The WOCBD Starter Kit

(While I marvel at some people’s need to avoid civility whilst expressing a different opinion, let’s try the paywall links, marked as such, and if it works then great – many thanks to those who were able to be civil during this process.  One of the things that I wanted to do with this site was respect civility at all costs.  It is possible to describe and even espouse Ivy values without having been perfect, AND it is also possible to say that you think something different from someone else and to do so with dignity.  Anyway – paywall links it is.  And click on the images to see them for sale.)

I’ve had $200 WOCBD’s, and I have had $19 ones.  The $19 ones are not alternatives, and you HAVE TO at some point save, get a second job, do whatever, and over years acquire a few of the classics (Press, Andover, Mercer, Duck Head).  But.  Your first car does not need to be a Tesla (although buckle up, pretty soon there will only be Teslas).   I dug around and found some suitable WOCBD’s while you are saving.

I used to walk past the Tyrwhitt store in town all the time, and there was always something in the window that made me want to go in, and something in the window that made me not.  Their WOCBD though.

 

Tyrwhitt has that blue striped fabric on the inside of the collar that I’ve never understood. And, like most in its class, the Tyrwhitt WOCBD makes a minor adjustment to the collar button position and the collar length that sometimes bother me. Still, the fabric is fine, everything is of enough quality that you will look fine and can wear it more than three times.

 

We’ve covered the Joseph A. Bank WOCBD before, and I have a number of them.  Field tested for years, these shirts are easy care, last, and frame a tie really well.

 

You can get these for $19 if you shop hard and wait for sales. Sizes are a different problem. Some days they are available, some days they are not. However, if you had one of these for each day of the week, you would be right in line.

 

Target.  I know.  BUT.  The WOCBD is as good a casual shirt as it is a dress shirt, and theirs is an acceptable casual interpretation.  Slim fit because they probably don’t know any better, and the collar holds a tie the way my dog types, but at $25 for knocking around on a weekend or even working from home, it is a good start.

 

 

Finally, the one that for my $25 is the best in this class, the Van Heusen.  In terms of proportion, fit, collar size, spread, button placement, the Van Heusen is the closest simulation.  What you are going to notice is the fabric, it is thin.  THIN.  Still, while you are building up, this is the best aesthetically.

 

There’s a roll here, too.

 

The collar spread frames a tie knot acceptably. There’s a pleat, if that is your thing too. $21.99. You can drink red wine without fear.

50 Comments on "The WOCBD Starter Kit"

  1. Polyester blend fabric automatically disqualifies the Van Heusen for me.

    • I hear you but remember, these are starter shirts.

      • I’ve actually been buying up old poly blend shirts from LL Bean, Land’s End, and Arrow. They remind me of my youth, they’re super soft when old, and they’re ideal for travel or popping something on for a Zoom meeting.

        • I should also mention that I dislike 100% cotton non-iron shirts. I don’t like how they feel and the chemical(s) used scare me more than the poly in blended shirts.

  2. Most important is the W of WOCBD.
    For those who are addicted to BOCBDs, let me strongly suggest that they try a W one. It’s a whole new experience!

    • Seconded. As a person of very pale complexion, I used to fear that a WOCBD would make me look sallow, so I only bought blue, quietly envying those who could pull off the white. Then I finally tried a white one and …everything changed! How right you are.

  3. A number of years ago, I purchased a Van Heusen BOCBD while at a not so remote, but all too austere location. While the collar points are too short, and the non iron cloth is “funny” looking, it served its purpose, i.e., I learned that blue looks better than white with certain jackets. A blue “U-stripe” is often better yet, but that is a step up in repertory. So, now, what is needed, is a lesson on the wearing of a pink or crimson “U-stripe”. This might require require a Boyer level tutorial. In the preppy 80s, I observed red or crimson U-stripes worn open collar with Levi’s and a blazer.

  4. I see Press has a black oxford stripe on the custom made shirt website. Sounds interesting!

    • I can’t find it… do you mind posting a link?

      • I see that J.Press has a two black-striped shirts, one they call a bengal and the other a butcher. To me, the bengal looks like a banker’s stripe and the butcher is the bengal. I think both are on a broadcloth.

        I couldn’t figure out how to link to them, so here’s a step-by-step:
        1. Go to JP homepage
        2. Click on Shop
        3. In the large menu, click on Dress Shirts
        4. Now scroll down the new menu and click on Made To Order
        5. Click on Start Customizing
        6. In the Menu that appears, click on Fabric
        7. In the new menu, click on Stripe
        8, Scroll down and you’ll see the black-striped shirts
        This is my first and last good deed of the day.

    • hhtps://jpressonline.com/pages/made-to-order shirt

      At second glance this may be broadcloth not oxford. But black.

    • I haven’t seen the Press, but Ratio has a black stripe. How does one wear that? With a black knit tie, grey tweed and grey flannels?

      • Charlottesville | September 1, 2022 at 4:10 pm | Reply

        Bop – Any relation to Hardbopper? At any rate, the combination you suggest sounds perfect. Just when I thought I had all of the OCBDs covered, it looks like I need to get a black stripe. I note that I do have a black and burgundy Tattersall OCBD, which would also go well with the tie and tweed outfit you described.

        I am enjoying this last week of seersucker and linen before Labor Day, but the talk of tweeds and flannel is making me long for crisp fall days ahead.

        • Yes. Hardbopper, Bopper, Bop. And yes, I too like the Tattersalls. I wore one out, or outgrew it. It was navy and sky blue, a bit more subdued than blue and black. I believe a lot of these are not truly Oxford cloth. A friend at work has one in red and gold. Autumnal indeed.

    • Mercer has a charcoal U-stripe.

  5. Charlottesville | September 1, 2022 at 11:24 am | Reply

    There is certainly a place for a cheap, adequate OCBD, especially for students, those starting out in a new career, or who otherwise have a limited amount to spend. These are not for me, but then that is part of the point. Some of us tend to be such purists (I plead guilty) that we fail to appreciate and encourage those who are making an effort, even it they do not achieve our idiosyncratic ideal. A guy wearing any of these with a blazer and tie would already be head and shoulders above the sea of t-shirts and athletic shorts that I see everywhere around me (particularly now that the students have returned to our local university). If I had to pick one, I would probably go with Charles Tyrwhitt which at least does not appear to be non-iron, but I could be wrong.

    I am glad that when I was in my teens and early 20s, LL Bean still made a very good, all cotton, too-be-ironed OCBD that looked pretty good, at least to me at the time. It even had a flapped pocket. Jos. A. Bank made a good one then as well, as did Lands’ End. FWIW, I still think that the white OCBD from Ratio Clothing, made to measure for $79, is probably the best deal around today, although a bit more expensive than the ones shown above.

    As for colors other than white, I enjoy wearing blue, pink, yellow, and even lavender and green, and have both solid and university stripe versions of all, along with a couple in ecru and a few brick-red U stripes. I think they all go well with a tie and a tweed or camelhair coat or blazer, or peaking above the crewneck of a Shetland sweater, as long as the colors coordinate.

    • The Platonic ideal.

      And I agree — any person who finds a way to wear lower-cost approximations of anything Ivy is doing a lot better job in the style department than the vast majority of people today. Good on them for the effort, it is noticed. (Well, noticed by geeks like me.)

    • “…as long as the colors [and patterns] coordinate.” That’s the dangerous part for me, as I have a slow learning curve. I did an image search with no definitive results. I will look into the red/madder/tweed combo. It sounds very much like what I was getting at, thank you.

    • Let’s call it a cautious, hippocratic, learning curve.

      • Charlottesville | September 1, 2022 at 4:02 pm | Reply

        Hardbopper – I liked “hippocratic” – First do no harm. If you are wearing Ivy, you are already at least halfway there.

  6. Even at an entry level price point, the collar points must be long enough to squeeze in a tie knot, should one choose to go the extra mile upon occasion. And that would suggest tucking it in, too. JAB would probably be the best bet here.

  7. Uniqlo is a solid budget Oxford pick. J Crew assuming it’s on sale too.

    • I like Uniqlo a lot, but their shirt collars are too skimpy for me. Their BDs in particular don’t have the bell-shaped role prized by most guys here. But perhaps they’ve changed them recently.

    • I’ve no experience with Uniqlo, but can attest the J. Crew oxfords (in the “classic” fit) are more than decent, especially on sale. Their collars have lately gotten just a little bit more substantial, which is a welcome development.

  8. eBay > Search > Brooks 16 33 (or whatever your neck and sleeve)
    Done. Easy.

    • I have acquired a number of great MiUSA Brooks OCBDs this way. Supplies of any new-old stock are obviously dwindling, but there are bargains to be had for those who are patient and know what to look for. It’s tedious sifting through all of the non-iron versions, but that’s obviously not a deal-breaker for some.

  9. The Amazing Tom | September 1, 2022 at 4:20 pm | Reply

    I have examined the Target OCBD. The cloth was surprising nice. I did not try the shirt on, but it did not seem exceedingly slim.

