Michael Spencer OCBD Review

This week on the OCBD blog we have a Michael Spencer OCBD review from occasional commenter Steve. Michael Spencer is an advertiser here, but this post was neither paid for or promised, but comes from the truest place. Steve told me that he is not associated with Michael-Spencer, paid for his own shirt, and that the reason he wanted to review this shirt is to, “preserve an option that works for me so I’d like to see this business survive, and if my comments can help achieve that I’ll have been rewarded.” You can check out the Michael Spencer website here: Michael Spencer

Not all that long ago it was easy to keep a stock of well made, traditionally-styled OCBDs on hand.  If one wore out, became irremediably stained, or sustained a catastrophic accident at the laundry, it could readily be replaced.  Those days appear to be gone.

Taste is subjective so it’s a matter of opinion whether the changes Brooks Brothers have made to their OCBD, perhaps their single most iconic product, are for better or worse.  But changes there have surely been, changes that render the shirt less distinctive and desirable for many men.  Nowadays, a man wanting an OCBD made of quality fabric and featuring historically stylish collar points (and, even better, an unlined and unfused collar) must look elsewhere.  And pay a premium price into the bargain.  One source for for such shirts — with many satisfied customers — features a self-described “generous cut” that unfortunately isn’t for every taste or body type.
Michael Spencer & Brooks Brothers OCBDThat’s where Michael-Spencer, a recently launched enterprise, comes in.  M-S offers traditionally-styled Oxford cloth shirts made in North Carolina (by the same factory that makes BB shirts).  What makes the M-S shirts different is that they can be customized in a wealth of different ways, none of which incur additional cost.  For example, the shirts are available in three different fits ranging from a semi-slim cut to truly copious.  Assuming that the chosen fit accurately complements the wearer’s actual physiognomy, none of them can be called “tight.”  On a personal note: I am 6’ tall, 165 lbs., size 39, and the “Modern” fit, 15-1/2” x 34” shirts I’ve acquired are comfortable and tailored in appearance but still present an appropriate touch of rumpling.  All that’s missing is the wad of excess fabric at the back of my waist that is present in shirts that seem fashioned for huskier builds.

The M-S collars are 100% traditional: they are described on the company’s website as featuring “3-1/2” of cascading cloth,” and that’s perfectly accurate.  (Current production BB collar points are 3-1/4” long — down from 3-3/8” just a couple of years ago — and while 1/4” sounds insignificant, in fact it makes a pretty big difference.)  The unfused, unlined versions are not just stylish but soft and relaxed as well.  Other no-charge options include accoutrements such as locker loops, split yokes, flap pockets, and several cuff configurations.  Moreover, hard to fit individuals can select personalized sizing (neck and separate sleeves) in 1/4” increments.

All this comes at a cost, of course.  The financial blow is softened somewhat by the fact that shipping is included in the price and no sales tax is incurred.  An additional, and not unimportant, bonus is the exemplary customer service that accompanies a purchase.  Something about my first order got lost in translation (at the factory): sizing was way off.  The problems were personally and expeditiously addressed by Spencer Bennett, owner of the company.  If my own experience is any indication, he will spend as much time as needed guiding a customer to the right choices.

It’s not a question of “can,” but rather “would” the world want to go without the traditional OCBDs that have been around for as long as anyone reading this has been buying clothes?  Many of the historical makers have given up; it’s nice to see that the baton is being passed, not simply dropped.

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

22 Comments on "Michael Spencer OCBD Review"

  1. Roger C. Russell II says:

    The shirt reviewed looks wonderful. The price though steep for a guy like me is in line with other such shops. Is this basically a Brooks Brothers shirt before it was tampered with?
    Also, though the web site is sufficiently presentable I think the color offerings from the site appear misleading. For instance, I assume this rather great looking university stripe is what the site is calling a candy stripe. To me the pink looks sort of raspberry colored and the blue looks like what was called French blue back in the nineties.

  2. Camford says:

    Still looking forward to your promised piece on Huntington Clothiers.

