number of main types of weave used in dress shirts – Broadcloth, Pinpoint, Twill, Herringbone, Poplin and Oxford to name a few. None of these are actually material in their own right. What they are is a style of weave of cotton that has different attributes. This is why all the shirts made with these weaves are cotton. But the look that they create is different.
The Oxford weave is a type of basket weave, one of the oldest styles of weaving. It does come from the style used to make baskets and has an equal number of the two thread types known as warp and weft. These are threaded through each other in equal groups to form the weave, usually in twos. A two weave is called a Royal Oxford Weave.
When an Oxford shirt is dyed, only the threads running one colour are dyed. The other threads remain white or plain. This creates the characteristic varied or textured look of an Oxford shirt. The weave can also work with man made materials aside from cotton such as polyester and rayon or blended materials.
Why choosing an Oxford weave?
The dress shirt made with Oxford weave is slightly coarser than some weaves and as a result, is often more affordable. The shirt will often be smooth to the touch but not as silky as other weaves. This is why it is often used for casual shirts as well as formal ones. If you see reference to an OCBD, this is an Oxford cloth shirt with a button down collar.
If you are looking for a formal Oxford shirt, then look for one with a higher yarn number. The higher the yarn number, the thinner the yarn. Correspondingly, a thicker yarn has a lower number. Thinner yarns are made from smooth, long cotton strands so make for a better formal shirt. Another term often used with Oxford is pinpoint. A pinpoint Oxford shirt uses the Oxford weave but with finer yarns so again, will be a great formal dress shirt.
Another way to describe the quality of the shirt is with a number system. For example a 40/1 x 24/2 is the classic heavier weight of the Oxford shirt and is usually the most affordable type. These are great casual shirts and are very durable. The 80x two-ply is the pinpoint Oxford shirt while a 50s single ply is a lightweight, crisp shirt.
But what is the difference between an Oxford shirt and other types of cotton shirts? Generally, an Oxford shirt will be warmer than a poplin shirt because the weave is heavier. On the other hand, they tend to be cooler than a twill shirt. This means they are wearable in both warm and cool conditions.