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OCBD / Button Down Collar Shirts - Understanding Their Purpose

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hi All,

I've tried finding an answer to this searching the forum, but to no avail. I'm trying to understand the purpose and value that OCBD (or really button down collars in general) have in a well dressed man's wardrobe as they seem to be fairly popular on here and praised by several posters I've read who clearly know more than I do about men's clothing and its history. I own exactly one and currently almost never wear it, but I'm working on expanding my shirt wardrobe over the next few months and am trying to figure out if it makes sense to add a few into the mix.

It seems to me that an OCBD shirt / shirt with a button down collar is a less formal alternative to a barrel cuff dress shirt with a traditional collar, which is in turn less formal than a french cuff shirt. A barrel cuff shirt with a traditional collar seems more versatile as my understanding is it works better with a wool suit where a button down collar might be considered wrong. I'm having a hard time thinking of circumstances where a dress shirt with a non button down collar would be wrong and a button down collar would be correct.

So, what's the point and why bother with buttoning and unbuttoning the collar / worrying about how the collar rolls when it's much easier to just put in a pair of collar stays? Are there circumstances where anyone is going to think I should have worn a button down collar shirt instead of a slightly more formal one? Perhaps I'm the only crazy one, but I'm curious if anyone else thinks this way. Any input is much appreciated.
post #2 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by archibaldleach View Post

Are there circumstances where anyone is going to think I should have worn a button down collar shirt instead of a slightly more formal one?

Yes. Button-down collars are virtually always preferable if you choose to wear the shirt without a necktie or bow tie.
post #3 of 15
They factor into a certain aesthetic far better than their more-formal collar siblings. Generally this aesthetic is "trad" or "preppy" or "collegiate." In reality I think they are far more appropriate for casual wear than any spread or semi-spread collar. I also think BD collars are the only way to make a straight point collar look good (though that's personal preference).

I prefer my BDs with longer collar points (3.5" to be exact), a higher stance and in a semi-spread. This makes them ideal for wearing with busy/patterned odd jackets and jeans or underneath a sweater. I can also wear the collar unbuttoned with a tie and have the points lay as my more formal dress shirts without buttons do naturally. Kind of like having my cake and eating it too...

There is a great deal of casual versatility to BDs that is hard to find with a lot of others.
Edited by bourbonbasted - 12/19/12 at 11:23am
post #4 of 15
I agree with what others said, also just want to emphasize that BDs look way better than non-BDs when worn without a tie.
post #5 of 15
Also don't neglect the "OC" part of "OCBD". Oxford cloth is great, it allows you to give some texture to an outfit and can work in pairings as diverse as jeans up to a suit (in the US anyway). It can also let you wear patterns more easily because they're more diffuse (because of the texture of the fabric itself) rather than a stark contrast with other patterned fabrics.
post #6 of 15
People have mentioned wearing or not wearing a tie being the defining factor, but beyond that I think another factor that plays into aesthetics is what you're wearing over the shirt

Wearing jacket: Natural pairing with spread collars while you can see the points on a BD collar (not sure why people ever wear BD collars with a jacket on)

Wearing v-neck sweater: Natural pairing with BD collars while spread collar juts out awkwardly

Wearing nothing: BD collars seem more neat while spread collars hangs out awkwardly
post #7 of 15
+1 to all...since I rarely wear tie nowadays, 90% of my recent OTR/MTM purchase are button down...and for my next experiment, I may try Boubon's idea of longer points and semi-spread to lay naturally if unbuttoned..Thanks

OCBD collar roll threak
post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Liquidus View Post

Wearing jacket: Natural pairing with spread collars while you can see the points on a BD collar (not sure why people ever wear BD collars with a jacket on)

My collars prevent this. When not buttoned-down the collars extend under the lapel. When buttoned they stand high and frame my face.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thanks SF (a new me) View Post

I may try Boubon's idea of longer points and semi-spread to lay naturally if unbuttoned..Thanks

I'll try to snap a pic and post here tonight for what I mean (both buttoned and unbuttoned).
post #9 of 15
I don't have a single button-down collar shirt. I tend to wear suits far more than sports coats, and when I want something less casual than a suit I usially want something more casual than a sports coat. I'd like to break into OCBD shirts but am not sure when it would be correct to wear one instead of a spread collar shirt when I'm in my standard getup of dark navy or charcoal suit.
post #10 of 15
I sometimes wear a tie with a button down collar, it has to be done in good taste.

Button down collars are just a certain style, like BourbonBastard said it falls in the 'trad' 'collegiate' 'preppy' realm.

Two ways to wear one:





Its not everyone's thing, it's definitely something I do, and nobody seems to mind.
post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by bourbonbasted View Post

My collars prevent this. When not buttoned-down the collars extend under the lapel. When buttoned they stand high and frame my face.
I'll try to snap a pic and post here tonight for what I mean (both buttoned and unbuttoned).

So you unbutton when wearing a jacket and button when not? Can you post pics? Thanks.
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

I agree with what others said, also just want to emphasize that BDs look way better than non-BDs when worn without a tie.

+1

post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

I agree with what others said, also just want to emphasize that BDs look way better than non-BDs when worn without a tie.

I agree, but the issue is that I still want my collar points to go behind my jacket lapels. Possble?
post #14 of 15
I don't see why not...talk to your shirt maker.
post #15 of 15
It's worth adding to this thread that in London it is traditionally unacceptable to wear a button-down in any business or formal setting. In fact, most traditionalists and men of the older generations never wear a BD, ever.
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