  3. oxford cloth button down says:

    Camford – Thanks for the reminder. I have hit a wall several times working on this piece. I was really hoping to get into touch with the former owner which has proved to be a difficult task. I have not given up.

    Roger – I am not unsure about the “is this basically a BB shirt before it was tampered with.” Maybe Steve can speak to that.

    The colors look accurate on my monitor, but the problem you are describing is one of the pitfalls of e-commerce. I often think I know what color the item I purchased online will be only to learn it is not.

  4. Ezra Cornell says:

    Looks intriguing. I’m curious about sizing. Do the neck and sleeve sizes fairly closely match the BB?

  5. SFSteve says:

    Because these shirts are made to order and can be customized in so many different ways I wouldn’t describe them as being exactly the same as older BB shirts. However, I would say that the unlined button down collars bear a very strong resemblance to the classic BB OCBDs. Also, I’m pretty sure that the fabrics being used for these shirts are the same that BB is using, so the colors are consistent between labels. (BB has always, at least as far as I can recall, offered a particularly dark shade of pink compared to other Oxford cloths.)

  6. SFSteve says:

    “Looks intriguing. I’m curious about sizing. Do the neck and sleeve sizes fairly closely match the BB?”

    You can order whatever sizes you want down to 1/4″ increments. A 16-1/4″ neck with a 34-1/4″ right sleeve and a 34-1/2″ left sleeve is possible. That’s pretty precise in my book. It made me want to experiment–but I didn’t. I went with the same 15-1/2″ x 34″ size that I always wear.

  7. MrErikJ says:

    Steve is correct, their colors are identical to BB’s. My pink ocbd from MS is a stronger pink than others offer, which I prefer, and it is identical to the BB pink. From what I know, their textile provider is the same as BB (which is also the same for Press, as BB manufactures American JP shirts). I hope we will, eventually, see an expanded pallet of solid colors and stripes like Brooks offered for so long.

    The shirts aren’t cheap, but they offer positive value and ROI. I realize now that I’ve wasted more money on cheap items that could’ve been directed towards quality purchases I would still own. There are plenty of good ocbd shirt options (BB are still good shirts for a fair price and Kamakura is comparable to BB with a better collar) but MS does offer you a little more bang for your buck.

    • Oxy Mandais says:

      Mercer and Michael-Spencer are both Outstanding. Spencer has more detail if that’s what you want.
      Mercer’s buttonless button down is a classic.
      Someone in this thread mentioned Huntington clothiers. What ever happened to them?
      Great stuff I still have some things.

  8. NaturalShoulder says:

    Steve – thank you for your review. Have you tried the Mercer shirts and, if so, can you compare the MS to Mercer?

  9. SFSteve says:

    Lots of people are fans of Mercer. They make a high quality product. Mr. Mercer is on record as favoring a very full-fitted shirt. I have a couple of Mercer shirts, including an OCBD. On me, they look like the sample in Jerrod’s “Myth of the Slim Fit Shirt” post. I’m not comfortable with that fit, so I like the flexibility the Michael Spencer shirts afford me in terms of the three fit options. Coincidentally, I just had my Mercer OCBD taken apart and re-tailored. It was expensive, but I wasn’t wearing the shirt at all. It looks great on me . . . now. But it ended up being the most expensive shirt I can recall purchasing. So, in short, M-S offers me a better fit, more features, the same level of quality, and for a reduced (but not low) cost.

  10. Robert says:

    Does MS offer a six-button placket option, or is it all 7-button? Can’t tell from the website.

  11. Grey Flannels says:

    Now, for those of us who like a neat, understated appearance, perhaps Michael-Spencer will offer the option of a lined, unobtrusive collar.

  12. RWK says:

    @Grey Flannels This is currently on option on his website. You can order any shirt either lined or unlined.

  13. oxford cloth button down says:

    Grey Flannels – Here is a link: http://www.michaelspencer.us/product-category/lined/

  14. Grey Flannels says:

    Jerrod & RWK:
    Thanks for the info.

