The button-down shirt, how and when to wear it


Regarded as a menswear classic, the dilemma of the button-down shirt is how and when to wear it due to the buttons that attach the collar points to the fabric. In effect, the button-down was designed to be a casual shirt for everyday wear but over time its elegant soul has managed to convince even the most dedicated fashionistas, revealing itself to be perfect for slightly more formal occasions too. Excluding ceremonies and gala events, obviously.

Let us try to clarify things a bit. The button-down shirt was created in 1963 by the American tailor Ben Sherman who was inspired by the collar of the shirt worn by polo players in the 1800s. Therefore, its sporty origins make it perfect for more casual and less demanding settings but it is important to take the shirt fabric into consideration too. Button-down shirts in velvet, denim, cotton flannel or twill are the most suitable for everyday wear and for pairing with jeans and sneakers or ankle boots, or even for a layered look. In this case the collar can be buttoned up or left slightly open, depending on taste.

Whereas in a context that requires a touch of formality such as the office, the first step is to choose a button-down shirt made of soft, light fabrics such as Oxford or poplin, either in classic neutral colours or striped or checked. Once you have chosen the shirt, another point to clarify is whether or not to wear a tie. It depends. According to classic Italian and English conventions, this model of shirt should be worn without accessories, while in America the button-down shirt and tie mix is a classic of the business casual look. Our advice is to choose based on the style you want, and if you do opt for a tie, always go for a small knot. And if you want to wear it with a suit? Again the schools of thought divide between the more purist European and the American approach, which does not consider the button-down and a suit to be a “sartorial sin”. In this case the rule to follow is very simple: choose a slim fitting tweed or glen check suit.

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