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Can button-down shirts be considered dress shirts?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by docka, Jul 6, 2013.

  1. docka

    docka Senior member

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  2. 12345Michael54321

    12345Michael54321 Senior member

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    There are those who maintain that a buttondown collar makes a shirt inherently casual. Some of these people point to the buttondown collar shirt's origins as a sport shirt (for playing polo), in support of their point of view.

    Other people maintain that a buttondown collar shirt is not limited to casual wear, and can work perfectly well with a suit and tie. Many of them note that this is a look long popular in certain trad/prep circles.

    So, one is free to side with either take on this one. Just pick a side, and you're golden.

    Ultimately, one's attitude toward such things may depend on factors which include geographic location, family social and economic background, profession, age, etc. In this it's rather similar to the question of whether one can wear loafers with a suit and tie.

    Me? I consider a buttondown collar shirt to be fine as a casual shirt (say, with a pair of chinos, and without a tie). I also find it to often be acceptable with a blazer or sport coat. And sometimes - but only sometimes - acceptable with a suit. For example, I tend to regard it as more casual than most other types of dress shirts, so I tend to avoid it if I want an extremely formal look. But if I'm wearing a seersucker or tan poplin suit to a relatively casual social outing, I might find such a shirt to be perfectly appropriate. (Just like my take on loafers.)

    And, of course, not all buttondown collar shirts are created equal. Fabric, color/design, style, etc., can swing a shirt more to the casual end of the spectrum, or more to the formal end. (Again, just as all loafers are not created equal.)
     


  3. YRR92

    YRR92 Senior member

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    A button-down collar is inherently less formal than a collar without buttons. My background is such that a buttondown shirt in a very formal context doesn't bother me in the slightest. White pinpoint BD, boring tie, dark worsted suit? It scans to me. Aesthetically, in that context, I'd prefer a good BD to an imperfect spread or point collar.

    I would, in fact, be willing to wear even an oxford buttondown shirt in a fairly dressy context, but that's an acquired taste. I'm also willing to wear a spread or point collar shirt in a fairly casual way.
     


  4. MyOtherLife

    MyOtherLife Senior member

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    Can button-down shirts be considered dress shirts?
    Yes.
     


  5. Grenadier

    Grenadier Senior member

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    Button down collars are the sine qua non of WASPiness.
     


  6. mrjester

    mrjester Senior member

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    +1

    All my shirts except a few are cutaway/semi cutaway. The button-down ones are casual.

    This doesn't mean they can't be used for dressed shirts.

    I also ignore the whole "collar roll" crap and just make sure it looks presentable. Life is easier this way. I can reroute my thoughts elsewhere.
     


  7. GBR

    GBR Senior member

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  8. David Reeves

    David Reeves Affiliate Vendor Affiliate Vendor

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    Do what you want. I wouldn't myself but it's more about personal taste not logic or rules. We don't (unfortunately) live in the downton abbey universe where people will be shocked by such things in the "wrong" setting.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2013


  9. Sam3L

    Sam3L Active Member

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    I used to think not, and also that a tie on such a shirt (ESPECIALLY WITH a suit!) was absolutely unacceptable. But there are certain settings that it is acceptable. Case in point: legislators in Washington DC. 1/3 of them have, for some reason, button down shirts with their suits! I don't understand it, but it's absolutely acceptable in that context. Watch a few episodes of Meet the Press, or other interviews.

    On a similar note, look how many [god-awful] 4-in-hand knots you see among politicians. This is apparently because the Windsor is...inherently...British, and not American.

    Other than that, I haven't ever considered a button down as a dress shirt, but that doesn't stop it from being worn under a sportcoat or blazer, sans tie.
    But if I were ever a politician, maybe.
     


  10. Stylishmartita

    Stylishmartita Well-Known Member

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    Following the traditional Italian fashion rules (I'm Italian...), I'd say the BD shirt is less formal then a French collar one. It's generally worn under a jersey, never with a tie. But actually there are many many Italian guys who wear the BD shirt under a suit, with a tie too...
    I'd prefer a traditional straight point collar shirt to be worn with the tie, but it's definitely up to you. I wouldn't say it's a mistake.
     


  11. archibaldleach

    archibaldleach Senior member

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    I view shirts with button down collars as more casual dress shirts but I don't think the collar casualizes them to the point where most would say they're not dress shirts. Other features on some casual shirts that happen to have button down collars may remove them from dress shirt territory but I don't think the collar alone does so. That said, button down collars are less formal than spread collars. In a very conservative environment, I would avoid them with suits but think they are fine with an odd jacket and tie. I do think there's a general awareness that button down collars are less formal and that shirts with say french cuffs are more formal, but really only a general awareness of these concepts.
     


  12. RDiaz

    RDiaz Senior member

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    Button downs with ties or even business suits is OK if you're American, isn't it?

    I do like to wear them with casual suits or sport coats, with a tie that is casual as well. Not with a suit and formal tie, but that's because I'm European...
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2013


  13. archibaldleach

    archibaldleach Senior member

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    I'd say that's a somewhat common combination in the U.S., but then most Americans dress pretty poorly. A spread collar is still a better choice with a suit IMO even if a number of people get away with wearing button down collars with suits.
     


  14. JLibourel

    JLibourel Senior member

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    Agree that a BD collar is less formal than other styles, but I would unhesitatingly wear one with a suit unless I wanted a particularly "dressy" look, e.g., what I call "sub-tux." If button-down collars with suits were good enough for Cary Grant and Fred Astaire, they are good enough for the likes of me. Astaire even wore a BD with a DB suit, which was considered daring even by American standards. About 75% of my sized shirts are button-downs.
     




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