Perhaps one of the largest changes I’ve made over the past year is moving back to cotton-based Oxford cloth button down shirts. The tried and true classic, and the end result of this has been a vastly simpler and less maintenance heavy wardrobe. In order to get a shirt I liked, I turned to Proper Cloth. They’ve previously sent me a free made-to-measure shirt, but this time around I spent my own money on their shirts.
I love these shirts…
One of the key benefits of Proper Cloth from the materials perspective is that there is a lot of choice for what type of material you want your shirts to be made from. I was looking for a tried and true cotton Oxford cloth, and I narrowed it down to their ‘Natural White Oxford Cloth’ and ‘American Pima’ line of fabrics.
Both are standard weight cotton oxford, but they are not equals. The ‘Natural White Oxford Cloth’ is not a great fabric. It creases hard after being washed, and wears with a rigid stiffness. It’s decidedly not something I can recommend.
Luckily the ‘American Pima’ line of Oxford cloth has proven to be fantastic as I now have five shirts from them with this fabric. It has a great hand feel, a nice soft drape, and doesn’t hold creases out of the washer. All and all, it’s the easy to care for fabric I was hoping for. Even with more than six months of wear on these shirts, they look new as ever.
Fit & Style
The style here is classic American, Oxford shirt. Being here in the USA, it essentially works for anything. It’s oddly versatile.
The fit is also perfect, and it has to be since this is a custom cut shirt. It had been over 3 years since I ordered my last custom shirt from Proper Cloth, so rather than roll the dice (they do offer free returns/alterations), I had my wife use a fabric tape measure to take all my measurements again. From there I adjusted a few things I knew I liked a little non-standard: I am sensitive to my sleeve length so I added a little more; and I like my watch cuff to be looser, an option they provide when making the shirt.
Once that I was set I was off to the races. I was lucky that I nailed the measurements the first time, and thus didn’t have to redo any shirts. Proper Cloth takes into account the fabric you chose, and will adjust the measurements per shirt to account for how the fabric will shrink when washed. Most of the time this is single-digit percent increases in areas. Thus, if the shirt is a little big when you put it on, that might be why, a wash or two will bring it in line with what you wanted.
This system has essentially ruined off the rack shirting for me. They fit so nice, and I don’t get any discomfort from that one area I feel fits me poorly.
This is a mid-weight to heavy-weight cotton button down shirt. The performance is really on par with any other shirt like this. Instead I want to comment on a few areas (mostly as someone coming from fully merino button downs):
- On average, I feel more comfortable wearing these cotton shirts than I did the merino.
- When you notice a big difference, it’s at the extremes. The shirt got wet, and is slow to dry. It’s insanely hot, and it’s not breathing quite as well. It’s slow to dry when hanging out of the wash.
- The wrinkle resistance really is on par with most of the merino button downs, with the main difference being that a merino button down will drop wrinkles as you wear the shirt over time, and cotton is less prone to do that.
- Without an undershirt, I average about 1.5 wears before I need to wash these. With an undershirt I can get 3-4 wears.
- I am perfectly happy to wear one of these all day long — and by happy I mean comfortable. I can kick back on the couch in this shirt without issue. With merino, I always felt like I wanted to change when I got home.
- You cannot get this cotton look, the heavy matte texture of an Oxford, from merino. You simply can’t, merino will always look a little more ‘poplin’.
I was certain I would be unhappy making this change. I was wrong.
The American Pima shirts I’ve gotten from Proper Cloth are by far my favorite button downs I’ve owned. They look good, fit great, and are very comfortable to wear.
I highly recommend the ‘Frost’, and ‘Light Blue University Stripe’ from the American Pima line — they are excellent and versatile shirting options to have on hand.