All men’s dress shirts are button-ups, but not all button-ups are dress shirts. There are also button-down shirts, yet you button them up. Confused yet? No worries! It’s simpler than it sounds, and Lands’ End has you covered. Let’s sort out some shirts together to keep you looking your best.
Officially, if a shirt can be buttoned from the bottom of the shirt to the top of the neckline, it's a button-up shirt. Tuxedo dress shirts have this feature. So do button-down shirts. But so do many shirts that are decidedly casual, like bowling shirts. So, a button-up shirt is simply one that buttons all the way up (although in fashion slang, many of us refer specifically to dressier shirts this way).
Most of us can picture what a men’s button-down shirt looks like. We have probably heard them referred to as Oxford shirts. The points of the collar have their own buttons to which they fasten. They typically have long sleeves and no ornamentation except for a left side breast pocket. Button-down shirts are an excellent choice for business casual occasions or any casual event where you want to look just a bit more pulled together. They typically come in a range of colors which can look good with everything from men’s jeans to men’s dress pants.
The Oxford fabric has a “basket weave” that's then brushed, giving it a heavier feel than typical dress shirts and making it less silky. This fabric was invented in the 19th century in Scotland. The innovative Panama weave was designed to provide both high durability and high breathability. You will often see the term “Oxford cloth” to denote this type of fabric on a shirt.
The exact origin of the Oxford shirt is difficult to “pin down” (sorry we couldn’t resist that one—lol), but according to fashion legend, John Brooks, the president of Brooks Brothers, went to a polo match in England and noticed that the long collar points on the polo players shirts were fastened to the body with pins to keep them from flapping around. He then came back to the states and had the tailors at his company copy the shirt adding buttons to the points of the collar, and the American Oxford shirt was born.
Probably the most agreed-upon definition of a men’s dress shirt is a button-up shirt with a collar and long sleeves. Typically, a dress shirt has a breast pocket on the left and a shirttail hem. This type of shirt is designed to work well with a tie (which depending upon the occasion can look a little out of place with a button-down shirt), as well as to work well with a jacket. Collars and cuffs can vary depending upon the formality of the garment.
Short-sleeved button-down shirts are available and are a great choice when you want classic looks with less insulation (hello, summer). With that said, purists will probably tell you that there's no such thing as a short-sleeved dress shirt, so keep both the company and the occasion in mind if you opt for short sleeves. If you choose to wear a short-sleeved button-down shirt or short-sleeved dress shirt, it will work better if you skip the men’s blazer. Blazers are both more comfortable and look more “finished” when you have cuffs from a long-sleeved shirt underneath them. A more traditional option for warm weather is to opt for a long-sleeved shirt and roll the sleeves up to the elbow and skip a tie and leave the top button open. This will give you the “look” of a long-sleeved shirt while keeping you a bit cooler—especially if you opt for a cotton shirt.
Whoo! There are a lot of details to men’s shirts. The important thing is to wear a shirt that fits your style. The right shirts for your wardrobe will depend upon whether you work from home, wear business casual to an office, or have a profession that requires professional dress (and what you do for fun!).
Your shirts should fit your current frame and make you look and feel great. Whether you're leading a meeting in a conference room, meeting a date for coffee, or going out to dinner with friends, your shirt should be flattering to you in both style and color as well as meet any dress code requirements. Most guys can benefit from having at least one true dress shirt and a few button-down shirts in their closet in addition to more casual items and sweaters.
So go out there and find a great shirt for you!