Oxford & Poplin:
What's The Difference, And Why You Need Them
Cotton Poplin, Oxford Cotton - some of us might know what these shirting cloths are, and most have heard of them, but a question we often hear is "What's the difference?"
In this piece, we’ll answer exactly that and provide some guidance on when it’s best to inject each shirting fabric into your wardrobe rotation.
What are they?
A poplin weave is made from fine cotton strands intersecting in a plain weave (pictured above). This is similar to the Oxford weave, except only one type of yarn is used, with strands singularly weaved to form a tighter and flatter cloth that is lightweight, yet strong - which make it a great shirting solution for high-temperature weather. The tight structure of a Poplin cloth creates a smooth finish that is naturally more wrinkle-resistant than other weaves.
An oxford weave consists of what's called a basket weave, where two strands of different thickness (and sometimes, colour), intersect each other in a plain weave. This is the same weave as a poplin shirt, but the varying thickness of yarn is what gives the Oxford weave it's bumpier texture and thick hand-feel. This cloth structure is what gives these shirts their warmth, making them great candidates for the chillier months.
When you should wear them
A simple change in weather or occasion can spell the need for a change in shirt cloth, or at the very least, how you wear them. And as we head to the warmer months, lighter fabrics (in our case poplin), present a strong case to feature heavily in your wardrobe - but don’t throw out the Oxford Shirt just yet, as it’s slightly more laid back vibe lends itself to pairing with shorts all summer long.
Cotton Poplin Shirt
Being a lighter fabric, our Cotton Poplin Shirt naturally leans in favour of warmer weather. These shirts iron up nicely, drape well, and are great for Smart/Smart-Casual occasions. Simply throw on some Classic Chinos, an unstructured blazer (and tie if necessary), or layer a Cotton Silk Crew over the top to add some warmth for those brisk mornings.
Oxford Shirts are slightly heavier and can be worn by themselves, or layered over a tee. With a heavier weight comes a bit more warmth, making the Oxford Shirt a toasty layer throughout the colder months. The Oxford Shirt is more casual than its Poplin brother, meaning you’ll be able to get some weekend wear out of it as well, and can chuck it on over some shorts for that Sunday BBQ.
Where do they come from?
Image: Avignon & Paris
Poplin originated from the Avignon, a Papal town in France in the 1700's. Originally this consisted of cotton and silk weaved together to create a fabric that merged the best properties of those fabrics. Over time, the silk component was phased out and the Cotton Poplin weave became well-known for its durable, yet light properties and was used as a staple fabric from military uniforms, through to upholstery.
Drawing: Polo booklet for varsity match Oxford Cambridge 1877
Invented in a Scottish weaving mill in the 1800's, Oxford weaves quickly became popular amongst the polo players of elite university students for its breathability and rigidity. Students would wear their shirts casually after games, which became the style of the moment and caused the surge in uptake, making the Oxford Shirt what it is today.
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