Oversized. Fitted. Poplin. Oxford. Tucked. Untucked. The different ways to wear button-down shirts is unmatched, standing the test of time and is, on the most part, designed to be completely gender fluid. A shirt can conjure up visions of James Bond, sharp and attentive, perched at a casino bar waiting for his Martini. Shaken, not stirred, of course.
A shirt and how you style it can feel sensationally important. Whether it is for the office, a wedding, a stroll in the park or Sunday at the grandparents. Casual, smart casual, business-casual, formal – it doesn’t matter, every wardrobe must feature a shirt for any occasion.
In recent years it’s been the Oxford shirt that has dominated the men’s shirt trend, being seen worn by South West London rugby boys on a trip to the pub, freelance creatives in their local independent coffee shop (untucked, buttoned-up, obviously) and evening wedding reception crashers right through summer.
Oxford shirts have also proven to be the most versatile, putting on a clinic of to how to wear a button-down shirt open, as well as closed, or tucked. But the efforts of the oversized cotton shirt, the short sleeve linen shirt and the grandad collar shirt must not be overlooked – all three shirts types providing statement looks.
The humble button-down shirt is unequivocally, the most versatile item of clothing you can add to your wardrobe.
Okay, but what’s the difference between a button-down shirt and a button-down dress shirt? Typically, a button-down dress shirt is more suited for formal and workwear occasions – paired with a suit, tucked into smart trousers and accompanied by a crisp tie, bowtie or dickie bow. Where a simple button is usually present on a casual button-down shirt, instead there is a handy hole for cufflinks to slot through the folded cuffs. Its colouring will usually be solid, light and rarely with any pattern. While the material is usually of a higher standard or 100% cotton, to withstand the rigors of daily wear. Most importantly, the key and most telling difference between a button-down dress shirt and a button-down shirt, is the length – a button-down dress shirt is longer in length, designed specifically for tucking. If like a lot of people, you are now more familiar with working from home in pyjamas, or going to less and less large formal events, you may be left with several dress shirts in your wardrobe that have next to no use. Fear not. They CAN be salvaged. They CAN be styled out. Here’s how…
10 Ways to Style Out a Button-Down Dress Shirt
1. Oversized is the best sized
Oversized is on point right now and has been for the last few years. You can’t go wrong throwing on your grandad’s hammy down, coupled up with your favourite jeans.
2. Tuck it and forget it
As intended, the dress shirt can be tucked easily and loosely. Tuck loosely into a skirt for a smart-casual summer look.
3. Play with patterns
In this instance you can be as subtle or as out there as you like whether it’s a gentle everyday check or something loud and proud, have fun with different patterns!
4. Layer like you just don’t care
A way of wearing a shirt while also looking relaxed. Throw on a shirt over the top of a t-shirt for a more relaxed look.
5. Get suited and booted
Go big or go home. Get your blazer or dinner jacket and look dressed to the nines. Wear when you want, because you’re a boss.
6. Mix it up with a cardigan
For those cool professors, vibes throw on a cardigan with your shirt and rock it.
7. Be bold with buttons
Just because there’s 10 buttons, doesn’t mean they all have to be used. Play with grouping of three buttons, for a loose and casual look.
8. Try out texture
For a more relaxed look, why not try new textures? This can give a little bit of intrigue to your outfit without being too out there!
9. Play with colour
Colour is your friend! Nervous? Try darker colours at first and then work your way up to those beautiful bright tones!
10. Keep it simple
Don’t over-complicate it. Go plain white, buttoned up and pair with a block colour for trousers.
Get Your Fit and How to Make It Sustainable
Regular Fit – for regular wear underneath a suit, allows for breathability and free movement.
Slim Fit – for slimmer frames, best worn without a suit. Restricts movement and is usually less comfortable.
Modern Fit – for the inbetweeners, slimmer fit than regular, but with the breathability of a regular fit.
Skinny Fit – for the youngsters and the uber skinny, clings tightly to the frame and doesn’t leave much room for movement.
Make it sustainable by choosing organic cotton, sourced from credible organic cotton traders. Buy quality not quantity. For a recycled purchase, go for charity shops or vintage stores – something will be there among the endless racks. And for a completely carbon neutral choice, raid your parents or grandparents’ wardrobe.
Ultimately the lesson is this – wear a button-down dress shirt however you want. There are no rules, no limitations and certainly no judgement from the fashion police. Timeless for a reason, play with colour, play with tucks and play with fits. Button it half way up or don’t button it at all, layers are your friend. Make this season the season of the dress shirt and don’t look back.
Article author: Joan Calabia
Joan Calabia operates as the Director of Brand Marketing for Dockers® Europe at Levi Strauss & Co. Joan’s experience spans the intricacies of marketing operations to creating immersive consumer experiences. He continues to lead the brand direction adapting to the new generation of casual consumers in our era, while maintaining the California cool lifestyle that is heritage to the brand.