  10. Target is a surprisingly good option for low cost casual wear and adolescent clothes. They have linen shorts that are nicer than some I have bought for $25 to $50 more. I grabbed a pair of their house brand deck type shoes when my luggage was lost a couple of years ago and still wear them around on the weekends.

  11. Other good sources:
    — Spier & MacKay (pure cotton, must iron)
    — LL Bean (pure cotton, non-iron)
    — BB outlet (only available in store)
    — Lands End (Hyde Park is the only must iron option, but collar is anemic)
    — Polo Ralph Lauren outlet (logo’d, only in store)
    — BB sale (a number of non-iron options for $50)

  12. Not sure if anyone else has made this association but seeing “WOCBD” as a sort of shorthand for White OCBD always reminds me of “Women of Color” (due to several decades of “WOC” being a rather commonly used acronym).

  13. Tom, I thought someone brought that up awhile ago and wouldn’t you know it, I just googled WOCBD and the first result is someone making the same point lol. So you are not alone, it seems, though I hadn’t make that connection at all until you pointed it out.

  14. Tom, I don’t really make that connection myself but someone else pointed it out awhile back. I hear what you’re saying but I don’t think there’s really any confusion here.

  15. Spier and Mackay make a very solid OCBD for the price. Not quite as cheap as some of the options here but they tick pretty much all of the boxes you might want from an Oxford shirt, save for an unlined collar but even that is coming soon in the near future, from what I understand.

    • S&M (ahem) has some great fabrics, including their Oxford. Unfortunately, their most relaxed fit is very similar to BB’s regent, which means their shirts don’t fit well through the waist for those of us who are more generously proportioned. If you try to compensate with a larger neck size, you get the dreaded shoulder seam droop. Someday, I might try their very affordable custom option to find a more forgiving fit.

    • I want to like SM BDs, but they have a “clean back” and I’m enough of a traditionalist to prefer a box pleat.

  16. I’ll advocate for another approach: don’t buy a bunch of starter shirts. Save your pennies and dollars and buy three good, well-made (made in the U.S.A.) shirts. Shirts made (only and specifically) for you. Three. That’s all you need. Three. For a work week. Wash with a little bit of a soap and hang dry. Three–this is all you need. And you won’t regret saving for an extra week or so to buy them.

    With due respect, most of the shirts that have been posted or suggested (here) are not worth the money. These shirts are:

    The 3-for-$333 deal is one of the best I’ve seen.

    https://libertyshirtco.com

    Start with three oxfords. Then save for another couple of months and buy three more, and you’ll have six that’ll last for years upon decades. Made by working folks in the U.S.A.– for you.

    • I hear what you are saying, but (1) for a lot of people saving money isn’t an option at all, (2) for a lot of people $333 would have to first be put elsewhere and you can get 3 shirts for $60. Of course it is desirable to buy three good shirts. But this piece is for people who can’t.

  17. Apropos of nothing, I have three white OCBDs waiting to be picked up at the dry-cleaner. Laundered, pressed, no starch. Typically, I wash and press my own shirts at home, but the white ones look better and stay bright much longer when sent out for laundering.

    Kind Regards,

    H-H

  18. How that I’m older and no longer a resident of FL I purchase alot of my OCBD for use under a Shaggy Dog crew. But in the corporate world always wore Brooks WOCBD heavy starched folded. I liked the fold lines of the shirts appearance.

  19. I prefer O’Connell’s heavy weight oxford BDs, not cheap anymore. Good roll, have eight button front and great tails.
    I also buy Polo oxford BDs on sale for about $50. I know “LOGOS!”. Down side is that the roll isn’t perfect, most of these cheaper shirts have the same failure. Polo hasn’t had a great roll since the 1970s. The other down side is that they are aphetically sized. An XL fits me fine. All that said, no one does the variety of colors in solid and university stripes as Polo does.

  20. I “checked” the Mercer page, and sure enough, not one Tattersall or “graph check” is made of Oxford cloth. I’m guessing that this is because it is impossible to weave a check pattern in OC. So, anyway, I would think that JAB or Van Heusen might have these, too, available at an entry level price point.

  21. Trad in Jersey | September 6, 2022 at 2:55 pm | Reply

    The L.L. Bean OCBD is still an excellent value, even though the price has jumped $10 in the past two years. It’s 100% cotton, no-iron, but does not have that artificial, spray-starched feel. It’s at least as good as shirts costing twice as much. https://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/34442?page=wrinkle-resistant-classic-oxford-cloth-shirt-traditional-fit&bc=12-26-589-504190&feat=504190-GN3&csp=f&gnrefine=1*COLLECT*Oxford&pos=1

  22. Good rundown

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