This past week I found this very rare yellow university stripe "The Big Oxford" from Polo Ralph Lauren. The Big Oxford was a shirt that Polo Ralph Lauren released in the 1990s (I believe 1991 was the first appearance). Watch any film from the 1990s and you will see that men's classic clothing was not tight fitting and undersized like we see today. Everything was more full fitting. In many ways the 1990s was almost like the 1920s or 1930s in a strange way.
The Big Oxford from Polo Ralph Lauren is a manifestation of this same approach / energy. Look at this ad. We have these big pleats on pants that are clearly full fitting. A long belt end hanging down and a big beautiful OCBD.
It wasn't just The Big Oxford that Polo Ralph Lauren released. They also released The Big Dress Shirt. Look at that massive fit! Power! Look at the small, understated watch on his wrist, the tie tucked in to his pants. This shot is totally 1920s, 1930s but in color.
They also released The Polo Big Shirt. I have actually never seen one of these in real life. Also here we have the same approach / essence. A very large, full fitting shirt, this time in a Polo (tennis) shirt, and on a woman.
The essence of this full fitting, "Big-ness" is a sort of semi-extreme caricature of the 1990s re-channelling of early 20th century large "building up of the man" into a visual manifestation of power. This also is representative of the essence of the time. In clothing things shrink and grow, go one way then the other. They don't do so in a vacuum, it is all connected in a sort of cycle, representing a spirit of the time. What does the current mode du jour say about the spirit of our time? I will let you answer that.
Setting aside the philosophical and/or esoteric ideas and getting to the actual shirt - someone may say "Well what is the deal, how is this any different than just buying a shirt 2 sizes too big?" What changes in The Big Oxford, which then distinguishes itself from a shirt a few sizes too big is the size of the chest, waist and yoke. Additionally, pocket is also enlarged. This pocket is just under 5.5 x 5.75 inches.
This enlargement of the chest and waist result in an ultra roomy fit. The enlargement of the yoke results in a lowering of the seam where the sleeves appear to begin. The sleeve is adjusted though so that the length still corresponds to the appropriate S, M, L, XL size. This gives an oversized look without the sleeves being too long. This Big Oxford is a very hard shirt to find these days. I found a blue university stripe in my size a few years back and haven't found another one since. To find a yellow university stripe (!) in The Big Oxford is unreal. It is perfect condition as well. I doubt I will ever see one again.
Why do I love this shirt? Part of it is 1990s nostalgia. I grew up in the 1990s yet apart from that, in a way it was the last decade of many things, yet also at the "end of history". A strange time, yet something beautiful about it as well. When do I wear this shirt? I don't wear this shirt on weekdays. I generally don't wear it with a tie or with a coat. This is a weekend shit for me. This is a shirt I wear untucked with jeans and camp mocs.
This is a shirt to throw on, left open, as the sun is setting and temperature dipping, after a long day at the beach. It is a shirt to wear when you are working from home on Sunday afternoon. Untucked with chinos or jeans and loafers. The Big Oxford is a rare piece of 1990s nostalgia, one that allows you to casually travel back in time, to a strange, yet oddly beautiful time.