You’ve probably heard of a “button-down shirt.” But what does that mean, exactly? A shirt with buttons? Any shirt with buttons? When you wear a collared shirt, you want to make sure that you’re dressing appropriately for the occasion. That’s why we’ve put together this guide for understanding the button down collar shirt—and everything that goes with it.
Types of Dress Shirt Collars
When you wear a buttoned dress shirt, you’re likely going to encounter one of three types of collars:
- Spread collar. This is a buttonless collar that’s generally considered to be the “middle ground” of most collar types. Rather than spreading out too thinly or pointing forward too starkly, the spread collar leaves ample space for your tie knot.
- Cutaway collar. This style is named “cutaway” because it has a wide spread—almost like wings coming from the tie knot—and gets out of the way. Like the spread collar, it’s a buttonless collar, and it’s sometimes earned the name the “Windsor” collar, because it leaves so much room for a full tie knot like a Windsor.
- Button-down collar. This is the only collar style with additional buttons on the bottom corners of the collars. These were first introduced by polo players, with the goal of reducing how much the collar would flap in the wind during an event.
So, what separates the button-down collar from the rest? The most obvious answer is the buttons! But it also has a more casual and “sporty” look to it, thanks to its roots in the polo world. It tends to be among the most casual options for any collar type you choose.
When to Wear Them
Knowing the origin of the button-down collar, it’s not difficult to see their uses. Like any collared shirt, adding a button down can give an ordinary outfit a bit more formality. For example, layering a button down under an athletic sweatshirt can present an interesting mix that’s wholly appropriate for some occasions, given the button down collar’s athletic roots.
Here are some occasions in which it’s appropriate to wear a button-down collar:
- Weddings, especially when you’re just a casual guest. You can wear a suit and a tie along with a button-down collar for a crisp, semi-formal look.
- Work events, especially for business casual settings. This type of collar may serve as your “go-to” collar if you work in a place with a business casual dress code.
- Get-togethers and social events like dinner parties are great for button-downs. Not only is the button-down a casual way of “dressing up,” but it will ensure that you stick to a basic sense of formality without going too close to a “red carpet” look.
With a crisp button-down collar shirt, you’ll be ready for just about any occasion. But don’t forget to dress with the appropriate trousers as well! Berle Charleston Khakis make a great pairing, matching the effortless style of a button-down shirt. Browse our other casual trouser collections for more great options: