20 April 2012

Vintage New

I've liked pink oxford cloth shirts since I was in high school. Back then I used to wear mine with a vintage charcoal gray suit jacket (it came from my father's 1960 honeymoon suit), Levi's corduroy jeans, and either a black tie with small, closely spaced white dots or a gray plaid wool tie.

A couple of months ago I was casually looking around for a new pink shirt, to replace one I'd gotten about ten years ago for $10 at a Bass outlet store. That one was starting to show its age, though I plan on keeping it for non-work wear, since it's become ridiculously soft from all the washing and wearing.

I hoped to find a shirt with a button on the back of the collar; it's one of those details that refers back to the initial popularity of button-down collar oxford shirts in the 1950s. Over time, manufacturers dropped small extras like this to save a few cents per shirt, but such details are showing up again.

I would have liked to purchase an American made shirt from Gitman Bros., but those are currently going for $165, not exactly prudent spending for someone about to be without a job. Even a Gant shirt (which isn't made in America) would be about $100. Sometimes we must compromise.

I happened across a blogger who recommended Rugby's oxfords. I had never paid a shred of attention to the Rugby line, because I assumed it was simply Ralph Lauren's attempt to compete with the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch and they wouldn't have anything I would like, or that would fit.

The Rugby oxfords were on sale online for $30, and were refreshingly devoid of exterior branding. (They do have a little tag on the side seam near the tail that's easily removed, and a very narrow strip of necktie-stripe fabric inside the collar.) Since I wasn't sure how they would fit, I ordered both large and extra large.

In brands like J. Crew I need to wear extra large for the shirt to fit me in the chest and shoulders, but the sleeves are always a little long, so I assumed the Rugby would be the same. As it turned out, the large was just big enough to fit me in the chest. It's probably the slimmest-fitting shirt I have that doesn't pull between the buttons, and the sleeves are just the right length.
Oxford cloth is supposed to be fairly sturdy, but some shirts are made of thin, cheap-feeling fabric. Not this one—it's substantial, but also soft. It has the desired back collar button, and what is sometimes called a spade or chevron pocket—the bottom of the pocket is a V shape, and the small flap of extra fabric that is folded over at the top mimics the V shape. It's another detail that makes a shirt like this a little more complex and expensive to make than a pocket with straight lines, but I think it looks nicer.
If you're interested in one of these shirts, they happen to still be available for $30, in white and blue as well as the pink, but unfortunately only XL remains in each color. If you happen to live near a Rugby store you could try checking with them to see if they might still have any, or maybe even calling. But remember: the fit is on the slimmer side.

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