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Button Up Vs Button Down Shirt – What’s the Difference?

CEO Tinh Phung
Are you confused about the difference between a button-up and a button-down shirt? Don't worry, you're not alone. These terms are often used interchangeably, causing confusion among fashion enthusiasts. But fear not, because I'm here...

Are you confused about the difference between a button-up and a button-down shirt? Don't worry, you're not alone. These terms are often used interchangeably, causing confusion among fashion enthusiasts. But fear not, because I'm here to clear things up for you.

What Is The Difference Between a Button Up And A Button Down?

You may have heard both of these terms being thrown around, but the truth is, there is a difference. A button-up shirt refers to a shirt that buttons up the front of the body all the way. On the other hand, a button-down shirt has buttons on the collar points that you can, well, button down. It's as simple as that.

button up shirt A button down shirt

Why Are There Buttons On The Collar?

The button-down collar originated from English polo players who wanted to prevent their collars from flapping around while on horseback. This gave birth to the button-down shirt, which is considered sportier and more casual. However, it's important to note that the button-down shirt is not the same as a polo shirt or workout attire. Confusing, right?

Does That Mean A Button Down Is Technically Also A Button Up?

Yes, in most cases, a button-down shirt can also be considered a button-up shirt. It's similar to how a square is technically a type of rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares. There are other types of shirts that feature a button-down collar, but these are not commonly referred to as "button-down" shirts.

button down polo shirt

Are You Trying To Confuse Me?

No, not at all! I'm just trying to provide a comprehensive explanation. Let me simplify it for you:

  • Button-up shirt: A shirt that fastens in the front with buttons. It does not necessarily have buttons on the collar.
  • Button-down shirt: A shirt with a collar that fastens in place with buttons. It is generally also a button-up shirt.

Other FAQs:

Can I wear a tie with a button-down shirt?

Absolutely! When choosing ties and jackets to pair with your button-down shirt, consider the stiffness of the collar. A softer collar, like on a button-down oxford, is more casual, while a stiffer collar, like on a crisp dress shirt, is more formal. Keep in mind that button-down collars may not be suitable for black-tie events.

man wearing a button-down collar shirt with tie and blazer A button-down collar with a tie - Fall Getup Week: The Corporate But Creative Office

Can I wear a button-down shirt without a tie?

Of course! Button-down shirts are often more casual due to their sporting roots. Leaving the top button or two undone while fastening the collar buttons gives you a crisp and clean-cut look.

man wearing a blazer over a button-down shirt with pants and dress shoes A button-down collar shirt without a tie - The Blazer To Keep In Your Office In Case Of Emergency

If I’m not wearing a tie, do I have to leave the top buttons undone of a button-up shirt?

No, there's no rule that says you have to leave the top buttons undone. In fact, you can choose to button your shirt all the way up, even without a tie. This fashion-forward "air tie" look is favored by celebrities like Michael B. Jordan, Ryan Gosling, and Timothée Chalamet. However, keep in mind that this style works better for dressier smart casual outfits, rather than casual button-downs.

man wearing a bomber jacket with button-down shirt, pants, and leather sneakers You'll either look like M. Monk or Ryan Reynolds. The ‘air tie' is a fashion-forward look that can be done well, best paired with Ryan's smart casual look rather than Adrian's more traditional business style.

Do I have to always button the collar buttons on a button-down shirt?

No, there's no rule that says you must button the collar buttons. Leaving them undone can create a more relaxed and rakish look. Italian industrialist Gianni Agnelli, known for his impeccable style, was famous for not fastening the collar on his button-down shirts. Embrace this look for a touch of nonchalant charm.

man wearing a button-down short sleeve linen shirt A linen shirt with the button-down collar worn unbuttoned - 15 Men’s Summer Style Essentials: MASSIVE Post!

How do I get my collar to stand up?

If your collar tends to droop or sag, you can use collar stays or placket supports to help it stay in shape. These accessories provide the necessary support and prevent your collar from flapping open.

collar stays before and after How to Stop Droopy Unbuttoned Collars + Other Genius Fixes to Annoying Style Problems

Now that you understand the difference between a button-up and a button-down shirt, you can confidently choose the right style for any occasion. Don't let the confusion get the best of you, and embrace your personal style with these timeless wardrobe essentials.

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