  15. CAY says:

    The MS shirts depicted in the photos for this post appear to be university stripes. Is that true, or is it only my wishful thinking? I see on the MS site that only candy stripes are offered. Does MS also offer uni stripes?

  16. oxford cloth button down says:

    CAY – It is not your wishful thinking they do offer university stripes, but they refer to them as candy stripes. These terms have often been used interchangeably. I do understand how that can be confusing.

  17. DanO. says:

    Ok, so what is a ‘modern fit’ shirt as offered by this webstore?

    • JoshP says:


      I had the same question … I reached out to them and this is what they responded with:

      The Modern Fit is the most slim fit we are currently offering. Compared to the Brooks Brothers Milano Fit, our Modern Fit would be approximately 1 inch larger in the chest circumference as well as 1 inch larger in the waist circumference. All other measurements would be almost identical to the BB Milano.

  18. andrew says:

    thanks for the review. one of my favorites for oxfords with unlined/unfused collars, plackets, cuffs. I have two of their Oxford cloth button downs – blue and a red candy/university stripe. they are both the ‘vintage’ fit, which is comparable but perhaps a hair more slender than the typical Mercer OCBD but cut more generously than Brooks Brothers’ Madison or the standard fit for my size from Proper Cloth. I particularly like the ability to vary the sizes in increments and make the left cuff a tad larger to accommodate a larger watch, like my favorite dive watch.

    The fabric is nice – robust, again comparable to what Mercer uses. interestingly, the oxfords I own with the heaviest cotton fabric come from proper cloth; brooks brothers’ ‘original polo’ oxfords use a fabric that feels somewhat lighter-weight, for an Oxford cloth.

    one alternative to consider – Ralph Lauren polo makes really nice, soft Oxford cloth button downs that appear to be unlined/unfused. they sell them in generic sizes, small through XL, so they might be a slice less well-fitting, but in general, the sizing is pretty generous. even better, I have been able to find them at a nearby factory outlet for under fifty dollars. that’s a steal.

  19. Weston Pecos says:

    When I first decided to get some non-BB OCBD’s, I looked at the website for M-S and tried to want to buy a shirt from them. But I wound up going with Proper Cloth because PC lets me customize all of the features of the shirt the way M-S does, but PC also lets me customize every individual measurement of the shirt, too (not just locked into pre-determined “fits”). My problem with OCBD’s is that if I get the neck to fit properly so I am not strangled when wearing a tie the rest of the shirt is like a tent. Some guys with this problem will get whatever neck size they need to be able to breathe and then select the slimmest fit of shirt that the company makes. I’ve tried that with Gitman and it works, sort of. With PC I can customize each and every measurement of the shirt and I get the neck to fit properly (they also offer rotation forward or back of the neck with relation to the rest of the shirt to make really micro-adjustment of the fit — I need the 1 inch forward rotation) and so I get a shirt that really fits me well; generous in the places I want it to be and not-tent-like in the places where I care about that such as the abdomen and the waist. The PC shirts come out really nice, and I get all of this for about half of the price of a Gitman shirt and about 2/3 the price of an M-S shirt. Really good OCBD fabrics and nicely made shirts that actually fit ME. The M-S and BB shirts are “made in America” meaning American and/or foreign cotton is sent overseas to be woven into fabric which is then sent to NC to be sewed by an American. The PC shirts are made in Malaysia and FedEx overnight (orders of $200 ship free) to the customer in the USA. Similar fabric story, “American and/or foreign cotton is sent overseas to be woven into fabric which is then sent to Malaysia to be sewed by a Malaysian”. I’d rather they be made in America, but the reality is I can get the shirt I want, to fit me exactly as I want, not locked into choosing between fit profiles the manufacturer has pre-determined, and I get a great quality shirt for half the price of a Gitman shirt, delivered to me door by FedEx faster than Gitman can send me one by UPS from Ashland, PA (about an hour from where I live).

I would like to hear from you