GQ’s Style Treason: Buttondown “Not A Dress Shirt”


In last month’s issue of GQ, the magazine managed to twice make an assertion that puzzled us here in Tradsville: namely, that a buttondown-collared shirt is not a dress shirt.

The first instance occurs in question-and-answer format in Glenn O’Brien’s “Style Guy” column:

Most of my dress shirts are buttondown- collar oxfords, but I recently started a job overseas and I’m receiving mixed reviews on pairing them with ties. Most Brits say it’s a faux pas. What is your opinion? Is the oxford too Americacentric to take abroad?

Surprise! The oxford cloth button-down is not a dress shirt! Don’t tell Congress or they might pass a law making it one. It’s not a faux pas to pair a button-down with a tie—say, if you’re going to lunch on the weekend or to see Arsenal play—but for the office, you might want to consider European wisdom and get with the dressier options.

European wisdom? Didn’t we take the ingredients we wanted from European culture, cuisine and wardrobes and come up with our own way of doing things? And for much of the 20th century, as the United States rose to its preeminent position in the world, the men who were running the country (such as the gentleman from the State Department in 1959 who’s pictured above) had no qualms about doing it in buttondown collars. Going back farther, to the time when the fictitious Nick Carraway was a struggling bond salesman, the buttondown was even the chosen shirt of Wall Street.

GQ’s second betrayal of our nation’s sartorial heritage comes by way of the graphic below, where the buttondown is associated with liberal-arts-degree underemployment, in contrast to the semi-spread collar, which ensures rapid career advancement:


But the only thing more fickle than fashion is fashion editors, and GQ seems to have a split personality when it comes the subject of buttondowns. The editors in this shirt guide state that the buttondown is “the old-school, all-American look” that has “never gone out of style and never will.”

We think Bruce Boyer characterized the buttondown best when he wrote in his book “Elegance”:

There are only half a dozen collar styles considered safe for business wear, and the differences are subtle but telling. The button-down collar is at the casual end of the business shirt spectrum and is the jauntiest collar that one can wear in the office or boardroom. Its purposefully nonchalant roll acts as a counterpoint to an otherwise sedate outfit and tends to give the impression of dressed-down and approachable respectability; figuratively as well as literally, it softens the stiff edges of the appearance…

It is the most American of collars, and its intent —which is also the great virtue of American clothing generally — is to relax the appearance, to bring a touch of dishabille to the formality of business garb.

Clearly a schism exists between men who believe that business dress calls for high formality, and those of a trad persuasion who prefer their business dress to be more casual. We recall a tale, perhaps recounted by Paul Fussell,  of a mother of moderate means who was so proud her son got invited to a society dance that she bought him a new suit. Unfortunately, all the young men at the dance were wearing blue blazers and chinos.

We notice the same thing when it comes to the cult of formalwear on the Internet. Clearly natural-shoulder dinner jackets with center vents break certain widely accepted conventions of form. For formalwear purists, we fear a country club dance during the Ivy heyday would be an invitation to an aneurism. There they would encounter dinner jackets in madras, batik, tartan or challis, depending on the season; green trousers with a side stripe in Christmas holly; Paul Winston’s youthful habit of wearing a pink buttondown with his dinner jacket; and perhaps even an impertinent interloper wearing tassel loafers with his tuxedo.

Those of the Internet high church might ask where the madness ends. Perhaps the answer is with the 1964 Eagle Shirtmakers’ buttondown formal shirt. Not only did these mavericks think the buttondown was a dress shirt, they also thought it was a formalwear shirt.

It’s ironic that in our casual age the tried and true buttondown should be castigated by the fashion press, when it really should be embraced as the ideal shirt for today’s sometimes casual/sometimes dressy workplace. This lowest level of dress shirt is precisely what is needed today in offices that have sunken into sartorial anarchy. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD & CHRISTOPHER SHARP

119 Comments on "GQ’s Style Treason: Buttondown “Not A Dress Shirt”"

  1. Duke of Windsor | November 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm |

    (Grumble) Your first mistake was reading GQ. Your second mistake was taking them seriously.

  2. We don’t take their advice seriously (hence this post), but we take their circulation and possible influence seriously.

  3. Duke of Windsor | November 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm |

    I’m not sure any one reads GQ for their “style” advice these days, however you have a point.

  4. I suppose it depends on what the definition of ‘dress’ is. Could GQ’s purpose be Europeanization via the semi-spread collar. After all, their target audience is college boys and the girls who dress them.
    That aside, I prefer the button-down and a tie with a sport coat or blazer. It just does not look right to me with a suit.
    BTW, I like the collars Rob Lowe as JFK wears in “Killing Kenedy”.

  5. With all due respect, the original question was about wearing a button down collar overseas. How about we ask the Brits to take their sartorial cues from us when they’re over here, and we take ours from them over there?

    I will say that I don’t, anymore, wear a tie with a button down collar, but in the ’60’s, when I spoke to Thomas Gates about a position at Morgan Bank, he was wearing a button down collar and a gold tie pin. That was doing it up right.

  6. We were responding less to the “when in Rome” (or London) angle than the blanket assertion that a buttondown is not a dress shirt. It’s hard to tell (because of the Congress remark), if O’Brien means in the eyes of the Brits (which is understandable), or himself.

  7. Southern Loafer | November 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm |

    I wear an OBDC with a tie, blue blazer, grey wool slacks or khakis, and loafers to work pretty much every day. I’ve always known that this outfit boarders on casual, but never contemplated that it was not still on the “dress” side of the line. Imagine my distress upon learning that GQ and its readership frown upon my sense of style.

    Teardrops on my keyboard….

  8. Over at the Black Fleece collection (designed by Thom Browne,) the madness never ends. This season’s shirt collection includes a button-down tuxedo shirt with ruffles and french cuffs:,default,pd.html?dwvar_FE00031_Color=WHIT&contentpos=41&cgid=0714

    The collection also includes button-down banker’s shirts with white collar and blue body.

    These shirts would look best in Royal Oxford. Regular OCBD fabric looks too casual.

  9. GQ changes it’s opinions about “appropriate dress” with almost every volume of the magazine. It seems that almost anything that O’Brien writes is garbage.

    This is the opinion of a 26-year-old who used to buy the magazine from time to time to see if he could learn anything about clothing from it.

  10. SartoriallyCavalier | November 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm |

    To me, formality depends more on the cloth than the buttons sewn on it. What I think is a bigger issue of contention is whether one can wear a bow tie with a buttondown collar.

