This spring/summer season I noticed a plethora of back buttons on the collars of sport shirts at 346 Madison Avenue. It’s one of those small details from the Ivy heyday that it’s easy to laugh off as a trivial furbelow, until you see how immediately noticeable it is.
Like everything in menswear, the third collar button originally served a utilitarian purpose: It kept your necktie from slipping, back when ties were so skinny they’d fit between button and the collar fold. The detail was probably inspired by the days of detachable collars, which were secured by a button in the back.
When Brooks Brothers eliminated the third button from its shirts in the late ’60s, probably because ties had become too wide for the button to serve its purpose, old-school customers were furious and started stockpiling the last remaining third-button shirts, according to a Brooks spokesman.
Today the third button is offered as a novelty on alpha-sized sportshirts, both short and long-sleeved. Grab the spring/summer ones now while they’re on sale, or wait for the new fall shirts, a sampling of which is pictured above. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD