OCBD, with or without breast pocket?

utoisa

Starting Member
I understand that it is a matter of personal preference.

But I heard BD collar shirt came from polo players’ uniform.
From its origin, BD shirt should not have breast pocket.

I wonder good old days of Brooks Brothers had a pocket?
 

Harris

Elite Member
The original Brooks OCBD did not have a patch chest pocket. Which worked fine back in the days when most Brooks customers wore vested suits.
 

Rocker

Senior Member
Has anyone ever actually seen a photograph of a polo player wearing a button-down shirt around the time Brooks was supposed to have "discovered" this style. This story has always struck me as the biggest bunch of bunk - kind of like the "Urban Sombrero" story from Seinfeld.

Give 'em a good story and they'll buy the product. "I'll have you know Jones that this new fangled button down collar is not an affectation; I have it on very good authority the British polo players wear them to keep their collars from flying in their face - in fact, I've heard it said that it is the preferred style of polo shirt for the House of Saxe Coburg Gotha....."
 

boatshoes

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
If it comes with it (ie BB OCBD), I'll take it. If I have a choice, no.

If it has a pony on the pocket, it will soon be without a pocket.
 

A.Squire

Honors Member
boatshoes said:
If it comes with it (ie BB OCBD), I'll take it. If I have a choice, no.

If it has a pony on the pocket, it will soon be without a pocket.



Yea, what if it comes with a pony but no pocket? (wink)

Allen
 

dpihl

Super Member
J. Peterman Rides Again

Rocker said:
Has anyone ever actually seen a photograph of a polo player wearing a button-down shirt around the time Brooks was supposed to have "discovered" this style. This story has always struck me as the biggest bunch of bunk - kind of like the "Urban Sombrero" story from Seinfeld.

Give 'em a good story and they'll buy the product. "I'll have you know Jones that this new fangled button down collar is not an affectation; I have it on very good authority the British polo players wear them to keep their collars from flying in their face - in fact, I've heard it said that it is the preferred style of polo shirt for the House of Saxe Coburg Gotha....."
If you've been reading BB's ad copy as long as I have, you'll notice that the button-down story changes slightly with each retelling.

I suspect the older versions are closer to the truth.

John Brooks went to England on a buying trip sometime in the 1890's. He attended a polo match, and met one of the players later (presumably off the field). This player (in the older version) had pinned his collar to his shirt, and Brooks asked him what that was all about. The player explained that he had missed a crucial shot because his collar caught a gust of wind, and it flapped into his face at the wrong moment.

Later iterations of the story suggest that the polo player's wife had sewn buttons on his collar. Given the time period, this might also make sense. After all, I don't think the safety pin had been invented yet, or at least it wasn't commonplace, and a straight pin would have been useless at holding a collar in place.

I once read the diary of a woman who grew up in the middle-to-late 1800s. She commented that women of the 1930's were spoiled, and had no appreciation for the fine art of sewing. "Back in my day, a decent housekeeper knew how to sew. And none of these monstrisities of today, these dresses with a hole cut out for the neck and a seam down either side. Our dresses had style. Scores of buttons, heavily boned seams, hundreds of pleats and tucks. We started on our summer wardrobe in January, and our winter wardrobe in July."

Sewing buttons onto a collar might seem obvious to a woman who had just sewn a few dozen buttons onto the sleeves of her latest dress, and whose boots were also fastened with buttons (requiring a special hook to help put the boots on every morning).

Keep in mind that collars were very wide in the years leading up to WW I, and that they stood very high on the neck. It makes sense that a collar of this sort would probably hit you in the eye if you flipped it up. Also, one should note that most people wore shirts and ties to ski, hike, or play tennis in those days. Polo was probably the same as cricket or tennis, where the players removed their coats and went out onto the field in their shirtsleeves.

The one aspect of the story that makes me most suspicious, is the implication that the collar was soft, and attached to the shirt. Such shirts did not generally catch on until after WWI, and the collars generally became quite a bit narrower.

Then again, one finds ads for "coat-style" shirts with attached collars, and with buttons that go all the way down. In case you didn't know, "dress shirts" only buttoned down to about the navel, and were pulled over the head. The collar was attached later. Anyway, coat-style shirts with attached collars were mostly advertised for sporting endeavors, as was the BB sack suit, by the way. It only makes sense that the button-down would be a "sport shirt".

I do own an old photograph of somebody wearing a button-down collar in the 1920's. So I guess the style must have established itself by then, at least out here in Utah where the guy was living at the time.

My hunch is that John Brooks is responsible for the OCBD story, and not some BB marketing guy from the 1980's. I also suspect that it was one player, not a whole team of players. However, it is possible that the player in question had an influence on his team mates, who had also witnessed the "wardrobe malfunction" that lost them an important game.

I also have my suspicion that all of Brooks Brothers' famous shirts were sold as sportswear at the time. After all, witness the continued use of the name "Tennis Collar" instead of "Point Collar", "Golf Collar" instead of "Club Collar", and "Polo Collar" instead of "Button Down Collar".

My recollection is that the BB sack suit was considered sportswear at the time, and that proper men wore frock coats and cutaways for business. It was the gold rush that made their ready made sack suits a hit, and the end of WWI that made their soft collared shirts popular.

Here's some ad copy from Arrow Shirt that seems to back this up:

(see the tab marked "The 1910s)

"Even as the nation was thrown into wartime, men still dressed by rigidly defined standards of correctness. Staid businessmen clung to high-button shoes, long overcoats and starched high collars. White shirts with detachable collars were worn for all business and social events and Arrow's business boomed with 400 different collar styles! But when the Doughboys returned from war, they had different priorities, new ways of thinking. The young men of the day sought comfort. They wanted a wardrobe that reflected the same functional ease as their uniforms. They preferred shirts with soft attached collars. It wasn't long before The Arrow Collar Man did too."

Arrow may not admit to it, but it's clear to me that Brooks Brothers became the shirt company to beat after WWI. Before that, Cluett Peabody & Co. was the envy of every other shirtmaker. Not just for their Arrow Collars, but also for the various brands of shirts they made and sold.

Here's Mr. Boyer's take:



And here's the current iteration as found on BB's own web site:

1896 - THE BUTTON-DOWN POLO SHIRT
John Brooks, grandson of the founder, made fashion history by introducing the button-down polo collar shirt. His design inspiration came after attending an English polo match where he observed the players' shirts secured with buttons to keep them from flapping in the wind. The shirt became an instant success and soon one of the best-selling Brooks Brothers items.


I guess Mr. Brooks' legend is like the origin of Batman. Everybody tells the story differently, and you just have to pick your favorite and run with it.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
Personal preference...no pocket. When wearing a shirt with a pocket, I don't put anything in the pocket anyway because, it just dosen't look right.
 

Doctor Damage

Connoisseur
boatshoes said:
Now there's an interesting idea.
Buy four shirts and have your tailor rip up the fourth to make pockets for the first three. And the scraps can be used to replace the collars on the first three in the future.
 

sunnisalafi

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
^Interesting post dpihl.

To answer the question...I prefer pockets, especially flap-pockets like those at Press.
 

Harris

Elite Member
I've heard rumors that the first OCBD patterns were based upon a certain shirt that the Brits used for polo, which was very likely NOT a point collar but rather a very soft, rounded collar. What this means is that the first BB OCBDs--way, way back when--probably featured club/round/Eton collars. Andover Shop used to stock OCBDs w/ a round/club/Eton collar. I know because I own a few and wore one last week. ~Harris
 

rip

Elite Member
Slightly tangential to the thread, in the Michael Powell movie, "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp", the character of Theo (Anton Walbrook) wears a trench coat with a button-down collar. The film is from 1943 and that particular scene is set around 1938-39.
 

utoisa

Starting Member
Gents, Thank you for your reply and interesting input.

I prefer no pockets b/c I do not use them at all and considering my physique, pockets position just look unbalanced.
 
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