It should come as a surprise to no one that far too often form trumps function in the fashion world.
Creating something in the “style” a timeless classic is more important than actually creating something that will last long enough to become a classic. “Inspired by” is often a phrase that makes our warning flag go up.
Take the humble but indomitable oxford cloth button down shirt, “OCBD” to the preppy cognoscenti. It is perhaps the quintessential American garment, regardless of the fact that it was in fact brought to America by John E. Brooks, as in Brooks Brothers, in 1896. While taking in a polo match, Brooks was captivated by the non-flapping shirt collars worn by the English polo players. To prevent them from being whipped in the face during full-speed gallops, the riders’ collars were held in place by small buttons.
Brooks took the concept back to the States and created his own version. Thus was born the legendary Brooks Brothers button-down polo collared shirt, perhaps the most famous version of the now iconic garment.
While Brooks’ OCBD is perhaps the emotional standard-bearer of the trad-iest of all Trad garments, it is not necessarily perfect, or for that matter, what it once was. Taking this as a starting point, Dan Castelline, founder of Concord Button Downs set about the task of creating a seriously old-school, like-your-dad-wore OCBD.
Constructed from 100% untreated cotton oxford cloth, these shirts are meant to be passed down father to son and worn into the ground. Founded in Concord, Massachusetts, Castelline sought out local seamstresses to cut and assemble the shirts. While the fabric is imported, all production is not only kept in America, but also kept in New England.
To ensure that each shirt meets specific criteria, a 65-step process covers every detail of construction. By incorporating old-school characteristics found in traditional prep school attire with updated shirting details and silhouettes, Concord Button Downs’ shirts reflect a modern take on this wardrobe staple.
While the overall cut is traditional, extra fabric has been trimmed from the waist and hips, eliminating the typical blousing effect of a full-cut shirt. The result is a trim fit that is neither slim nor skinny, but realistic and comfortable.
Collar points have been slightly lengthened to achieve a more balanced look and the collar itself is constructed without interlining or fusing. This creates a shirt collar that is soft and able to form a natural full roll. Additionally, each collar is attached by hand. Together, these elements allow the collar to be “turned” once it reaches a well-worn and frayed state, should you choose to keep it fresh looking. Now that’s New England sensibility for you.
The distance between the collar button and second button was also increased, which presents a more natural look when not wearing a necktie.
While there is no visible logo up top, the company does make a clever and subtle concession to branding that we happen to like. Their Minuteman emblem is stitched on the bottom of the shirt’s inside placket and is visible only when the shirt is worn un-tucked.
We love these shirts, and while we hope that sizing will eventually expand to neck/sleeve gradations, for us, Medium is just right. They are not inexpensive, but these OCBDs are meant to be a lifelong investment, and when viewed in that light, $128.00 is a deal.
We also want to add that on a personal note, Dan is an impressive young guy. Starting your own business at a young age is one thing, and actually getting a foot into the garment industry is another one all together. But talking on an iconic and frankly interchangeable product like the button down oxford takes some guts.
In our opinion, Concord Button Downs has indeed succeeded in crafting a shirt that you should have in your closet. Actually, you should have several of them in your closet.