What is the Purpose of the Button-Down Collars?

Regardless of fashion styles and trends, some pieces of clothing remain to be true classics that never go out of style. Some of those are a black suit, a basic white shirt, dark wash jeans, and a well-loved button-down collar. It was also considered a sporty and casual clothing piece.

This shirt is one of Brooks Brothers’ most recognizable designs. Initially worn as formal attire by the wealthy, athletes from all walks of life were soon drawn to this style for the same reasons as the original polo players.

The button-down was invented for English polo players to keep their collars from flapping around while riding their horses. Following its introduction, the button-down collar quickly became a menswear staple.

The Button-Down Collar

Like some other menswear traditions that are still in use today, such as hacking pockets or single-vented jackets, the button-down collar was invented for a man on a horse (as mentioned earlier). Ivy League polo players, in particular, wanted to keep their shirt collars out of their faces.

Polo players were required to wear traditional collared shirts. But riding around on massive horses during games caused the collars to flap up, causing a visual distraction. To address this, players had buttons sewn onto their collars to secure them during matches. The buttons created an exaggerated arch in the collars. Thus, the button-down collar.

The button-down collar became the ultimate casual shirt. And the sporting world soon realized that wearing semi-formal attire while playing a game was impractical. From then on, modern textiles took over. Button-down collars have been known as a shirt for work when you do not have to dress up. Just like the sports jacket and jeans, look or wearing boat shoes to a corporate luncheon,

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How and When to Wear A Button-Down Collar

The versatility of the button-down collar is what has made it timeless. This collar is typically deemed a preppy, casual style due to its historical ties to sport and its connection with the American collegiate look.

However, just as fashion guidelines were designed to be broken (yes, you read that right), button-down collars can either be dressed up or down. While some may regard the combo of a suit and a button-down collar to be a fashion blunder, it looks great when done correctly.

But don’t think that because a button-down collar can be worn with a suit and tie, it will be appropriate on all occasions. It would be best if you will learn when and how to use it to your advantage.

Here’s how and when you should wear your button-down collar:


  • You can wear your button-down collar with a knit sweater and denim jeans to keep things casual, leaving the top button of the collar unbuttoned.
  • You can undoubtedly button your shirt up without wearing a tie. This style has recently gained popularity. It is often best suited for the fall and winter seasons, as it may be scorching to wear your shirt fully buttoned during summer.


  • Try it with a checkered suit and dotted knit tie for a more formal but fashionable look.
  • Suppose you want a less formal look that is still appropriate for a formal event. In that case, you can wear your button-down collar without a tie, and you can opt to unbutton the top button. Classic button-down collars are typically worn without ties. Keeping the collar buttons fastened will keep the collar standing up and the shirt looking crisp.
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Becoming Button-Down Collar Expert

A white-collar denotes a person who is serious about their job and cares about their looks. When a style is more important than function, and you want to impress, a button-down collar may not be enough.

If you intend to wear it with a full suit or blazer and trousers, it should not have a lot of patterning. In this case, you want a solid color that goes with your outfit and accentuates your tie.

And if you are serious about rocking your button-down collar shirt, you need to familiarize yourself with the following. And once you learn these, you’ll indeed become a button-down collar expert in no time.

Learning the Rule of Positions and Patterns

Regarding the idea that a white-collar is the sign of a true pro, the basic rule of thumb is that the more pattern your shirt has, the more it appears to be made for trials rather than conference room meetings.

Plaids and houndstooth patterns with various colors are acceptable for the weekend or a trip to the storeroom. Still, the more design you have on your shirt, the less it is deemed to be a clothing of a nobleman.

Knowing Where the Hidden Buttons Are and Using It

This is a helpful point for those who prefer a button-down collar but still want to look as sharp as the next CEO. You can use a hidden button on the bottom of your collar. These have a fabric loop on the back that keeps the collar in its place without exposing the buttons. It will surely give you the best outcome.

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Mastering Some Tie Tricks

If you’re going to wear a button-down collar, a tie is essentially required. Still, it can be as much of an impediment as it is a help if done incorrectly. Wearing an earth-tone tie with a strongly patterned shirt is acceptable if you’re going for a rustic look.

Now, suppose you want to fit in at the top shelf. In that case, you can stick to power colors and conservative patterns to draw attention to your tie rather than drawing attention to your shirt.

Not Mastering the Tie Tricks

Deciding to remove your tie when donning a button-down collar is a risky move. Because these shirts are softer and designed for mobility and movement, they appear to bunch and wrinkle if not bound and constrained.

If you’re going out for some casual drinks, you can forgo the tie. If you’re wearing this shirt without a bind on purpose, a vest and pocket square shows that you’re choosing to dress down but are one Windsor knot away from becoming a natural force.

The Bottom Line

A button-down collar undoubtedly deserves a spot in every man’s wardrobe. You can easily combine it with a pair of loafers and chinos for a classy casual look or with a blazer and trousers for a semi-formal look. Regardless, every man should understand how and when to wear the button-down collar. And we hope what we’ve written above helped you. Let us know!

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Jonathan B. Delfs

I love to write about men's lifestyle and fashion. Unique tips and inspiration for daily outfits and other occasions are what we like to give you at MensVenture.com. Do you have any notes or feedback, please write to me directly: [email protected]

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