The San Francisco Chronicle recently chose a very intersting piece to run from its archives. The paper chose a 50-year-old piece brimming with anecdotes about the buttondown collar.
It opens like this:
The late Jack Kennedy looked up from his desk in the White House on a day in 1963. One of his aides had come in to confer with him. The aide was wearing a white Brooks Brothers button-down shirt.
The President was pained, visibly. “For heaven’s sake,” he told the puzzled chap. Take off that shirt. Nobody wears those things anymore except Chester Bowles and Adlai.”
The author goes on to praise the virtues of the frayed collar:
The only way to wear a button-down with any style at all these days is to follow the example of Mr. George Draper of The Chron. I am convinced that he has an army of galley slaves who wear his blue shirts until they are deliciously frayed. Then George takes them on, just after the collars have been turned the second time. On him, it looks good.
There’s some literary craft in this passage:
The only people besides high Chronicle potentates who still wear the old BB number are members of the staff of Time and Life who are over 50, certain Hollywood press agents, and old ladies who stumble about Pebble Beach with double scotches in their hands, unaware they have died.
In other times, it was different: In the days before all the Irish-Catholics earning over 15 grand a year belonged to all the right country clubs, and we were properly oppressed by the Yalies and the lads from Old Nassau, the Brooks Brothers button-down was a thing, the real status symbol.
As for the rest, in fairness I’ll direct you to the Chronicle site. Today I’m in a fairly new white custom buttondown from Ratio. I’ll see if I can’t rough it up a bit. — CC