Photo by Salt Water New England

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Classic Preppy Shirts: Big and Baggy

A Big and Baggy Broadcloth

Big and baggy shirts do not sell your wares.  People around you won't wonder if you spent the weekend at the gym.  They are not social media friendly.  

But for decades, oxford shirts,  such as Made-in-the US Brooks Brothers, assumed generous cuts and long tails.  Mercer shirts still do, and once they even had a reference to baggy on their label.  Cordings tattersall shirts are cut for a day in the field.

Big and baggy shirts allow action.  They breathe.   You don't have to worry about them, or yourself in them.  You are not looking to change out of them as soon as you are alone.   Big and baggy shirts are also at odds with two decades of advertising by many retail corporations trying to increase the margins of their outsourced garments. 

Today, these classic preppy shirts show you are neither competing with, nor begging for the approval of, strangers.  Nor awaiting the return of Disco.  

And of course, if you are really fit, it always shows through.

Photo credits:  Muffy Aldrich

22 comments:

  1. I agree, even with trousers. Because of my waist size (29 inches) 30 is baggy, 29 is just about perfect, but the pockets are tight etc. So I often wear 30 inch even though it's baggier with a nice belt as I don't feel vacuum formed.

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  2. As some of my older Mercer shirts say, "Baggier Better!"

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  3. And they pair so beautifully with sack jackets and suits!

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  4. Definitely one for the "De gustibus non est disputandum" pile.

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  5. I went in for the slim fits for a time. For me it was about an aversion to the blocky, ill-fitting, two-sizes-too-big suits and pants that were prevalent in the '90s and early '00s. I'm on the slender side and often found myself swimming in clothes that were allegedly my size. But the slim fits really got out of hand, didn't they? At this stage, the fashion pendulum has (mercifully) swung away from all that, and slim has become a rather dated look. In more recent years I've found a happy medium that actually fits without parachuting or binding. It's the classic American stuff, Brooks (sometimes) or J. Press and the like, along with at least a couple of makers featured on this site.

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  6. You can sell the younger folks anything if you use "performance" or "active" or some such term in the description--even though today's young adults and teens probably are the most sedentary in our history. Spandex--which ruins breathability--is supposed to help them move freely, which wouldn't be a problem if the garments weren't so tight. Polyester is there to make care easy. So now we have all these tight polyester clothes in order that the youngsters might experience the mistakes of the '70s while thinking they've done something dramatically new.

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    1. My sentiments exactly. Another downside to all the polyester is that it sloughs off micro plastics every time it's washed. For truly athletic pursuits, there's a reason those clothes are made with those materials, but for anything else, it does more harm than good -- both to personal style and to the environment.

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    2. I've found some of the synthetics useful for athletic activity, as you say, but once I'm no longer moving around, they don't wick away moisture very well and just cause B.O. No wonder there's so much impotence among the young, and a declining birth rate.

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  7. Yes please! Anyone want to share links to their favorite big and baggie shirts?

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  8. Big and baggy shirts are shirts to work in. When you sit at the desk, there is enough fabric that the buttons don't pull against the button holes. The tails are long enough that you can stretch to answer the phone, get a file from the credenza behind you, get up and down multiple times as you go to and from your desk, and the shirt remains tucked in your pants.

    You can wear a big and baggy shirt from the 4:30 AM limo to the airport to catch the 6 AM flight, through the two hour weather delay wait in the airline lounge, the car to the meetings at the other end, the mid-day flight to the second city, the dinner there with the locals you will be with the next day, and to the 10 PM check-in at the hotel, and it is still tucked in and looks presentable. But more than that, you have lived in it for 18 hours without giving it a moment's thought. Big and baggy shirts just work.

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  9. Sensible shirts

    Minimalist Trad

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  10. Bigger + Baggier = Better

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  11. Oh dear! Next thing someone will be writing about Oxford bags.

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  12. Amen. Thank you for making both the lifestyle feeding style (as opposed to the abhorrent reverse) point and for the sunlight on financial considerations driving the decisions of all the rest. I would only add - for men - do you really want to spend your adult life looking like Mom forgot to keep your shirt supply at pace with your growth spurts?

    When can we talk about suitable punishments for the crime of not having a chest pocket on an oxford?

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  13. I'm well past my Ralph period, but Ralph Lauren made The Big Oxford and The Big Polo during the 90s. Perhaps they still do.

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    1. I have six Ralph shirts from 90s which are now my “stay” at home, property management shirts of choice. My teenagers call them the Polo Tent Shirt! I love them, not one has a hole, missing button, or shrinkage. Just great shirts made for the long haul.

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  14. A proven winner to be sure! Classic in every respect! Thank you!

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  15. I tend to favor J Press oxfords, but one has to admit that among traditional oxfords, their fit has always been more of a "slim baggy." Even the Mercer measuring guide suggests to drop a size if you prefer their fit. Hold the tomatoes though - it's still a full-cut shirt by current standards with a generous tail!

    The Brooks Brothers Madison and Traditional fits also still hold. I tried a "Regent" fit a couple years ago out of curiosity, and can only wear it untucked. Absolutely no tail whatsoever. You're out of luck if you do so much as reach across the desk for a stapler. I can't wait for it to wear out (of course, Yankee thrift means I'm still going to get my money out of it first).

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    1. Much of J. Press's stuff, even the "classic fit," is cut a bit on the slim side. Their trousers are less generous in the seat and more tapered than, say, what you might find from Hertling or from Ben Silver. Their Shaggy Dog sweaters are quite close-fitting in the torso and in the arms. Their oxfords, as you say, have never been as full-cut as Brooks's back in the day or Mercer's today. While I love J. Press, I do have to be selective about what I buy there (the sport coats are perfection).

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    2. Frederick J JohnsonJanuary 3, 2022 at 11:34 AM

      While I find the JP shirts baggy enough I find the cuffs much too tight. For their trousers I find I have to size up and, sometimes, take in the waist to get my preferred fit.

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  16. GAP made oversized oxford cloth button-down shirts back in the late '90s called The Big Oxford. Most mall brands such as J.Crew and Uniqlo are mostly slim or fitted, but trad brands such as Brooks Brothers, J.Press and Mercer have a much larger selection of baggier options of shirts.

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