What the Well-Dressed Man is Wearing
June 1, 2009 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Snazzy Gent filter: What is the difference between a button-down shirt versus a point-collar shirt?

I mean in terms of formality. I'm looking for a shirt for my SO that he can wear with jeans (right now he has suits for the workweek and tee-shirts for the weekend, I'm looking for something in-between.)I'm specifically looking at this shirt versus this shirt. Which one is right for jeans? Does it matter? Thoughts from the snazzier gents out there?
posted by Ollie to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Some guys just like one or the other better, but in general button collar is frowned upon by the more stylish amongst us. That usually applies more to dress shirts than casual shirts, but if it's style you're going for, I'd go buttonless. As for appropriateness with jeans, either one is fine and appropriate for that level of formality.
posted by Askr at 10:56 AM on June 1, 2009

Button-down collars are pretty much always more casual than proper point collars. I never wear button-down collars, but that's less about snazziness per se than "I don't like how button-down collars look." Either is perfectly fine with jeans, inasmuch as neither will make anyone flip out and accuse him of Doing It Wrong like, for example, Oxfords and tall socks with jean shorts.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:57 AM on June 1, 2009

Button-down shirts are generally considered less formal, but either one would be fine with jeans. I once read in Esquire that button-down shirts shouldn't be worn after dark, but take that with a grain of salt.
posted by ijoshua at 10:58 AM on June 1, 2009

Button collars can be convenient since they don't need to be ironed to stay in place, but they kind of scream dorky business casual to me. Given two shirts that are otherwise similar, +1 for point collar, especially for casual wear.
posted by substars at 11:00 AM on June 1, 2009

I always go with the point-collar if I have an option -- you can always dress a point-collar shirt down, but the button-down is always limited. In something like that gingham, you're probably never going to want to really dress it up, but as a general rule, I go with the point-collar. Also, if he doesn't already have them, get him a set of metal collar stays. They really make a difference.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:00 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if I would be considered snazzy by any stretch of the imagination, but I would distinguish between the two largely based on whether he will wear a tie with the outfit. I guess the buttoned-down collar is supposed to help conceal the tie everywhere except for front. So unless you are going to wear a tie with the shirt and jeans, I think the pointed collar looks neater. If you are going to wear a tie with that buttoned down collar shirt and jeans, I would definitely get some sort of casual jacket and consider a really simple thin solid color tie.
posted by jefeweiss at 11:01 AM on June 1, 2009

Response by poster: He wouldn't wear it with a tie. So, based on the comments here, I'm going to go with the point-collar. Thanks all! Oh: additional q: he has a few handmade suits and he says it is okay to sometimes wear suits with no tie, for an occasion less formal than, say, a funeral or wedding. Is this the case? I always thought that a suit must go with a tie. But I also thought that jeans never go with a tie, and I guess that's changed too.
posted by Ollie at 11:10 AM on June 1, 2009

Button-down collars on oxford cloth shirts (OCBDs, to the hip) are part of the quintessential, liberal arts professor look. But to pull that off, in my mind, you've got to bring the rest of the wardrobe along for the ride. OCBD with a black suit from JCPenney? Terribly unstylish. OCBD with a 3-roll-2 tweed sack from J Press? I have Early American Lit in 15 minutes, but I can spare you a moment in my office - please, sit.
posted by brozek at 11:10 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would vote Republican sooner than I would don a shirt with a button-down collar.
posted by Danf at 11:30 AM on June 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

I do consider myself kinda snazzy and, while my wardrobe features many shirts of both varieties, I favor the button-down collars simply because they stay put. Even with the above-mentioned metal collar stays, after a hot, humid, prolonged period of wear, unbuttoned collars can appear limp and floppy. Ick.
posted by bluejayway at 11:30 AM on June 1, 2009

he says it is okay to sometimes wear suits with no tie, for an occasion less formal than, say, a funeral or wedding. Is this the case?

Yes. Particularly with a colorful or lightly patterned shirt - I'm thinking herringbone here, not Hawaiian print. It kind of depends on the suit though; it would be weird to wear a dark navy pinstripe suit without a tie, whereas a more casual beige suit could work really well like this.
posted by rkent at 11:35 AM on June 1, 2009

Button-down collars are always less formal than point collars.

Only in specific circumstances would you wear a button-down with a suit -- that's in a "classic american" vein, as brozek quite accurately described. Think of more casual pairings -- like tweed or corduroy, for example.

