Changing of the Guard

Frayed OCBD

I have been living off of a 15 shirt purchase for the past 6-7 years. This is when I saw my go-to shirt, the Lands’ End Original Oxford plummet to $8 a shirt. At the time I thought that they were liquidating old stock, because they were changing factories, colors, or something to that effect. I was wrong. It was the end of my shirt. Now my stock is starting to show their age (See the fraying shirt above.). I am going to need a new shirt.
029

Here is a good example of the great collar roll that these shirts could produce.

I get quite a few emails asking me for my OCBD recommendations. I always feel bad when responding as I have very limited experience with any OCBD other than my LE Original Oxfords. My total experience consists of 3 shirts, including my LE shirts. In addition to my LE shirts I have one vintage Brooks Brothers OCBD and a new-ish one from J.Press. The Brooks rolls well while the one from J Squeeze has the iconic flap pocket, but lacks the collar roll that I am after.

So dear readers I will tell you what all this means to you. It means that I will be trying out a new shirt here and there trying to find the OCBD for me, which should result in me having some more up to date feedback. I am not too picky when it comes to OCBD. All I want is one that has a collar that rolls. The search begins…

oxford cloth button down
is a simple man interested in simple, classic, and traditional style.

29 Comments on "Changing of the Guard"

  1. Joel Vaughan says:

    No surprise that Sears would ruin Lands’ End. Similar future is probably in store for Jos A Bank. You might try the LE Hyde Park, which I understand, is still the original quality. I just bought a BB classic cotton OCBD but frankly, it is too thick for my taste for a dress shirt, and they have started lining the collar. So much for foreign ownership. A pitty, because their pinpoints are very poor quality. Blessings on your search.

    • Hollywood Argyle says:

      The current LE Hyde Park shirt is made of quality cloth, and is well made. I loved my old ones (similar vintage as Jerrod’s), but the new ones have a fatal flaw: tiny collars. I’m almost embarrassed to wear my one and only recent LE Hyde Park shirt with a tie!

      No, we need an OCBD shirt with a decent collar roll at a decent price. My two- or three-year-old BB shirts are pretty good in this regard—but do they even make non-iron shirts anymore?

  2. Jon Goode says:

    I’ve heard good things about Kamakura shirts (http://www.kamakurashirts.net)…and the cost/quality index is good. Not sure about the sizing for their ivy league range though.
    Uniqlo used to be value for money, but they’ve fallen into the habit of having small collars on their button downs (what’s the point of buttoning down small collars?!).
    I think Gant’s Banker shirts have a good roll on them, if you can deal with the irritating branding on the pockets.
    The other option is to have a shirt made the way you want….tailor store (tailorstore.com) aren’t bad and they make good chinos too.

  3. ChildDoc says:

    As hard as some folks are on Brooks Brothers, I must admit that I find their traditional (Supima) oxford cloth button down shirts (USA/Garland, NC) to be very satisfactory. Part of this stems from the fact that they offer four (admittedly confusingly named) fits–and for relatively slim guys, the slim (Regent) fit and the extra slim (Milano) fit provide flexibility in accommodating our needs. In addition they provide precise neck and sleeve lengths. As to collar and cuff linings, I don’t make a big deal of this as some my well prefer more structure to same, perhaps at the expense of some comfort. I have obtained unlined collar and cuff (OCBD) shirts from Brooks when they offered their Gatsby Collection–these are gone,, but were great shirts. To some degree, at least to me, a shirt is a shirt and I concentrate more on jackets and suits–preferring to have these made by a local, talented tailor who provides a perfect fit. Turns out to be less expense than altering a generally unsatisfactory off the rack kit. As always I enjoy your site–and particularly your interest in modesty of expenditures when feasible.

  4. CAY says:

    I can vouch for Mercer. You will get everything you want in a great, full-cut OCBD. Mercer may be the best (unless you require a ‘slim fit’). But not cheap.

    I was in BB last week. The only must-iron OCBDs they say they are now making is in two colors only: white & blue.