  11. I’m with RWK, GQ is a shit publication which promotes whatever their advertisers are pushing. Case in point, two years ago, you had to have your jeans hemmed an inch above your ankle… then last year you had to have your jeans 4 inches long so you can roll them… sorry to all the suckers who had to run out and buy all new jeans to ‘keep up with the style”…

  12. J. Press carried a Tussah silk formal button down shirt in the late 1950s with black placket studs on the shirtfront. It was clearly labeled “dry clean only” to avoid losing the lustrous white dye on sensitive Tussah silk.

  13. I usually rail against unorthodoxy, but I plan on being married in an OCBD with french cuffs.

  14. In reference to the final paragraph,

    I also struggle to comprehend the discord and inconsistencies in the “dress codes” that some guys come up with. Usually this is manifested by men in their 20s or early 30s. For instance, it cracks me up when a friend of mine explains that he can’t wear button-down oxfords to work but then chooses to complement his full-spread collar twill shirts with jeans and sneakers.

  15. I think the point of building a trad wardrobe is that it allows one to ignore the homosexuals who run the fashion industry and still dress better than 90% of the male population.

  16. Regarding the wearing of button-down collars overseas: If Benjamin Franklin could wear a raccoon skin cap to serve as US ambassador to the French Court, we can wear button-down collars even in the presence of Eurobankers. The point is not to betray shame.

  17. Think what would happen to GQ and the Fashion industry if the men who read GQ learned how simple being well dressed really is. They can’t afford for this “secret” to get out and not only that, they must warn men about how quickly being well dressed changes.

  18. Glenn O’Brien has no integrity. He routinely bashed monograms until he got a gig with J.Crew extolling the virtues of “ironic” monograms and claiming you should get AHA or something else stupid stitched on your shirt for a big premium.

    In America, a buttondown shirt is appropriate for any occasion short of absolute formal. It just is.

  19. Americans have always worn buttondown- collars with suits. Some Italians do it. Some Japanese do it.

    Does anyone else remember the “creative” advertising O’Brien did for Calvin Klein? Creepy:

  20. For me:

    A dress shirt was worn with suit for those power meetings, client dinners, presos, speaking engagements and such with lace up shoes.

    A notch down from that (which I wore most often) was OCBD’S with suit and tassel loafers…never a lace up with a button-down. Routine client calls, meetings, like the chap above.

    Then the blazer, sport coat, always with OCBD’S, never with pointed or spread collared shirts. Always tassel loafers.

    Enter casual Friday…and that is when the decline began…

  21. I’d say that a button-down is either for dressing down a suit or matching a blazer, and so should be held to more relaxed offices, casual Fridays, evening outings, and the weekends. Of course, I’ll wear my knit tie with pretty much anything but would never touch loafers (a little to goy for me, I guess, so I stick with leather boat shoes, or those pairs of half brogue oxford shoes and boots I’m always lusting over but can’t afford)

    Of course, it’s also interesting to see how the site goes off on any level of formality slightly different from its own consensus. It’s very similar to how the disappearance of extra fabric at the underarms or around the abdomen means that we’re being taken over by dandies, but the appearance of a little extra fabric at the ankle is people saying that they don’t care how they look.

  22. Glenn O’Brien also suggests (on page 296 of his book “How To Be A Man”) buying a Star Trek uniform if you get called for jury duty. Perhaps if more people had read his book, fewer people would pay any attention to anything that Glenn O’Brien says about anything.

  23. Glenn O’Brien is right. He usually is (no one is right 100% of the time….so trolling his 40 years of substantial style/fashion experience for inconsistencies is less than useful).

    Wearing a button down oxford/pinpoint shirt as formal business attire is the same as wearing loafers with a formal business suit……it screams, “I’m having trouble growing up…”. Americans tend to wear lots of stuff that simply doesn’t work….so, in this context, the preponderance of something, hardly makes it appropriate.

  24. A spirit of youth is what has guided the Ivy/preppy approach to dressing for 90 years.

    I’m now utterly confused by where AEV is coming from. He’s usuallly the staunchest defender of tradition, and now he cries foul at one of the things that has most characterized this style of dressing for nearly a century: that the buttondown is the shirt of choice, even with a suit, and that tassel loafers with a suit are perfectly acceptable for American gentlemen.

    You’re lost in orbit. These will help you find your way back to planet earth:

    After the olive issue from the spring (in which, as I recall, you both denied its popularity as a color during the heyday as well as suggesting that nobody looks good in it) I think it’s become quite clear that the only tradition you’re out to defend are your own personal preferences.

  25. Is it not possible for the BD&Tie to be both incorrect AND Ivy?

    Most quirks of the Ivy persuasion are due to a lack of giving a damn. Loafers with suits? BD with a Tie? Chinos for everything from playing sports to meeting royalty? Because when one needs to wear a tie, one just adds it to the shirt already being worn.

    The English do regard a BD& Tie as incorrect, but just as unbuttoned cuffs are Sprezz and Wrong, so this is both Ivy and Wrong. Denim worn around the hips is Urban and Wrong.

    The ways in which conventions are broken defines any stylistic movement, not the ways in which they are followed.

  26. AEV’s statements above sound like the bold pronouncements from the iGents who then post pictures of themselves in tailcoats and strollers at semi-formal events and propound that such is the only “appropriate” attire.

  27. @CC –

    I have never once said that I think loafers and suits are appropriate (aside from casual, cotton suits). Ditto re: OCBDs and formal suits.

    “Tradition” and ‘this style of dressing’ are not in conflict with the beliefs that lace ups, not loafers, are to be paired with formal suits and that OCBDs are (more) casual sport shirts, not formal business attire.

    Oddly, you inclded old Brooks scans that show every one of their OCBDs paired with blazers and non-matching trousers – not a single formal suit and OCBD among any of the pics. As for J. Press, I have never attempted to dress like the mannequins in the catalogs/stores or on their Web site….nor do I “agree” with many of their style ‘rules’ or decisions (e.g. almost all of York Street, contrast color club collar shirts, forward point collar shirts, huge, baggy sweaters, etc. ). Press also happens to include many non OCBDs under their “formal shirting” category…..clearly giving patrons the choice to wear something other than OCBDs with their formal wear. J. Press is, first and foremost, a college/university outfitter…..with all the non-formal, non business world connotations and heritage that go along with that reality.

  28. There’s a suit with buttondown in the BB catalog.

    You have a dogmatic tone in presenting your subjective preferences and routinely back them with appeals to tradition, history, custom, rules and sartorial logic, and bang them out on the keyboard like a hammer on an anvil.

  29. I stand corrected – there is a single, ‘washable tropical’ (how’s the ‘washable’ suit stood the test of time….?) suit pictured in the Brooks catalog with a OCBD. Every single other pic of OCBDs – dozens of them – has them paired with casual, non formal suiting (and, the one other (formal, wool) suit is pictured with a point collar shirt).

    Yes, I do indeed link my preferences to tradition and custom – both my own personal traditions and those that happen to be (ironically) profiled in the Brooks catalog from 1980…..perhaps those that believe OCBDs are well-paired (and well established) with formal suiting should spend some time studying it.

  30. I also have to chuckle: I have ‘dogmatic tone’…..coming from the guy who’s titled this very post “GQ’s Style Treason”….

  31. The fact that you would read that with a straight face when it wasn’t written with one clearly shows your lack of a sense of humor.

    But we knew that.

  32. It’s my sense of humor that draws me here in the first place.

    Either you think GQ is being “treasonous” by suggesting OCBDs aren’t formal wear/appropriate for a business suit, or you don’t. If you don’t, than you agree with me – if you do, than you weren’t being humorous with your title. Which is it?

  33. For a European eye button down is a sport-country shirt,perfect with wool sweaters,odd sport jackets,or in summer without any jacket.
    I think that also in America,in “Ivy fashion cycle” period was not considered a dress shirt from the most of peoples.
    In 50s and 60s button down with suits was considered a oddity in Europe.
    In Italy button down shirts become a little more common with jackets in late 60s early 70s but became fashionable only in 80s when Gianni Agnelli began to wear they with Caraceni flannel double breasted,but with the down unbuttoned.
    Since to those days unbuttoned button down are become part of “sprezzatura”repertoire.
    Carry down collar buttoned is considered a bit clumsy and not smart.

  34. I absolutely agree with you, Christian.

    The OCBD may not be the “dressiest” shirt, but it certainly can be worn as a “dress” shirt (meaning, with a suit and tie).

    Anglo-American style can and should incorporate the best of both traditions–it needn’t be 90% Anglo style (with 10% American style thrown in!)

    Wearing an OCBD with a suit and tie isn’t purely an American thing, anyway. As another commenter has stated, Italians (who do know good style) wear OCBDs with suit and tie quite often.

    Finally, it could be considered an element of Trad style that on formal(ish) occasions, one is dressed *slightly* less formally than others; meanwhile, on casual occasions, one is dressed slightly more elegantly than others. If you’re the Trad American overseas–embrace your status. Would we expect an Englishman visiting the states, to wear flip flops and t-shirts, in an effort to fit in 100% with us yanks? I don’t think you’ll be kicked out of the boardroom on account of two small buttons. Have some American confidence, man!

  35. You can certainly wear an OCBD with a suit. You’ll just make AEV’s point. Just becasue you can does not mean you should. If you prefer a button down collar, there are plenty of more appropriate shirting choices. Personally, I think the BD looks much better than any spread collar favored by many these days. The point collar and a collar pin that Bruce sported not too long ago – simple, elegant and stylish.

  36. It doesn’t surprise me that people who want to wear their OCBDs with their suits, and dress a little more casually, would agree with CC that it’s perfectly acceptable…..and, as a result, bend over backwards trying to find ammunition to substantiate it (the Italians do it! Brooks paired one with a washable suit in a 1980 catalog! look at the J Press Web site! and so on).

    The reality is that the Italians do it in a fashion-forward, almost ironic way….not in a classic, ‘traditional’ manner. Sort of like shrunken, tight double breasted suits, 2 inch wide knit ties, and down-puffy-sporty-outerwear over formal attire. They know how to dress, but we shouldn’t confuse what they’re doing with classic American style or use it as a guide for our day-to-day, traditional office/formal attire.

    Loafers and OCBDs are casual clothes. They just are (as are their origins). To be sure, Americans have a way of under-dressing and ‘casualizing’ just about every circumstance, and have therefore adopted these casual pieces into their formal wear….in large part because it’s easy (see the explosion of non-iron fabrics) and convenient (and tends to be less expensive). If follks on here think that’s something to celebrate, fetishize, and memorialize, so be it. I don’t.

  37. > The reality is that the Italians do it in a fashion-forward, almost ironic way….not in a classic, ‘traditional’ manner.

    Did you take a poll of the 1,000,000 Italian men who do this? Are you certain their intentions are ironic? 🙂

    > If follks on here think that’s something to celebrate, fetishize, and memorialize, so be it.

    It is definitely something to celebrate. It’s an American look–and it looks great!

    It’s completely fine that not everyone agrees with the look… I wouldn’t argue that spread collar dress shirts look BAD with a suit… and variety is the spice of life, so have at your spread collars.

  38. Glenn O’Brien has written so much that I’m sure he can’t keep track of everything he’s said. But at the very least he is a fan of the OCBD, whether or not he wears his with suits:

    “When I was a lad I was a devotee of the style of clothing known as Ivy League. I liked Brooks Brothers, but when it came to button-down collar shirts I preferred those made by Gant. Gant was founded in New Haven in 1941 and used to manufacture shirts for Brooks Brothers and J.Press, during which time they became masters of the oxford cloth button-down.”

    Read More

  39. And now that we’re back to railing against orthodoxy and rules, how about we go back and reassess all the insults slung at those who wear their pants long?

  40. A glance at history. My father wore a suit to work in New York every day from the 1950s to the 1980s. I do not remember him in anything but a Brooks Brothers button down.

  41. OCBD vs spread, it’s all about venue, like shoes or leather mask. 😉

  42. A.E.W. Mason | November 11, 2013 at 5:30 pm |

    The button-down shirt has been accepted office attire, even in the stuffiest old-line law firms and corporate law departments, since at least just after WWII; and that would include a period during which men of that profession would rarely if ever wear a suit that was anything but blue or gray. Moreover, and perhaps ironically, the term “button-down” long ago worked its way into American usage as denoting an atmosphere of formality, fidelity to rules, risk-aversion and conservatism. This critique drew on the perception (or misperception) that men wearing the button-down were obsessed with neatness and didn’t want to chance the possibility of the ends of their collars sticking up, which looks oh so very messy indeed. Of course, forward point and spread collars were and are equally acceptable, unless you happened to be arguing a case before the late Chief Justice Burger in the U.S. Supreme Court. The story (probably just a legend) goes that a lawyer stood to argue and Burger noticed he was wearing a button-down. Before he could say “May it please the Court,” Burger rebuked him: “Counsel, this the Supreme Court of the United States, not your club. When next you appear it will be in a plain-point collar shirt.” The case was, of course, lost at that moment.

  43. @AEWMason – In fact, the term “buttoned-up” is what you’re thinking of (to mean risk aversion, conservatism, etc.) and it doesn’t at all refer to the button down collar – but, rather, the buttoned-up or button front shirt. This is a common mispercecption.

    We should all remember that the button down collar shirt, introduced by Brooks Bros. in the late 1890s, was pattered after the shirts of polo players and was exclusively included on sport/casual shirts straight through the 1950s. Sure, as college/Ivy/sportswear styles took off, the style made it’s way into corporate/formal wear….just like sweatpants and t shirts have made their way into nice restaurants, baseball caps into places of worship, pajamas onto commercial airlines, yoga pants and athletic gear into supermarkets and shops of all kinds, flip flops into cities, and chinos and short sleeved polo shirts into casual Fridays across the land. The ‘prep’ blogosphere is full of additional examples of this casualization of traditional clothing into non-casual situations (e.g. no socks all the time, boat shoes with everything, nylon belts with everything, go to hell stuff all the time, technical outerwear paired with blazers and suits, and so on. Hell, Mr. UnabashedlyPrep recently profiled himself wearing sweatpants with tasseled loafers…..). It’s all part of the same trend……not different becuase your Dad did it or because J. Press is nearly singular in its support.

    You all seem to fetishize the OCBD – believing that it’s a symbol of something aspirational or some sort of signal of unstudied nonchalance/youthful rebellion. Really, it’s just a casual shirt that has no place under a formal suit. Ditto on loafers.

  44. I often times wear on ocbd with with a tie and sport coat, if I’m wearing an actual suit…I avoid the whole problem by wearing a pinned club collar with suits…

  45. I live in California, and here any shirt with buttons on it (do snaps count? Sort of… maybe. Not really.) is a ‘dress shirt’. By this logic, the button-down is the most formal, as it has the highest button count.

  46. “The reality is that the Italians do it in a fashion-forward, almost ironic way….not in a classic, ‘traditional’ manner. Sort of like shrunken, tight double breasted suits, 2 inch wide knit ties, and down-puffy-sporty-outerwear over formal attire. They know how to dress, but we shouldn’t confuse what they’re doing with classic American style or use it as a guide for our day-to-day, traditional office/formal attire”.

    This is the stuff that the Italians sells around the world (ironically for the most “made in Italy” is no more product in Italy), but Italian men dress with more classical and timeless style.
    Is not a new thing; back in 50s “Italian” Continental suits ( one button,narrow peak lapels,broad shoulders,slanted pockets,shiny cloths) was only for exportation: never see in the Italian streets.

  47. A.E.W. Mason | November 11, 2013 at 7:23 pm |


    The following is from one of many dictionaries with materially identical definitions; look at the second meaning. I think your mistaken.

    button-down (btn-doun)
    1. Having the ends of the collar fastened down by buttons: a button-down shirt.

    2. also buttoned-down (btnd-) Conservative, conventional, or unimaginative: “a colorful character in the buttoned-down, dull-gray world of business”

  48. A.E.W. Mason | November 11, 2013 at 7:42 pm |


    “Buttoned-up,” it seems, is more generally used to describe a somewhat anti-social or withdrawn personality.

  49. AEV- How many exceptions to your fake rule will it take before you admit that you are incapable of separating useful rules from your personal opinions?

    People do it, they look good doing it. That doesn’t mean it always works, it’s an acquired taste just like club collars with a pin.

  50. @AEV

    The point was, of course, that not just my Dad did it. It was the dominant style. Did William F. Buckley ever wear anything else? Seems inconceivable. And of course it was conservative, not at all like wearing flip-flops. People who didn’t were probably “slick,” or worse. You can embrace or deplore the snobbery, but it’s still social history. I remember being a freshman in college in 1968 and seeing a young man on campus wearing a pink Brooks Brothers button down — distinctive roll, distinctive color. It was clear we shared a common language, and we began talking to each other as though we knew each other — no introduction needed. The shirt was the introduction.

    If you mean *today* a semi-spread shirt is more appropriate for a suit, well, yes and no. It’s what you can carry off, isn’t it? There’s a greater range of play at work in the grammar of clothes, isn’t there?

  51. Sorry gents, you can wear OCBD’S with whatever you want and that is perfectly your prerogative. But, when asked, “Is a button down a dress shirt?” The answer is no. Then follow it with, but I wear mine with a Tux, pajama top or whatever you fancy. The good news? You will have answered the question correctly AND let them know you are a free spirit? Not bad eh?

  52. This comment thread is far too long. I’m not sure why anyone here would choose to engage with someone who is so obviously wrong.

  53. Whoooo I didn’t have time to read all of the comments but the first GQ article was clearly speaking to the OCBD. The picture they used at the top was not an OCBD it was nearly see through obviously broadcloth or end on end. I think we can all agree Run of the mill Oxford cloth is not terribly refined with its rough weave. The advice was sound in England or anywhere else in regard to the fabric they just lumped the button down in as part of the statement. I’m sure if the London visitor were to wear a more refined fabric button down with a smooth worsted suit he would not receive the ridicule. In fact they may even accuse home of inputting a bit of sprezzatura (there that should get everyone fired up).

  54. I am amazed that this thread has elicited so many impassioned comments over collar styles; it seems like a case of sprezzatourette’s syndrome.

    I have to agree with AEV when he writes, “You all seem to fetishize the OCBD – believing that it’s a symbol of something aspirational or some sort of signal of unstudied nonchalance/youthful rebellion. Really, it’s just a casual shirt that has no place under a formal suit. Ditto on loafers.” I am sure that this topic would make an interesting poll.

  55. AEV, I might be willing to agree with you: an OCBD isn’t the best match for, as you put it, “a formal suit.”

    However, since the sack jacket (sporting or suiting) for which both the Ivy Heyday Years (I.V.Y.) and Brooks Brothers was well known certainly is NOT “formal,” we may say with confidence that the OCBD is not only appropriate, but a perfect match.

    And the rules are different in “the country.” A sack-OCBD combo may not swing anymore in the hallowed halls of Wall Street law firms (where the bespoke suit is an “I’m a member of the 1 %” totem), but I can say with assurance that it’s more than welcome in law firms, banks, and investment houses beyond the boundaries of the Manhattan.

  56. @DCG, SE, and others:

    To clarify: I never said my stance on OCBDs under a formal/business suit (or any fashion related positions, for that matter) was anything but my opinion; an educated, well-defined opinion based on the origins and traditions associated with the style….but, an opinion – not a ‘rule’ – nontheless. Ironically, if anyone seems to believe in rules related to OCBDs, it’s many of you (including @CC)….as you all seemed to recoil at GQ’s (and my) suggestion that OCBDs might not be appropriate in formal settings. Treason! Glenn O’Brien is a fake! Look at the J.Press Web site! And so on.

    Since someone asked, yes, WFB frequently wore non-button down collar shirts with suits….especially when he was in the public eye/on TV – he’s in a point collar shirt with a suit in some of his most famous TV debates.

    As many of you have pointed out, there was indeed a small window in time – perhaps the late 1950s through the 1980s – where the sheer preponderance of OCBDs being sold by American retailers and being found under suits made them defacto formal/business wear. But, the reality – in my opinion – is that that brief trend was more of hangover from the casual and campus obsessed 1960s…..and now, as OCBDs are cheaply recreated, shrunken, and fetishized by everyone from J. Crew to H&M, it’s pretty clear to me that they no longer work in most formal office or business environments. Fortunately for CC, swinging golf clubs at the Brooks Brothers simulator is neither.

  57. @AJC

    Agree. Never engage an unarmed man in a battle of the wits. Or, to paraphrase an axiom even the rubes can understand, don’t get down in the mud and wrestle a pig. It only makes the pig happy and you covered in pig shit. For the unsophisticated that use the term “formal business suit” (there is no such thing) this is language they should comprehend.

  58. I thought I would offer comment on the button-down collar question as the first I have made to this site. The traditional American cut suit is not very popular in Canada where I live–in fact, it is extremely rare. However, the button-down shirt is an American classic that has spread around the world, and may be worn wherever one feels comfortable doing so.

    Nonetheless, I recall reading a Canadian style icon’s opinion on the subject–Harry Rosen whose name is on the largest chain of high end menswear stores in Canada. He was of the opinion that button-down shirts are best worn with blazers and odd jackets. In Canada, they are, in fact, seldom worn with suits.

    Yesterday was Remembrance Day in Canada, and I attended services and a reception at an officers’ mess wearing traditional navy blazer with a regimental crest and buttons, corps tie and medals–all very Anglo-Canadian, but with a classic button-down shirt.

  59. @Malvernlink –

    I think – for the non-rubes – it’s fairly obvious that I’m only using the term “formal business suit” to differentiate and avoid confusion. It’s a general phrase, used only in this instance to clarify that I’m not referring to cotton suits, seersucker suits, corduroy suits, linen suits, washable/dacron suits, leisure suits, skinny/trendy/shrunken suits, etc. – all of which would be far more acceptable with more casual shirting and none of which would be acceptable in a large percentage of today’s white collar, business settings.

    I understand that people – like you, I’m guessing – who like to wear OCBDs with suits and ties will disagree with me. That’s ok with me. But, to suggest, with an aire of certainty and defiance (self ascribed ‘sophistication’, even!), that no debate exists about the appropriateness of OCBDs in formal/business settings (mostly because of personal taste, anecdotal historical cherry picking, and/or an odd fetishization of trad style), is pure foolishness.

  60. It doesn’t stop you from writing with an air of certainty and defiance that they are just plain wrong with suits, and then, when pressed, retreating by saying it’s just your opinion.

    And since you brought up my golf-filled and leisured lifestyle, I can’t help but notice you’ve written quite a number of rather long posts the past two days during conventional business hours. You wear formal business suits, do you not work formal business hours?

  61. @CC –

    To be sure, I am certain about my opinion. Prepared to defend it, even. That’s why I have it. That said, I have clarified numerous times that it’s just that and that others are free to disagree.

    I’m flattered that you’ve taken an interest in my professional time management – thank you! The reality is, unfortunately, that I’ve found myself on wi-fi enabled cross country business flights the last couple days… me plenty of time to acqaint myself with how you spend large chunks of your own.

  62. I’m going to add “whether you can/should wear an OCBD (or loafers) with a suit” to my list of topics that must never be brought up at the dinner table (along with religion and politics).

  63. This rube wears both spread and BD. I own a few suits a BD would look inappropriate with. But, 95% of the time I wear BDs with suits just as “formal” or not as those few.

    Rules are personal things, like do you put your shoes on last or your trousers.

    By the way I feel quite comfortable wearing OCBD with a suit and tie in Manhattan. We’re talking Manhattan, Kansas, right? 😉

  64. I respect the point of view that the button-down is too casual for a suit. It follows certain traditions that have existed, which I acknowledge. I, however, don’t follow it and wear them with suits on most occasions. I’ll wear a straight-collar for the nicest of events, but on the daily I wear an oxford or button-down pinpoint. In my casual office place, it allows me to dress a step above, while still having an air of relaxation. I typically wear them with trousers and a sport coat or blazer, but I utilize the same effect to dress down suits.

    I have no prejudice towards the straight collar, I just prefer the button-down, same as my father.

  65. Let’s not confuse dressing appropriately with following fashion trends. I will echo those who said that should most men learn how easy it is to dress appropriately, GQ and most of these men’s fashion brands would quickly go out of business. That will never be the case, however, as most men are not gentlemen or professionals, nor do they aim to be.

    Now, let me say that there is no issue with wearing a button down in the USA. Pair it with a suit, and feel free to pair that suit with loafers. There are dissenters, but it remains acceptable here.

    The Brits do things a little differently, so try to fit in if you hope to stay there for long. But God help you if you start dressing like a Continental.

  66. And I thought I had a problem with having too much time on my hands.

  67. Don is spot on. Get a life frat boys.

  68. It is possible to pull of button down collars with “dressy suits”… 😉 Robert Rubin usually does. One of the most powerful men in Wall Street as well as D.C.

    Also, in this pic is Chuck Prince while CEO of CitiBank… Notice anything AEV?

  69. Also,

    Do a Google image search of Warren Buffet, who wears a non-casual suit everyday and low and behold, in button-down collar shirts, almost exclusively! Not that he’s a style maven, but isn’t that the point?

  70. Just to add fuel to the fire, here is Rubin again, in a formal suit with a button-down collar as well as ummm… gasp LOAFERS!

  71. OK, let me drop some truth on this discussion.

    First of all, to state that ‘Glenn O’Brien has 40 years of writing’ or style experience as any kind of justification for his writing on mens fashion is nonsense. Glenn O’Brien was the editor of Oui magazine, which was the raunchiest of low-budget porn magazines – hardly qualifying for a style maven. His other claim to style fame was hanging out in NYC with the 1970s counter-culturists like Andy Warhol. Warhol might have worn OCBDs, but he was no traditionalist. Bottom line is, it is not good for GQ’s business to support any kind of enduring style.

    The other thing that makes me laugh is when very young guys make pronouncement about “tradtion”. Not to pick on AEV, because I like his critical viewpoints and willingness to take on group think, but when I see pictorials on Unabashedly Prep of young guys in a navy suit, pink spread collar shirt, and brown shoes, all moral authority on dictating what constitutes “tradition” goes out the window. Even Knowles picked a pink shirt to be his “emblem” of non-traditionalism in 1959’s Separate Peace. Having been lucky enough to be around many leaders of business (as an observer due to my job, not my status), I can tell you that a button down collar is common. In fact, try to find a picture of Warren Buffet without an OCBD. And it is far less of a sartorial sin than wearing a pink shirt or brown shoes with a navy suit.

    Do I wear OCBDs to be aspirational? Heck no. I wear them because they are easy, always look good, my father and his father wore them, and no one will ever look at me and say “why the heck is he wearing a pink spread collar shirt”.

  72. sorry to emjkmj for unconsciously repeating his Warren Buffett observation.

  73. returning to the original piece, there’s mention of the OCBD demonstrating that one is putting one’s liberal-arts degree to good use.

    In my case, absolutely true. And I’m not entirely sure why this is pejorative.

    Is this supposed to be an insult?

  74. “Look at Mr. Buttton Down over there, all erudite and such. The collar speaks volumes. The recipient of an education that featured a core curriculum, no doubt. Including the sciences, math, history, and philosophy. Pathetic.”

  75. Comment by SartoriallyCavalier — November 10, 2013 @ 4:54 pm
    To me, formality depends more on the cloth than the buttons sewn on it. What I think is a bigger issue of contention is whether one can wear a bow tie with a buttondown collar.

    Both the material and the collar style affect the formality of a shirt, as do the placket, the cuffs, and the pocket(s). To my not-bound-by-Ivy League-style mind, button-down shirts are better with sport coats, and straight collar shirts with suits. Having said that, a button-down is fine with a (more) casual suit. Personal opinion here, folks, not a pronouncement on “correctness.”

    I prefer button-down shirts with bow ties. How is this wrong? Then again, I don’t wear bow ties with suits, but do, occasionally, with my stroller (semi-formal day wear).

    Comment by Lando — November 12, 2013 @ 6:19 pm
    Don is spot on. Get a life frat boys.

    What an asinine comment. All your silly little comment is saying is, “I don’t care about this, and I think you are a bunch of poo-poo heads because you do care about it!”

    Clearly, the readership of this blog cares about this issue. In contrast, no one cares that you don’t.

  76. S.E.,

    Remember this joke?

    A graduate with a science degree asks, “Why does it work?”
    A graduate with an engineering degree asks, “How does it work?”
    A graduate with an accounting degree asks, “How much does it cost?”
    A graduate with a liberal arts degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”

    I think the graphic in the article is part of this tendency to put down those with liberal arts degrees. With navel-gazing faux majors like “black studies,” “Chicano studies,” “women’s studies,” “queer studies,” and the like abounding, and the near-total abandonment of the traditional liberal arts degree, such denigration is well deserved.

  77. Wikipedia, not the be all, end all, but note the following when describing a button down shirt:

    “Button-down collars have points fastened down by buttons on the front of the shirt. Introduced by Brooks Brothers in 1896, they were patterned after the shirts of polo players and were used exclusively on sports shirts until the 1950s in America. It is still considered a more sporting style, and, particularly outside America, traditionally dressed men still do not wear suits with this style of collar.”

  78. Henry, I’ll grant as much and likely more. Good point.

    My alma mater’s “core” included no such ‘innovations.’ In fact, one couldn’t find them amidst the list of electives or major courses.

    History of Western Civ, Survey of Western Literature, Philosophy, Calculus, the sciences, politics. And so on. The traditional core.

    Does this mean I may wear my liberal-artsy button down shirt with pride?

    And, for what it’s worth, I never ask them if they want fries.

  79. I do not doubt that a button down shirt is not the most formal shirt, but to say it is not a suit appropriate shirt is a stretch. Look at what is actually worn by real people and not what is talked about on the internet and in fashion magazines (emphasis on fashion). The next time that you find yourself in a “formal” business setting (Whatever that means. At this point I have no idea.) take a good look around at what the people in the room are actually wearing. I very much doubt that they are abiding by all of these rules handed down to us from fashion writers.

  80. Comments made above about the liberal arts would lead one to conclude that western literature and civilization are only considered valuable if the protagonists are straight white males. If other points of view are included it means the liberal arts have gone downhill and are no longer worth studying. Which suggests that the liberal arts really have failed if they didn’t broaden anyone’s perspective. Wasn’t the whole point of that kind of education to make us less provincial and self-regarding?

  81. @RJG

    I take a different view. I think S.E. has put it exactly right and identified a real tragedy in our approach to education. But I don’t read his critique as you do. The point of a liberal education should be to study and learn about those things that are most valuable and illuminating in respect of the human condition, irrespective of the skin pigmentation, gender or sexual orientation of the writer, composer, painter, mathematician, etc. We demean the very foundation of human achievement when we look to such factors as a basis to levy a kind of pre-judged value on the work of its creator.

  82. I agree with A.E.W. Mason about the aim of a liberal education. I would disagree, though, with the implication that the “traditional” way of doing it was free from pre-judged values. For example, a grad course I took in the the eighteenth-century novel in the late ’70s, in which no women writers were included. They weren’t considered significant. Today such a course is impossible and eighteenth-century women writers are justly prized. It’s just one example, there are many more. Consider one of the final scenes in Jane Austen’s *Persuasion* in which the heroine points out that women have been portrayed a certain way because men wrote the history books. Virginia Woolf says the same thing a century later. If it’s true that liberal arts should teach things that are valuable and illuminating, the problem was that most of what was considered valuable and interesting had been written by a relatively small group of people with similar educations.

  83. A.E.W. Mason | November 13, 2013 at 3:01 pm |


    I take your point but I would dissent from the claim that today’s method of correction (i.e., the kinds of courses identified by S.E.) is helpful, either as a matter of education or in identifying “significant” or great achievements. Berryman’s greatest poem is Homage to Mistress Bradstreet, published in 1956. It’s greatness is not simply Berryman’s execution of a long poem, but that he dealt with a writer of true greatness (which, he, as a professor, knew) who had a lot to say about women AND men AND human nature; not because she was a woman, but because she had a first class mind. I would guess that in today’s “women writers” courses Anne Bradstreet is either ignored or takes a back seat to inferior writers whose observations are rooted in political motivation which, as Trilling observed, almost always leads to mediocrity if not ruin. In any case, S.E. can speak for himself, but I didn’t take him to mean that only works with straight, white male protagonists could be of value.

    What’s the subject? Oh, yea, button down shirts. Sorry.

  84. @ A.E.W. Mason

    We agree about a lot of things.

    Do you have yours on? The OCBD I mean. I do, and because it’s quite cool here today, also a crew-neck shetland sweater from the Andover Shop which is wonderfully warm.

    all best,

  85. A graduate with a science degree asks, “Why does it work?”
    A graduate with an engineering degree asks, “How does it work?”
    A graduate with an accounting degree asks, “How much does it cost?”
    A graduate with a liberal arts degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”

    These days the first three are interviewing for burger-flipper jobs. The interviewer is the liberal arts major who got a head start on working up the (fast) food chain.

