Wythe Not? Another Perfect Oxford

Ivy style has had something of a moment lately, and no Ivy moment could be complete without yet another online brand vying to recreate the OCBDs of old. On July 28th a new venture calling itself Wythe New York launched a Kickstarter campaign titled “The ‘Perfect’ Oxford Shirt,” hoping to raise $10,000 by August 25th. By August 5th the campaign had raised over $12,000.

Its Kickstarter page turns up a few paragraphs likely to elicit an “amen” from Tradsville church pews:

Here’s a little history lesson. In the 1950’s the oxford cloth button down shirt always had a large, unlined collar that was buttoned to both sides of the collar. This special unlined, unglued construction allowed the shirt collar to hold its own presence, and frame the face and body in a way that was elegant but didn’t give a damn.

Today, the collars are smaller, stiffer, flat, and bleh. They lost the “roll” that made them so special in the first place. Even the actual fabric became more uniform and flat. It lost the texture and slub that made an older oxford shirt so comfortable and soft.

Elsewhere in the post, campaign creator Peter (no last name given) claims to have brought his stash of 70-year-old oxfords to a Portuguese factory to see if they could replicate its fabric and unlined collar while updating the shirt to a slimmer fit. The factory then developed a softening and washing process to give the shirts a broken-in feel. The post notes that the shirts, which are alpha-sized from S-XXL, will eventually retail for $150. Current pledge options make the shirt available for $100 as single orders or in batches of three to five shirts, with colors limited to blue, white, and a blue-and-white stripe.

To get a closer look under Wythe’s hood I exchanged emails with Chase Winfrey, who some readers may recognize as The Popinjay on Tumblr or from his time working at the Drake’s store in Manhattan. Winfrey has recently departed Drake’s, and is now conducting marketing and outreach for Wythe. I first asked Winfrey what makes Wythe’s product different from the unlined button downs Brooks Brothers reintroduced in 2016 “We obviously saw a need for something a little different,” he said. “A lot of the reason why we still weren’t happy with the current OCBDs in the market was [that] the fabric didn’t have the same amount of character. It was flat, rough, and boring. We developed an oxford cloth to mimic the slight texture, unevenness, and slub of the golden era oxford cloths. We added a locker loop AND kept the pocket, ditched the generic twin needle topstich and insisted on a traditional single needle top stitched side seam. If one were to compare the new iteration of the Brooks oxford next to our Wythe oxford, I believe ours still comes out far ahead. A slight curve that is still missing on the newer Brooks Brothers shirts results in a superior roll of the collar.”

Winfrey also supplied some more specifics on weight and measurement. According to Winfrey, the length of each collar point will be 3 3/8”, and the fabric sourced is 5 ounces per yard (“chosen to feel closer to an oxford that has been washed for 50 years than a beefy and stiff new oxford shirt,” he added).

Lastly, I asked Winfrey what distinguishes Wythe from Mercer and Michael Spencer, considering that the latter brands offer an MTO product at a similar price point. “While Mercer and Michael Spencer are great products and we greatly respect what they do,” he said, “we saw a great opportunity to create something we loved. We’ve worked with the shirting mill to develop the cloth, color, and washing to be exactly what we were looking for. Our eventual goal is to wholesale out shirts and retail for about $150, which is competitive pricing within the space, especially considering that neither Michael Spencer or Mercer would ever be able to wholesale their product. Wider availability in the market means our customers will have easier access to our products.”

What Winfrey makes clear is that the Wythe shirt is meant to be accessible. “At the end of the day, the Wythe oxford is about simplicity. It’s not about sending in your measurements, sifting through twenty different MTO options, crossing your fingers that the shirt works out, and waiting weeks for it to arrive. We’ve designed a classic looking shirt that looks and feels great right out of the box.”

Perfecting the oxford shirt is just the opening bid; Wythe aspires to be a full-fledged clothing brand. Winfrey states that the focus will be more “traditional Americana” with ‘50s and ‘60s inspiration than pure ivy, but teases that cotton sweaters, tweed jackets and saddle-shoulder Shetlands may lie in its future. Wythe estimates that its first orders will be delivered in December. As to whether or not the OCBD has been perfected, we’ll have to wait a few months and see. — ERIC TWARDZIK

34 Comments on "Wythe Not? Another Perfect Oxford"

  1. Dutch Uncle | August 11, 2019 at 1:53 pm |

    Some people haven’t heard of a steam iron and spray starch.
    I wouldn’t be caught dead in a wrinkled, un-ironed shirt.

  2. Michael Brady | August 11, 2019 at 2:26 pm |

    Yes, but it’s a $150 wrinkled, un-ironed shirt.