Generally, with jeans, either is fine, but I would lean towards button-down (though there is obviously a huge spectrum of quality and stylishness in both). I'd be particularly careful to be a shirt that fits, and is not excessively big int he body or blousy.

And yes, it is perfectly reasonable to wear a suit without a tie... say a charcoal suit and a french blue shirt for a night out, or a khaki cotton suit with a linen shirt for casual day wear.
posted by YoungAmerican at 12:17 PM on June 1, 2009

I always thought that a suit must go with a tie.

Our President does it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:55 PM on June 1, 2009

I'm amused that no one has pointed out why the button is more casual - that's because it's the original "sports shirt":

Before Lacoste’s 1933 mass-marketing of his tennis shirt, polo players wore thick long-sleeve shirts made of Oxford-cloth cotton. This shirt was the first to have a buttoned-down collar, which polo players invented in the late nineteenth century to keep their collars from flapping in the wind (Brooks Brothers's early president John Brooks noticed this while at a polo match in England, and began producing such a shirt in 1896). Brooks Brothers still produces this style of button-down "polo shirt". - Wikipedia: Polo shirt
posted by timepiece at 2:02 PM on June 1, 2009

I used to go for the point collar, but lately I find I like the button-down collar better when I'm not wearing a tie and have the topmost button undone (which is the way one would wear it with jeans).

I don't really like the way a point collar spreads out across the collarbones when the shirt is unbuttoned at the neck. Sort of disco-trashy somehow. Much nicer to have those collar points battened down, it seems to me.
posted by letourneau at 3:09 PM on June 1, 2009

It doesn't matter.
posted by Zambrano at 4:03 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Button down without tie, including over jeans, is a nice, traditional and flexible look, but it is square -- not unfashionable so much as it is fashion-orthogonal. Great for when you want your clothes not to be noticeable.

Button-down with tie is distinctly unfashionable. It's usually a bad choice -- making the wearer seem sloppy, dorky or cheap -- but is an evergreen and formidable look for a certain kind of powerful or successful man, who (intentionally or not) can disregard with impunity what other people think of his looks.

Point (or even spread) collar with collar stays, on an otherwise well-constructed and fitted-shirt, is a great look. Its registers neutral to people who don't care about clothes, and nicely with those who do.

(By the way, a man who is very well-dressed doesn't wear the same shirt with and without a tie, because the ideal collar sizing is going to be different. This can avoid the issue letourneau notes, because your no-tie shirts can have collars tighter than would be comfortable for your shirts-to-be-worn-with-ties.)
posted by MattD at 4:05 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

in general button collar is frowned upon by the more stylish amongst us.

What nonsense.
posted by Zambrano at 4:05 PM on June 1, 2009

Agreed. And a button-down shirt without a tie looks sloppy.
posted by Rash at 4:51 PM on June 1, 2009

Response by poster: okay, well, NOW I am going to go with the button-down, as he is square and so am I. Also, he can return it and get the other one if he wants to.
posted by Ollie at 4:57 PM on June 1, 2009

"And a button-down shirt without a tie looks sloppy."

Uh... sports shirts intended to be worn without ties are frequently made as button-downs. Button-downs without ties are a very conservative look, but they're certainly not sloppy.
posted by Jahaza at 6:28 PM on June 1, 2009

While you appear to have made up your mind, you can get these stays, and get the button down LOOK for when desired, and not when not, without having the button holes and buttons that would show with an unbuttoned BD collar.

I have these stays (with magnets) and really like them. As for the essential debate, my view is the same as letourneau's.
posted by birdsquared at 3:38 AM on June 2, 2009

sports shirts intended to be worn without ties are frequently made as button-downs

True, and I wonder why -- seems like wasted effort to me, sewing on those little buttons, etc. My comment referred to the long-sleeved style, called an Oxford shirt.
posted by Rash at 12:54 PM on June 2, 2009

I wonder why

Too keep them looking neat... which is why it's puzzling that you see it as sloppy in oxford shirts.
posted by Jahaza at 4:11 PM on June 2, 2009

Only looks neat (with a tie) when the collars are buttoned down.

Now, a sport shirt, with no tie -- not so important (to button the collars). In fact I think it looks weird, the collars buttoned down, without a tie. Like buttoning up the top button, with no tie.
posted by Rash at 7:13 PM on June 3, 2009

« Older Is Facebook being shady, or is it just me?   |   It takes a crane to construct a crane. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.