    I agree with you about the J. Press collar roll. I bought three OCBDs from Press recently and also noticed variability in fit. Not what it used to be.

    I want to try Michael Spencer. These look excellent and the reports I’ve heard so far all sound very good.

    I’ve heard good things about Kamakura shirts, too. But, their sizing seems weird. I don’t see, a 16 x 34, only 16 x 35 1/2 — That would look like I am wearing my older brother’s hand-me-down.

    Why do they make it so hard?

  5. HerrDavid says:

    I don’t think there’s much competition with Brooks (on sale) when it comes to a good price-to-roll ratio.

  6. NCTrad says:

    I agree with ChildDoc. I have been wearing BB’s must iron OCBDs (Traditional fit) for many years. For the price (frequent sales), they can not be beat. The collar roll and construction are fine. For me, these shirts are staples. Let’s not over think this.

  7. Ezra Cornell says:

    Oh, I feel your pain (to coin a phrase). Let me just say something about Kamakura, which was mentioned above and which I have a lot of experience with. The shirts are terrific quality for a terrific price. So I have a number of them. That said, their sizings (neck and sleeve combination) are very peculiar and spotty, so unless you fit into their narrow range it is hard to find a shirt. Also note that they fit quite slim. I remember an earlier post where you favored a more generous cut, and here the Kamakura will probably not satisfy; they are narrower by a fraction than the BB Regent fit, by way of comparison. That said, the OCBD does have a lovely collar roll and is made with good quality cloth and at an excellent price.
    I’m looking forward to hearing more about your adventures in this! I always count on you for level-headed advice that the average buyer can actually afford.

  8. Roger C. Russell II says:

    I never hear anybody mention Gitman Bros. as an option for an OCBD. I live in the South and before the awful era of Business Casual came around it was a top selling brand. I search for them on occasion and they have become expensive. In fact, they are so expensive you could probably have a shirt custom made for less money. I like the look of the shirt offered by The Knottery, however I hear it is rather thin.

  9. ZJP says:

    Ratio Clothing. Ask for the long, unlined button down. $98, and you can pick almost any details you’d like. I modeled the fit on mine after a J Press shirt. Made at the Garland Factory. I have posted a few pics of the collar roll on the boards. Let me know if you have questions.

  10. SFSteve says:

    I’d say go ahead and try but my own experience suggests that the current iteration of BB OCBD collars are not going to give you a roll that is anything like the impressive one you got out of those LE shirts.

  11. Robin says:

    Check out Lean Garments OCBDs as well. Unlined, long collars, trim-ish body, and only $39! But they only sell in batches, so you will have to pre-order and wait.

    Can you do a post on your tie and collar routine to show how you get your roll? I’ve never been able to get satisfactory roll, despite using some of the “better” unlined/long collars. Do you starch and iron the collar? Use a double four-in-hand? Leave the top button unbuttoned? Thanks.

  12. oxford cloth button down says:

    Thanks for all of the feedback! I will disclose that my first attempt is going to be the traditional fit Brooks Brothers OCBD as they had a recent sale that brought the price down to $50 per shirt.

    Robin – I have promised a post on my tie and collar roll ritual, but have yet to do the post. I have never done a video post so it is a little daunting. I will say that there is no starch involved, the collars are lined, and I always button the top the button.

  13. Fading Fast says:

    I ordered a must-iron traditional OCBD from, probably, the same BB sale, so we can compare after they arrive. It’s been awhile since I’ve bought one from BB, so like you, I’m interested to see how their’s is doing.

    I bought an OCBD last year from a company called Everlane: the material was great, the color spot on vintage BB blue and the collar unlined (only okay roll, too short for great roll). The fit was slim (not skinny) which works for me, but since i liked it, they, naturally, stopped making the classic blue color.

  14. Gerard Holguin says:

    Try LL Bean wrinkle-free classic oxford cloth shirts. I love the collar roll on them. They are bit thick but noticed with a few washings they become softer. I also like the color choices that are offered.

