The Essential Collar You NEED To Own: The Button-Down
Fun fact: we have a button-down shirt for every time we say 'collar' in this post...
We've enlightened you about the Grandad and we've educated you on mastering the Club. So this week, we're taking a step back and putting everyone's favourite into the spotlight, the button-down collar.
If you didn't know already, while the term 'button-down' has in recent years been used to refer to most shirts in general, it actually refers to the shirt's collar and not its placket.
The button-down is one of the most popular shirt styles out there. Featuring a collar that is fastened to the shirt by a button at its points, creating an exaggerated 'collar roll' (the arch of a collar for those gents not in the know on fashion jargon).
So, who do we have to doff our caps to for this revelation?
That, gentlemen, would be 19thcentury polo players and Mr John E. Brooks of American fashion brand, Brooks Brothers. Brooks ventured over to England in 1896 and whilst taking a break from discussing the weather and drinking gallons of tea, he attended a polo match. It was at this match that he noticed the exaggerated arches of the players collars and discovered it was down to their ingenious DIY skills. The players had sown buttons onto the points of their collars to stop them from flapping around as the played.
Brooks then took this idea back across the Pond to his Grandfather and Brooks Brothers designed their first button-down shirt, back then called the 'polo collar'. To this day, Brooks Brothers still pride themselves on creating the 'Original Polo Shirt'.
The button-down wasn't just for polo players anymore and soon the style not only seeped into the wardrobes of the public but also onto tennis courts and the kits of every other athlete that cottoned on to the fact that this was a pretty genius and stylish concept.
Today, button-downs are everywhere and pretty much every fashion brand sells at least one. Including a certain menswear brand... *cough* We Are Gntlmen *cough*
It's almost ridiculous how versatile these shirts are and they can be worn to pretty much any occasion. The only no-no when it comes to button-downs concerns those made from Oxford cotton. Oxford shirts – as a general rule – should never be worn to a formal event. This includes weddings (unless it's stated to be relaxed attire), funerals, black tie or other dressy events and corporate workplaces with strict dress codes.
Although we've established the only occasion not to wear your Oxford button-down is with a suit in formal settings, the rule certainly does not apply to shirts made of a more formal material, like poplin. Options for every other occasion, however, are pretty much limitless. A casual look would be pairing it with shorts or jeans, leaving the top button of the shirt undone and rolling up the sleeves.
Wanting something more smart/casual? Swap the jeans for chinos, throw on a pair of loafers and roll the sleeves down. If you fancy channeling your inner American Ivy league prep, pair it with a sports jacket or jersey blazer for a smarter take. Finally, if you're sporting a tie, go for a lighter material with a casual knot like a half Windsor or four-in-hand.