Imagine this. You’re choosing an outfit for work, and there are two shirts to choose from: a blue button-up and a white collared button-down shirt. At first glance, you might assume that there is no difference between the two clothes other than their color.
Indeed, the terms button -up and button-down shirt are often used interchangeably, but they shouldn’t be.
We’re going to break down the differences between the two shirts so you know where and when to wear one over the other!
Button Down or Button Up?
Button ups are shirts that you close or unbutton using a vertical line of buttons on the front of the shirt. They are the most common type of shirt available in the market.
In truth, most button-down shirts you encounter are also button-up shirts, but not all button-up shirts can be classified as button-downs. It may sound a bit complicated, but don’t worry, the differences are simple:
A button-up shirt is a front lining with no shirt buttons, while a button-down shirt has additional buttons on the shirt collar, fastening the collar points down.
See? Simple enough. Now, let’s delve into more detail, so you know why we have both styles—and what to do with each.
Going into a little history will help with this…
Shirt buttoning is any shirt with lining buttons down the front. These are used to open/close the shirt.
Button down shirt shirt with small buttons at the collar points, shirt to fasten the collar eg oxford cloth button down shirt or OCBD.
A brief history of the button-down shirt
The button-down shirt dates back to 1869 in England. While charging their horses, polo players were often distracted by the collar of their shirt flapping in the wind, obstructing their field of vision.
As a solution to this problem, he decided to put buttons on his collar, to keep them down during matches.
After watching a polo match in England, John E. Brooks, of Brooks Brothers, decided that button-down shirts should be a fashion item. Brooks then manufactured the first polo collar shirts.
Their sporty origins are the reason why button-downs are considered more casual . As we often point out here at Easy, the more detailing on an item of clothing, the less formal it is, especially if it’s extra utilitarian. This is a case of collar buttons on a shirt buttoned below the collar.
How to wear button up and button down shirt
There is a lot of overlap in terms of where and when you can wear these two shirts. Button-down shirts are more casual, so they can be worn with a suit and tie or in more relaxed settings .
However, they may not be worn in a formal dress code, such as with a tuxedo, or in a black tie situation. Even with a cocktail dress code (a gray area step above semi-formal), it’s safest to avoid button-downs.
Pair an open-collar button-down shirt with well-fitted trousers for a smarter, more casual look that you can wear to a casual Friday dinner or the office.
Take it into even more casual territory by wearing your collar-button-down shirt with dark wash jeans then balance it out with nice shoes and, if you like, a tie.
You can even pair a collared button-down shirt with your swim trunks for a day at the beach.
Button-up dress shirts are more sophisticated, so they ‘re appropriate for formal events, in addition to smart casual situations . You can pair it with a classic tie, blazer and trim trousers, or you can dress it up even more with a suit or tuxedo.
Whichever way you style it, you will look sleek and sophisticated. You can’t wear true formal shirts casually though, so don’t pair them with jeans and sneakers without tucking them in. It looks dirty. I mean, at least, tuck in your shirt.
If you’re going for that sporting-agent-business-casual aesthetic (say sneakers and a blazer), opt for a collared button-down shirt or a more casual button-up, like a linen or workwear-leaning shirt.
Button Up and Button Down FAQ
How do shirt collars differ from each other?
In addition to buttoning, you can tell the difference between a button-up and button-down shirt by the stiffness of the shirt collar. Button-down shirts usually have a stiff collar because, traditionally, you would wear a tie with it. Buter-down collars are more malleable and looser.
How do I get my collar to stand up on my button-up? shirt?
Definitely use collar stays with your button-up shirts. Most dress shirt collars have small slits on the underside of the collar points where you can insert the collar stay. This will help keep your collar looking crisp. Another thing you can try is pocket supports . There are some temporary and permanent solutions (ie you have to sew them into your shirt).
Now you can go for button-up VS. Know the difference between button down shirt shirt!
One thing we can all agree on is that button-up and collar-buttoned shirts are a classic staple of most men’s wardrobes. It’s best to have at least one button-up and one button-down shirt so you’ll be ready for any occasion.
Remember to consider all aspects of the dress you plan to wear, and which colors work best for the look.
Now that you understand the difference between the two styles, you can choose the appropriate option to ensure that you look your best!
We hope this was helpful! If you have any other style questions, feel free to ask!
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