  86. A.E.W. Mason | November 13, 2013 at 4:04 pm |

    Absolutely. With an old Hart, Schaffner & Marx hopsack suit which is still in mint condition–moss green with a muted maroon windowpane.

  87. White males are after all those the ones who have given the most to civilization, with a few obvious exceptions of course. On shirts…in addition to pinned club collars, their is also the tab collar shirt, or you could even pin a strait collar shirt…While I don’t generally wear Bd’s with suits, something about the strait point collar shirt seems unfinished.

  88. Arliss Renwick | November 13, 2013 at 9:25 pm |

    Watch ANY episode of the Dick Van Dyke show – Rob Petrie’s wearing a suit with a button down shirt in every episode. Even with a tux (which is taking things too far, I admit.)

  89. What the heckles? Do we really need ObrienCare? Can’t I keep the plan I’m already on? I like the button down collar. I think men look best with it around their neck. It lends distinction to not so nice necks and elegance to nice necks. It is a strong look. It is a prestigious look. Why not a button down with a tux? Also I love bow ties with BD’s. All that tying and knotting and buttoning kinda really tucks one in like a military bedsheet. I love it. And there’s not enough of it going around. I will encourage the formal BD option. It is a worthy exploration. I would also like to explore whether the often cited BrksBrthrs and JPrs and notable others even know what heckles they are doing. They are salesmen for petesake and are capable of taking the strangest viewpoints and directions in hopes of moving a weak offering. Retailers are fishing for men, and trying to see what bites (or even nibbles) in this current emerging mega digital economy. The retailers are like ObrienCare, they make little laws out of suggestions and demand we follow. With the exception of JCrw which blatantly foams and dribbles out what they think is a roadmap to “style” or whatever…”The Shirt”, “The Shoe”, “The Tailored Sock”…their roadmap is driving me over the edge. Anyhoo, sorry for long wind passing. I know its getting stinky in here. Can somebody start a club where I can come join for drinks in my BD formal get up please? There must be something other than the opera club, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Speaking of….BTW I heard 2 Boys was painful but alot of reviews were great so I’m confused. Muhly is interesting.
    xo f

  90. Mr. Frost,

    Has your physician adjusted your medications lately? 😉

    Seriously, a button-down collar is a great look, but a casual one, and is simply inappropriate with semi-formal and formal clothes (of which the only one a modern man is likely to wear is the tuxedo). Sure, if you want to be “independent-minded,” even an “iconoclast,” wear a button-down shirt with your tuxedo. Heck, wear your tuxedo to church, or to work. Be the best-dressed man on the bus! Almost no one will notice, or care about, the style of your shirt collar.

    On the other hand, wouldn’t it be nice to learn something from the countless men who came before you, men who wanted to look good and present themselves well? Wouldn’t it be nice to be traditional, even just a little bit?

  91. My steadfast rule since age 20 (and I’m now 53) is this: OCBD with a blazer, slip on loafers, and repp tie; pinpoint spread or point collar with suits, lace-up shoes and (always) when wearing a bow tie. OCBD is a “casual dress shirt” that is perfectly fine with a blazer and tie, but never with a suit. It certainly has an important place in my wardrobe (and that of many American men).

  92. Leave it to Henry to put “independent-minded” in scare quotes!

  93. @Anonymous, emjkmj, etc. –

    Cherry picking the internet and finding pictures of old men in suits and OCBDs has nothing to do with this discussion at all. Is Warren Buffet now a style guide (because he’s successful)? Rubin? Just totally irrelevant….I can just as easily find famous men wearing spread collar shirts. C’mon.

    Re: my personal style, Brown lace up shoes with a blue suit is now somehow ‘untraditional’ – sinful even? Solid light pink spread collar shirts are rebellious? Stop it. I rarely wear black lace ups with anything but my tuxedo (and Brooks, for one, has been selling and pairing brown/cordovan lace ups with suits for as long as I’ve been shopping there: and if you think that a sold pink shirt is somehow a sartorial sin, than I have no idea what you’re doing on this blog. I didn’t, unlike many of the old men referenced in this thread, grow up in the 1950s/60s, when, I suppose, dressing exclusively in black, gray, white and navy (and looking like a postal carrier) and wearing OCBDs with suits was all the rage. I too have spent the last 20 years interacting with business, legal, and government leaders and very few of them would be caught dead wearing an oxford cloth button down shirt with a suit in the boardroom (unless, perhaps, they’re over 70 and it .

    As I’ve said many times, and as I believe this thread proves, many of you fetishize the OCBD. Was it worn commonly 30-40 years ago as formal, business wear? Perhaps it was – it was a trend to do so….a case of campus/Ivy culture bleeding into the business world. That’s why most of your guys’ reference points for folks still sporting the style today are in their late 70s (or dead). If you want to dress like an antique (or a romanticized version of Take Ivy), go right ahead. I’m all for tradition, but even within ‘traditional’ style, customs change (albeit slightly). Young guys wearing OCBDs with suits today look like old fashioned Poindexters playing dressup or hipsters who stumbled upon the J.PressxUrban Outfitters rack (not unlike the young guys that start wearing bow ties too early….).

  94. As usual, AEV is 100% correct.

    I’m not saying OCBDs are neccesarily “wrong” with a suit – and I don’t think AEV is either – but I do agree that OCBDs are, first and foremost casual shirts, they made their way into formal suiting as a trend in the 50s/60s, they look forced and outmoded in today’s business world, and that it’s irrelevant what a handful of dead or septuagenarian’s guys might wear. In large part, today’s conservative/trad style has moved beyond the OCBD as a formal shirt – it just has. I love OCBDs as casual/semi-formal shirting – but, fetishizing it, as AEV accurately states, as a formal suit pairing is not only weird, but it will have you all looking like you’re playing dress up (see George Will) – great for blogs, not great for real life.

  95. I love the iGent speak about “fetishizing” clothes or styles being “aspirational.” Just doesnt work with plain old oxford cloth button downs. I see a lot more aspiration and fetishism in people wearing pink spread collar shirts (“Look at me wearing my “Windsor” collar like the Duke or some British lord”). An OCBD is the easiest and least fetishy thing that can be worn. And it is not just Brooks who sells them. JC Penney and Lands End (Sears) sell plenty.

    Even Flusser points out that OCBDs have been generally accepted in America since the 1920s.

  96. Anonymous –

    Not sure what makes me an ‘iGent’ any more than you (as you may know, the only reason those few, specific pics of me appeared on UnabashedlyPrep is because Fred, and a large percentage of his readership, essentially dared me {frequently, over a long period of time} to ‘put my money where my mouth is’…I did so reluctantly….mostly to shut him/his readers up).