  15. Harpell Crower says:

    I’m afraid that the short collars of L.L. Bean OCBDs make the roll look absurd.

    • Hollywood Argyle says:

      Hear, hear! LL Bean OCBDs have the following flaws:
      * short collars
      * non-iron finish
      * sizing runs about 1/2 size large

      I won’t be ordering any more LL Bean shirts until I can get must-iron shirts with reasonable collars—which is probably never.

  16. Gazza79 says:

    I can highly recommend O’Connell’s unlined/unfused OCBD. I (foolishly) remain loyal to Brooks for my white OCBDs, but the pink and blue O’Connell’s are superb and can roll with the best of them. The shirts have become my go-tos and are a treat to wear. I know it is made by Gitman, but I am not sure Gitman market their own unfused/unlined collared shirt.

  17. Gazza79 says:

    I have a couple of Kamakura’s OCBDs as well. I love their collar roll but their “off the rack” sizing means the neck on their 42-90 is just too tight. The shade of their solid blue OCBD is also too bright for my taste. It is positively electric.

  18. Roger C. Russell II says:

    I think you will likely just find your self in a situation where you have to make Brooks Brothers work even if they have made changes you are not in love with. There are no doubt great shirt options out there. However, at $100.00 to $150.00 a pop just think of the cash you have invested to have a shirt to wear every week day. I know a lot of guys do not have this worry, but a lot of guys do. At least with Brooks Brothers you can shop some pretty aggressive sales.

  19. Izaak Walton says:

    Have you considered L.L. Bean’s OCBD?

  20. Izaak Walton says:

    Allow me to amend my prior comment in light of the one immediately preceding it. I find the LL Bean oxford cloth button downs have a long enough collar that produces a relatively good roll – at least compared to other products available on the market. Also, it won’t break the bank.

  21. mark says:

    Kamakura’s my fave by far!

  22. MrErikJ says:

    Oh my! Jerrod, you must be getting overwhelmed with all these oxford recommendations. Leave it to a subject like this to light-up the comment section.

    The good news is, it seems, there are still many preferred brands out there producing quality ocbds at reasonable prices.

    The bad news is, they probably aren’t quite as thrifty as those awesome Lands’ End shirts were.
    Please keep us abreast of how the oxford tasting goes. Be sure to cleanse the pallet with some chinos and get as many free samples as possible.

  23. hardline_42 says:

    Kind of off-topic, but you’ll be able to put off your decision for a while longer if you turn the collars on your beloved OCBDs, so long as the rest of the shirts are in good shape. Easy enough to do on your own if you have a sewing machine and probably not to expensive to have it done at an alternations place.
    I posted a tutorial on it a couple of years ago. My batch of BBOCBDs are due for turning, now that I think about it:
    http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/forum/showthread.php?127699-DIY-Trad-Tailoring-Turning-OCBD-Collar&highlight=turning+collar+ocbd

  24. Robert says:

    L.L. Bean might be serviceable, if it weren’t for the plasticky non-iron finish that makes them feel more like teflon-coated sackcloth than cotton. Never again…I’ve trashed two Bean shirts after only a few wearings. Mercer is not cheap – but it’s a case of “buy nice or buy twice.” I have no regrets after buying Mercer.

  25. DaviD says:

    When JCP discontinued their contract with Ralph Lauren’s American Living I purchased 35 fabulous OCBD’s for $10. each. Since those are no longer available, might I suggest Lands’ End’s “Sail Rigger” OCBD. Heavy oxford. Excellent cut and detail and all natural cotton with NO wrinkle-free no iron chemicals. $39. and I’ve paid as little as $18 when on sale. What could one hurt.

