Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA
It’s a timeless staple that’s in every man’s wardrobe, but it’s not always remembered when putting an outfit together. Find out how to wear a white Oxford shirt to fit every occasion and style.
The white Oxford shirt is a staple that can be worn to suit pretty much any style, from casual to formal, and is one of the few pieces that suits everyone. The problem is that it tends to be associated with bland office wear, and people shy away from wearing it more casually, or experimenting with the way it can be worn in a smart setting. We’re here to change that though, and show you various ways in which you can make this versatile shirt your own.
How it Should Fit
First things first. Before you wear it with anything, in any style, you need to make sure that your shirt fits you perfectly. The good thing about a shirt is that you can often tell if it fits properly by using the seam lines as guidelines, and everything can be worked out by how it looks when it’s on you. Here are some basic rules to follow.
- The shoulder seam should run along the top of your shoulder and not fall too far forward, and it should end at your shoulder bone. If goes past your shoulder bone then it’s too long, too far above it and it’s too short.
- Your sleeves should end just past your wrist.
- When your shirt is buttoned up you should be able to fit two fingers between your neck and the collar. Any more and it’ll expose too much of a gap, and any less and you’ll probably be having trouble breathing.
How to Wear a White Shirt Casually
Despite the somewhat strict rules on how to keep your shirt looking its best, you can actually wear it in a less rigid and restricting way, and it’s perfect for all kinds of weather due to it’s versatility. Wear it buttoned up for a sleeker, alternative edge, or undone for a more laid back look.
You can also achieve different looks depending on how you roll up the sleeves, whether you use the casual sleeve roll, the master sleeve roll, or the basic sleeve roll. Learn how to achieve all three in our simple guide here.
How to Wear a White Shirt in an Alternative Way
Now a classic white Oxford shirt may seem like the definition of simplicity, but there are easy ways to add an alternative twist to it with accessories, jackets and trousers. One look that’s simple to achieve and will give your look a understated edge is to pair your shirt with a sleek leather jacket, keeping your shirt buttoned up to give your outfit an interesting balance between formal and casual.
Then it’s as simple as throwing on a pair of black skinnies and adding a few silver accessories to bring the look together. For footwear pair leather chelsea boots with your outfit to edge towards an alternative look, or go grungier with some thick lace up boots.
How to Wear a Preppy White Shirt
The preppy look isn’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to try it out then you’ll find a million ways to use your trusty white shirt. Even in a casual look, a crisp white Oxford shirt is made for the preppy style. In a summer situation you can go full on holiday mode with a pair of tailored shorts, some trusty loafers or boat shoes and your white shirt.
You can either go for the traditional long sleeved design, or try out the short sleeved look. Although the latter isn’t recommended for suits and ties, it’s perfect to combine with more casual shorts to achieve a relaxed, summery feel. Try adding in a neat, striped watch for a nautical twist, and you’ll have a perfect outfit for those sunny days.
For colder months swap your shorts for sturdier chinos, and replace your loafers with some neat lace up brogues. It’s a classic combination, and will add some instant preppy class. To keep the look casual, add a pair of sunglasses, and throw on a sand coloured Harrington jacket to keep the outfit light and breezy. With your shirt don’t be afraid to choose designs with a little extra detail, like a embodied embellishment on the breast. It will help give a less crisp appearance and lean your outfit towards a more casual style.
How to Wear a Sporty White Shirt
A white Oxford shirt in a sporty look? Doesn’t sound that realistic, and although we’re not suggesting you do your work out routine in this get up, you can gain a sporty edge depending on how you dress down your humble shirt. You can go for the modern sports look and pair your shirt with some fitted black joggers, keeping the look balanced with some sleeker footwear, like black plimsolls. This is a good outfit for when you want to keep your look focused on casual, but with the slightest edge of formality mixed in.
If you’re recoiling in horror at that choice then fear not – joggers aren’t for everyone, and there’s a less bold way you can achieve a sporty edge. For a more classic take on the sports look try tucking your white shirt into a pair of light blue jeans (cuffing the legs if you want an even more relaxed look) and throwing over a traditional varsity jacket. You can either lean towards the casual style and choose some lace up trainers for your footwear, or give a hint of sophistication with some dark coloured brogues.
How to wear a Smart White Shirt
So saying that an Oxford shirt is ideal for smart events is like saying trousers are good if you want to cover your legs – it’s a pretty obvious statement and isn’t up for much debate. Still, you’ll probably agree that there are various different styles of ‘smart’, and depending on your preference you might want to try out some different looks.
The traditional look that’s been tried and tested, and has come out stronger than ever. You really can’t go wrong with suit and tie combination with a white Oxford shirt, especially if you follow all the rules on fit and care. The best colour combination is the classic black or navy suit, but you can also try out various shades of grey if you fancy something different – a white shirt will go with any tone you go for.
Finish off the look with a tie or bow tie, and some patent leather shoes for a textural contrast. For all the advice on how to wear a suit to perfection check out our intensive guide for everything you need to know here.
Again, the preppy style hands itself to a smart outfit, and it’s easy to achieve a neat yet stylised look that has a clean, light vibe. This is great if you’re wanting to go for a formal look, but don’t want something as heavy and restricting as a full suit.
The good thing about a preppy look is that colour is an important factor in the style, so you don’t have to stick to neutral greys and blacks. Go bold with stripes, colours and more eccentric accessories like a standout bow tie. Finish off with some suede loafers for a formal look with a twist of preppy goodness.
A modern look paired with a vintage twist is a great way to add some interest to a formal outfit. Adding less common details to your shirt and tie combination, such as a tweed waistcoat or braces, can elevate your outfit to a bolder and more alternative look.
You can go for a smart casual mix with a pair of raw denim jeans, matched with some braces and a bow tie. Slip on a pair of brogue boots and you’ve got a formal look that has a hint of vintage style. You can also try a more formal look by pairing a slim fit blazer with a waistcoat, not forgetting the bow tie to keep it away from rigid formality.
Keep it Sharp
So you know how your shirt should fit, but that’s not going to save your outfit if you haven’t properly cared for your white shirt. This classic piece has its many advantages, but like with most good things, it needs to be looked after, and it take a little while to learn all the tricks of the trade.
Some simple ways to make sure your shirt always looks its best is to make sure you’re washing it with other white clothes. This will prevent colour running, and ensure your whites stay looking fresh. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice into your wash to help brighten the whites, or add some specialised detergents specifically for white clothes.
For the shape, make sure that you’re ironing your shirts properly. There is a knack to it, and it’s easy to iron more creases into your clothes if not done properly. If you’re seriously lazy then you can always get your shirts dry cleaned, but we wouldn’t recommend wasting the money when you can do it at home.
How to Wear a White Oxford Shirt
- Always a classic mainstay in every man’s wardrobe.
- Teamed with jeans for a more downplayed look, or with trousers for something more formal.
- Pair with loafers or brogues to heighten a formal look or with trainers to add to a casual outfit.
- Make sure you always get the fit correct, as there’s nothing worse than an ill-fitting shirt.
On That Note
All in all the white Oxford shirt is a staple that can fit into so many different styles and situations. Go super formal, super casual, or somewhere in between, with ease. There’s very few combinations that won’t work, and it’s easy to experiment with different looks. Don’t just keep your white shirts for the office, go out and make them part of your everyday wear.