    Sigh – I’m not trying to look like a Duke or Lord. Non button down collar shirts have been around, esp as formal wear, in this country and many others, for far, far longer than OCBDs. And, to be clear, I’m not suggesting OCBDs themselves are fetishized (though an argument could be made that their hipster trendiness, rising pricepoints, shrinking proportions, fashion world tinkering, and entrance into retailers like Urban Outfitters, H&M, J. Crew, America Eagle, etc. certainly suggests they’ve reached a point of annoying overexposure…) – they make, and have made for a long time, terrific, basic, non showy casual shirts. My issue is with them making the rather forced jump to formal, business suit attire. That’s an important distinction in my mind.

  97. A thought on why would someone wear an OCBD with a suit.

    During the majority of my career, there was only “the suit” as acceptable clothing at work. Every day you reached in you closet, out came the suit. Days when you were primarily at your desk, very little internal or external exposure on that day or week. Still, the suit.

    The company said suit, but they didn’t say what shirts or shoes to wear. Hence, many a proper dresser, eased into OCBD and loafers with, the suit. You might say it was a subtle “I’m going to be comfortable and still wear, the suit.

  98. I see nothing wrong with wearing a button-down with a tie, I think they look sufficiently smart! Judging by their graphic, is any type of collar acceptable?!

  99. No, no, I won’t have it, and I will keep insisting until you go away. *My* personal style rules, not yours. Your evidence is anecdotal, and cherry-picked. Mine is fact. If you show me pictures that contradict my opinion, that’s because they’re pictures of old men. I’m young, and I know. Style is what I wear. I’m also charming, and write with equanimity and grace, a sort of, how you say, je ne sais quoi?

  100. Scotch & Soda | November 26, 2013 at 8:31 pm |

    Balderdash. Button-down is the essence of business, Britain be-damned. Go tell it to the ghost of Giovanni Agnelli and JFK.

  101. I’ve been saything this forever, but here goes.

    O’Brien is not a reputable guide for men’s dress, nor has GQ been worth a (&@! since Art Cooper turned over the reins.

  102. This comment deserves to be engraved in stone:

    Comment by Mike — November 10, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

    I think the point of building a trad wardrobe is that it allows one to ignore the homosexuals who run the fashion industry and still dress better than 90% of the male population.

  103. I am, no doubt, weighing in far too late. OCBD with a suit should depend on the fabric, shouldn’t it? No sensible American could object to wearing one with a poplin, seersucker, or tweed suit and a tie, and I’d extend that to any suit with some roughness in the texture. I wear them with my old school Burberry blazer with the burnished Prorsum buttons, too. I’d wear them in France, but not to an occasion that called for a suit.

    Mike’s comment above is priceless. It works just as well when one removes “the homosexuals who run.”

  104. Comment by Seignobos — December 30, 2013 @ 8:28 pm

    Mike’s comment above is priceless. It works just as well when one removes “the homosexuals who run.”
    Yes, but why bowdlerize it? Besides, this is not a secret.

  105. Absolutely nonsense from GQ, forever leading the sheep off the cliff. I am English and have always worn a white button-down to every job interview of mine and got every job. It annoys me when magazines publishes stuff like this.

  106. I didn’t read through all the other comments to see if someone ever pointed this out to you or not…

    In the first reference, they are specifically speaking about an oxford cloth buttondown. This type of buttondown is NOT a dress shirt. You should not ever wear them with a nice suit. A buttondown can be made in either a dress shirt or oxford. The oxford is the difference in this case, not the fact that it’s a buttondown. The shirts are made of a totally different material and have a different feel.

    That is all.

  107. Dutch Uncle | May 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm |

    I find myself agreeing with Marci. It’s not the buttondown collar that’s out of place with a suit, it’s the coarse (for want of a better term) weave of the oxford cloth. A broadcloth shirt with a buttondown collar, or even a pinpoint oxford would go quite nicely with a suit.

  108. Sigh. More rules.

    Depends completely on the suit and tie. A button down oxford shirt worn with a natural shoulder sack suit and repp tie is about as Ivy as it gets. Agreed it’s a little more casual than a darted two-button suit with a pointed collar, but isn’t that the point?

    Rules. Blech.

  109. Rules are good, but they are seldom absolutes.

    “No Oxford cloth button down shirts with suits” is a very good starting rule. Later, one can learn the exceptions. For example, an Oxford cloth button down shirt with a seersucker suit seems far better than a dressy spread collar shirt that is better worn with a worsted wool suit.

    Rules are good. Once you know them, then you can break them—but only if you can give both the rule and a good reason to break it. Example:

    Rule: No Oxford cloth button down shirts with suits.
    Exception: Today, I’m wearing an Ivy League undarted sack suit with heavy brogues and a striped tie. Wearing an Oxford cloth button down shirt pays homage to the style and more casual look.

  110. When men argue about the appropriateness of clothing do they not realize that they are not wearing a frock coat with a top hat?

  111. I’ve learn several just right stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting.
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  112. GQ hasn’t been worth reading in years. It’s no longer a style magazine but a fashion rag, and has been ever since Art Cooper stepped down.

  113. Christian Finkbeiner | November 21, 2014 at 6:58 pm |

    It’s ironic that the term “button-down” means stuffy, overly formal, etc., when the button-down-collar shirt is the least formal of the dress shirts. Those unaware of its origins among polo players believe it is MORE FORMAL, simply because it requires more work to put on. Simply put, you have to BUTTON DOWN the damn collar. Some “exceedingly casual” people even use “button-down” to refer to any shirt that has buttons. People who don’t know men’s fashion definitely think a button-down is more formal. I don’t. I would never wear it with a suit. I wear it with a sport coat and slacks, or sportcoat and khakis. I also wear it without a tie. Whether it’s tucked in, and what pants I’m wearing with it, are both contingent on the occassion.

  114. Christian Finkbeiner | November 21, 2014 at 7:00 pm |

    Dammit, I was inconsistent with my spelling of “sportcoat.” Wrote it as two words the first time, and one word the second time. Sorry, I’m a copy editor.

  115. Chelsea Penasa | January 3, 2015 at 4:07 am |


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  117. michael powell | February 14, 2021 at 4:56 pm |

    The best answer I’ve seen on this important issue: the button down is a “business” shirt. So there. And who is Paul Winston anyway? Why was he wearing a pink OCBD with his dinner jacket? The pink OCBD I bought last week will be worn with chinos (with or without a jacket), jeans, or a suit.

  118. michael powell | February 14, 2021 at 6:16 pm |

    Well, I just found out who Paul Winston is. But I wouldn’t wear a pink OCBD with a dinner jacket.

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