  26. Brooksoxfordfan says:

    Here is my take on the OCBD debate. Many of us want the genuine article. That means a full cut oxford cloth shirt, made in the USA of good quality fabric, with a collar that is long enough and engineered properly to produce that loved liberty-bell roll. But when we see that such an animal costs $125 and up (unless you are able to buy directly from the manufacturer; which I will discuss below), we start hemming and hawing at the price. Well guess what, if you want the “genuine article” today, that’s what it costs if you are going to buy the shirt from a traditional retailer, who is having the shirt made for them by a third-party manufacturer.

    That said, this topic still require more analysis.

    Yes, Mercer and Sons makes a great collar roll for their shirts. And yes, they stock a a blue and white shirt in exact sleeve lengths and collar sizes. But does their fabric compare to Brooks Brothers? I initially bought Mercer and was thrilled with their shirt (I cherished my first two shirts because they were like butter right out of the package). But when I ordered more of the same, the newer fabric was different from what I originally purchased (and the label in the shirts were different). The newer fabric was rougher and scratchier, and no matter how much I washed them at home (I consider myself to be somewhat of a guru at washing things because I am fourth generation of a family of retailers), it didn’t get soft. The bottom line is, if I don’t like the feel of the fabric, the collar roll is somewhat academic.

    There are other copy-cat versions of the Brooks shirt out there as well like the unlined offering from O’Connells at $145 (I personally think the tie space is too narrow and the second button on the placket is too close to the first button-they should be equidistant), the Michael Spencer shirt at $135 (basically made-to-measure), and the Kamakura shirt at $80 (not made in the USA). When I look at these options, I ask myself this question, do I want to want to but my OCBD shirt from someone who is imitating Brooks, or do I want to buy this shirt from Brooks, the company that (i) originated the shirt, (ii) is still manufacturing the shirt in its own shirt factory in North Carolina (Yes, it is my understanding that Brooks owns the Garland Shirt factory), (iii) making the shirt with American grown cotton, and (iv) is making the shirt at a very fair price point. And even though Brooks now lines its collars, lets remember something, its their shirt, they invented it. So if they now want a lining in the collar, that is not the end of the world provided the collar points are the correct length (3 and 3/8″) so the collar can roll properly (Personally, I wash my oxfords at home in cold and never iron the collars so they roll as much as humanly possible.)

    Has the Brooks shirt changed? Yes, without question. But here’s the rub. The shirt is still made according to its original specifications (except the collar, which I will address in a minute), in terms of (i) the fullness of cut (many fits are now available), (ii) 1/4″ stitching all over the shirt, (iii) pleating on the sleeves, (iv) buttons on the placket that are spaced equidistantly, (v) wonderful fabric (very tightly woven and very distinctive color palette–gold yellow, blue with a grey cast), (vi) made with American-grown Supima cotton, and (vii) a collar (albeit now lined) that, in theory, is supposed to be 3 and 3/8″ in length. The cost of this shirt is $95 for one or 3 for $229, which is a no-brainer in terms of value. Here’s the problem, however, more often than not Brooks cuts its collars points too short. So instead of the 3 and 3/8″ specification, their collars often measure 3 and 1/4″ or less, which is problematic because that extra 1/8″ makes all the difference in the world in terms of fullness of the collar’s appearance and its ability to produce a roll. I have written to Brooks about this on a few occasions and they have told me that collar lengths can vary according to the factory worker working on the shirt–which I have found to be the case. When, however, the collar length is made according to their specification, its hard not to go with Brooks at their price point.

    In sum, one’s ultimate decision comes down to values. If you want to look “Ivy League,” then by all means go with Mercer or one of the other copy-cat versions. However, my goal was never to look Ivy League, instead, it was to wear a well-made oxford cloth shirt, that was full cut, had nice fabric, and had a nice full collar (I am 6’1″ and weigh 198 lbs and am very fit). There is another issue for me to consider, should an oxford cloth shirt really cost $125? Isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron? I mean, after all, its an oxford, right? You wear it with jeans or khakis, or under a Shetland sweater, right? Should a shirt like that really be an important economic decision for someone? Its your call, but for now I am going to stick with Brooks.

Leave a Reply to SFSteve