  3. Alpha sizing is the killer. I’m a 15 1/5 36. I do wish them luck though.

    Will

  4. Agreed, it was passable, even appropriate or hip in prep school to wear such a shirt in public, but not in a man of the age shown.

  5. $150 for one shirt is steep. One can buy a decent Oxford cloth button down shirt online for $12. The perfect is the enemy of the good as they say.

  6. Trevor Jones | August 11, 2019 at 5:44 pm |

    While I agree that $150 is steep, for the type of OCBD a real Ivy enthusiast requires, that’s standard going. Of course, the alpha sizing isn’t ideal either, but then, neither is waiting for eight weeks for a shirt of your exact specs. I think there’s more good than bad here, and I’m surprised Ivy Style readers aren’t more supportive of young people trying to look good the right way. Also, just to address a former comment, wrinkling is key feature of actual Ivy clothes. Clothes are designed to, yes, look good, but also be lived in. That’s one of the main differences between Ivy and some other menswear branches, the ease and casualness of it all. As talked about countless times on this here website, rumpled=Ivy.

  7. Old School Tie | August 11, 2019 at 6:32 pm |

    I detect no or very little “roll” in any of those pictures. 150 bucks is indeed steep. How slim is slim? RL classic fit is slim, custom is waisted like a woman’s blouse and slim fit is for someone with the physique of a weasel, so when I hear “slim” being uttered it causes a cremasteric reflex-like reaction….

  8. john carlos | August 11, 2019 at 7:09 pm |

    Old School Tie, I agree. They lose me with “slim fit”. I also agree that a few wrinkles are good. I send my OCBD’s to the laundry but no starch. For my money, you can’t beat the unlined, unfused OCBD’s from O’Connell’s.

  9. $150 for any shirt with alpha sizing is ridiculous. Preferable to Mercer because one doesn’t have to “sift through” all those pesky options? Come on.

  10. Madison Bailey | August 11, 2019 at 10:44 pm |

    @Trevor Jones:
    Wrinkles, along with an uncombed and unshaven model, Alpha sizing, and slim fits!

  11. Randolph Sorrell | August 11, 2019 at 11:16 pm |

    Wythe $150? I doubt it.

  12. James G. Dalessandro | August 11, 2019 at 11:48 pm |

    Two things wrong. One, I wouldn’t give you 2cents for a shirt that is priced at $150 and has a sport shirt size scale(another gimmick to save on inventory). Second, trim fit, slim fit, saran wrap clothing. Has anyone read Alan Flusser? Clothing should DRAPE. Cary Grant in North By Northwest in oxford button down, grey flannels and loafers looks better today than any Pee Wee Herman clothing out there.

  13. Followers of this blog are well aware that the real thing is still available from numerous sources in proper fits and proper sizes

  14. Ezra Cornell | August 12, 2019 at 4:15 am |

    To all the perpetual whiners:
    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

  15. @EzraCornell
    Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t talking about makers of
    Alpha-sized, slim-fit shirts.

  16. Ezra Cornell | August 12, 2019 at 8:18 am |

    @ Old Trad
    Really?! Gee whiz! Thanks for telling me, Prof. That just changes everything! And here I always thought Roosevelt was talking about shirts. If it weren’t for this site I don’t know where I’d be.

  17. I finally tried the Michael Spencer OCBDs (white, blue, blue stripe). They are superb. If you buy them during the annual sale, it’s safe to suppose you won’t find a better (custom) OCBD for the money anywhere. I remain clueless about the source of their cloth, but it calls to mind the Japanese selvedge I’ve seen (felt) elsewhere. A+. I made a few special requests. They obliged–happily. They arrived less than a month after I placed the order. And there’s this: USA-made.

    Sadly any shirtmaker that attempts S-M-L-XL sizing will fall way short in a market that’s now populated by the likes of Mercer, Ratio, and Michael Spencer.

    Good luck as always to people with an idea, inspiration, and work ethic.

  18. Trevor Jones | August 12, 2019 at 9:50 am |

    @VEA, interesting. When there was a pic of me in an all-cotton LL Bean OCBD in a piece I did for this site, you called it a “non-iron, potato sack of an oxford”. So, which is it? There are other, better, cheaper options for OCBDs on the market and these guys should immediately fail because they’re friends with Fred; or, per usual, you are looking for a reason to judge people 1) trying to look good (albeit maybe not up to whatever imaginary standards you have set), and 2) connected to FE? Honestly not sure how you just come out of the dark on random posts and needlessly interject him, but it’s not cool and you need to stop. I don’t even know the guy but, if I were him, I’m sure I’d be very creeped out.

  19. Personally, I prefer the slightly rumpled look in OCBD shirts. I do iron the collar and cuffs if needed and the placket as well but only if they got a bit messed up in the wash.

    As to this new venture, I don’t see it ending well for them as there are so many other choices. And slim fits? That ain’t tradition.

