The Non-Iron Oxford 50 Years Ago


For your consideration, a 1966 advertisement for non-iron oxford-cloth buttondowns, presented non-ironically.

Convenient for impromtu games of touch football and expanding waistlines due to heavy meals.

Happy Thanksgiving fom Ivy Style. Tomorrow our club tie goes on sale! — CC

10 Comments on "The Non-Iron Oxford 50 Years Ago"

  1. They were hot and peeled as the poly and cotton fibers separated. Everyone does their own thing, but to me there are only a few reasons to buy non-iron shirts, for traveling, ignorance of how to use an iron and those that can’t afford a professional launderer. None of those things are meant as an insult.

  2. To fully understand the popularity of the permanent press dress shirt in 1966, you must consider the period when it was popularized. During the Jet Age, Space Age mindset of the 1950s to mid-1960s, anything new was routinely accepted as automatically better, as progress. It was also an era when the dream was to live an automated life with a plethora of push-button labor-saving devices: automatic dishwashers, automatic washer-dryers, automatic transmissions. Alas, no one ever developed an automatic iron.

    Against this background, the popularity of the no-iron shirt of 50 years ago is understandable. Dress shirt advertisements (mixed in amongst ads for hats and pipes) in my Esquires and Playboys of this period are almost exclusively of the permanent press variety: Brooksweave, No-Iron, Sta-Prest. Many were not that bad, the key was to keep the cotton content at least 65%.

    Between the three-martini lunch, a few holes of golf and the after-work cocktail, many men had little time to stop at the laundry.

  3. PSA: For non-non-iron shirts, Brooks Brothers has the old lined unfused collar oxford shirts available online, 4 for $199. Guess there was still enough demand for the front pocket to restock sizes for the old ones.

  4. These are the shirts that allowed ivy league style to survive. It was the style of the shirt that appealed to us, not the fiber content. The same goes for non-iron cotton + poly khakis. Most of us who had been wearing ivy league style clothing since the early 1960s had never heard of all-cotton OCBDs until the appearance of The Original Preppy Handbook in 1980.

  5. What’s old is new again. Polyester menswear was commonplace is the 1970’s and then became low class in the 1980’s as natural fabric was seen as more upscale. This same material is now popular again with Millenials, but is called “performance” fabric or “synthetic” or any number of trendy names. Many menswear items I see now don’t even list the fabric content on their labels to avoid having to state “100% polyester.” I have had recent conversations with younger peers who insist that their Underarmor or North Face shirts are something other than polyester. They don’t realize that clothing manufacturers love to use polyester because its much cheaper than wool or cotton, and they’ve again fooled people into thinking it’s some new, trendy recent fabric that “wicks” and is elegant. Bah!

  6. Regardless of the fiber, I would never go hiking or skiing in cotton. Not only do you get soaking wet from sweat, when the temperature turns, you’re toast — frozen toast, that is.

    The same is true playing tennis on a hot day. Although there is little risk of hypothermia, it is highly uncomfortable to play in a heavy, soaking wet cotton polo.

    I’ll take performance fabrics–whatever they may be–when the situation requires my clothing to perform.

  7. I predict that the clothing world will reach peak-synthetic in about 10 or 15 years when the children of Millennials begin seeking a different look than what their Dads are wearing. The last peak-synthetic phase was around 1979 when polyester suddenly became as old fogey as wearing your belt just below your nipples. The next generation will realize that exercising and working in a plastic fabric made from petroleum that promotes bacteria, retains odor and repels your sweat like Rain-X (aka “wicking”) is retrograde disgusting. They will revert back to appreciating the superior beauty and function of natural fibers as clean, environmentally-friendly and undeniably upscale… as civilized people have for generations. We are already beginning to see the transition of synthetic fabric to a more working class, less aspirational commodity which portends its decline from fashion hierarchy.

    It will be the children of this current iPhone generation that view UnderArmor and NorthFace as grandpa’s brands. I can only hope that this wave sweeps in a Trad aesthetic, but it could just as easily come in the form of an earthy-hippie inclination as well, so I won’t hold my breath on that point. Either way, I can’t wait for this current synthetic fabric fad to die out!

  8. Jerry
    I agree with the sanitation problems with synthetics, but that can be overcome with due diligence. The do have a place in sports.

    I live in the midwest and can’t think of a “Ivy” men’s shop that would foist permanent press shirts on their customers, that includes the 60s on. Of course that has changed recently with the new formaldehyde silicone cotton non iron shirts.

    I’ve owned one permanent press shirt in my life, 1969, it was a gift, Sero short sleeve navy and yellow tattersail on white OCBD. Pretty shirt, but could not stand wearing it without an undershirt.

  9. DCG, if you see this: was that a Black Friday-only offering? I just checked and could not find that deal.

    Back on topic: My main problem with 60/40 shirts was that they were not as comfortable as 100% cotton. (Also, they didn’t quite look right.) I feel the same way about the new “100% cotton” non-irons: they simply are not as comfortable.

    “presented non-ironically”. :o)

  10. I bought a BB poly cotton blend shirt in San Francisco in 1986. Folded and in the bag it looked like all BB oxford button downs. However, in the wearing it was entirely different and not in a good way. The collar kind of bunched together and the permanent press kept it like that. It was awful. I got an iron and learned how to use it.

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