    Fortunately, I have enough of the old lousy BB shirts (the previous generation with pockets and interlinings) in my correct size to last the rest of my life. Most were bought on BB’s 2-3 times a year sales for $50ish each. I also have some of their more recent seersucker and linen shirts which are terrific and purchased for similar pricing. I even have a few of the new BB OCBD shirts that BB was nice enough to send me if they were out of a color or size of my preferred previous generation shirts. They’re nice but I do like the earlier shirts better and I really need the pocket.

    I know there are better shirts out there but I’m simply not spending over $100 for a shirt to wear around Idaho!

  20. Tad Carlton | August 12, 2019 at 12:07 pm |

    I buy LL Bean OCBDs on sale, sacrifice one shirt, and take it to a local alterations tailor. He makes proper collars to replace LLB’s unsatisfactory collars. In the end, I wind up paying far less per shirt than I would if I bought an OCBD elsewhere.

  21. Tad Carlton – The idea of having new collars made by a local shop is fascinating. Was your tailor able to make a satisfactory pattern? How much do they charge, if I may ask? I bought some Bean shirts many years ago, but the collar was just far to short (back and front).
    Thanks.

  22. MacMcConnell | August 12, 2019 at 1:50 pm |

    I old enough to remember when only BD shirts sized S-M-L-XL were short sleeved sport shirts.

  23. NaturalShoulder | August 12, 2019 at 9:26 pm |

    I wish them well but the alpa sizing will never work for me. The price point seems high when I can get a shirt sized to my specifications from Ratio at $98. I think I will stick with Ratio and Mercer, although S.E.’s enthusiastic endorsement of Michael Spencer may give my reason to try them.

  24. Joel Vaughan | August 12, 2019 at 9:56 pm |

    Tad Carlton. Good idea, but seems you are working it too hard. Plus, LL Bean shirts are still treated with the non iron substance. Go to Michael Spencer in July and spend much less per shirt. Or get the new customer discount at Mercer. You won’t be sorry

  25. Just to play devils advocate I have to say that the Giant Yale Co-Op shirts from a few years ago were pretty good despite being Alpha sized.

    That being said, the ideal shirt for me would probably be what Mercer is offering at the price of $100 or two for $199. Anyone who thinks they should be any less clearly has no understanding of 2019 retail economics. Plus, I don’t believe there is any point of the year when the $140 BB versions aren’t at least ‘buy 3 get 25% off’ ($105 each).

  26. *GANT*

  27. Traditionalocbd | August 13, 2019 at 2:33 pm |

    Authentic OCBD’s aren’t artificially softened like these Wythe shirts. That process happens over time. No time-saving shortcuts wanted or needed. Mercer shirts have the real deal 6 oz cloth, not 5 oz like these Wythe shirts. $150 is a ridiculous price for alpha-sized shirts.

  28. 150 dollars actually seems pretty comparable to most oxford shirts on the market. It comes out a little cheaper than the options I’ve been buying.
    Sure they’re alpha-sized but it looks like it corresponds to a typical neck sizes so who cares? I’ll buy one to support these young gentleman’s entrepreneurial spirit.

  29. Wes Castleberry! (The best description of him to date)

    Also, Chase & Co. has a snowballs chance in hell at making it a go.

  30. @ATC they met their Kickstarter goal within the first few days, and are are now exceeding it by several thousand dollars with 12 days to go. I can’t speak to the melt-rate of any future snowballs, but Wythe is looking quite frosty.

  31. -Eric,

    I hardly think pre-selling a hundred shirts is success. Also, when it comes time to floor plan 10-15 + colors, in all sizes and have inventory in stock, and working capital to store, market, and have a balance sheet that can survive the inevitable crises. Let’s just say I know where I’m putting my money.

  32. Caustic_Man | August 15, 2019 at 12:36 pm |

    @Ezra, RE: Roosevelt,

    Here here! I’m all for seeing new entrepreneurs tackling consumer clothing with an Ivy inspiration. Critique is one thing, especially when it comes from potential customers. But criticism for no other reason than to say “You shouldn’t have tried” is pointless. Good luck Chase, Peter, and Wythe New York.

  33. Of course it is cool for a shirt to have wrinkles, but it should not be advertised as such. That sucks the cool out of it. Wearing something dressy in an informal way is what gives the OCBD it’s character. If it is advertised as already being informal, that ruins it.

    Pretreated is bad, character has to happen over time, not instantly. More cool-sucking with that choice.

    Locker loop is good.

    Agree that I would never order from Mercer et al because of 100 different choices, its a shirt for God’s sakes, but alpha sizing is the opposite extreme and does not work for a lot of guys. Seems to me there are quite a few good OCBD’s in neck/sleeve sizing at a lower price.

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