Button Up Vs Button Down Shirts – Fashion Rules Explained

button down shirts

The more you get into fashion, the more details you discover. There are small things that you have never even thought about – they have always been there, but you have never paid attention to them. Imagine having to buy a new shirt – you get online, browse by category and find some more subcategories.

At some point, you run into button up vs button down shirts. You might have seen these options before, but you have never wondered what they are about.

Go see some products in each category and you will be surprised to find out that there are no visible differences. It feels like one of those games – spot a few differences. At a quick glance, both button down shirts and button up shirts look identical. It is not a matter of style or design. So, what is the difference between button up and down shirts?

Clothing Lines

The difference between button up shirts and button down shirts

The collar is what makes the difference in the process – more precisely, the buttons on the collar. To most men, a shirt is a shirt – no one really cares about button ups or other categories. To someone who is into fashion, small details will inevitably draw some attention. Before digging into smaller details, you should know that all button down shirts are button up shirts, but the same rule does not apply vice versa.

Both button up shirts and button down shirts have buttons running up. They are located at the front – different spacing standards between them that make no difference. On the other hand, a button down shirt features the same design, but it comes with a few extra buttons on the collar. This is the main difference in the process.


Understanding the button up shirt

According to  TheLittleGiggler.com, A Button-up shirts are simple to identify. In fact, if you look in your wardrobe right now, you will notice that most of your shirts are in this category. It is the more popular one. There are buttons all the way up, as well as a button at the top.


Understanding the button down shirt

The button down shirt is a bit more complicated, but not by much. Apart from the main buttons (including the one at the top), you will also find a couple of buttons on the collar. Their main role is pretty simple – fastening it down to the shirt. In fact, the button down design is about fastening the collar down.

Button downs have a rich history. Back in the 19th century, polo collar shirts gained notoriety in the English team. Practically, players were running around a field on horses. Given the riding experience, their collars were moving up and down in the wind. They would face all kinds of problems trying to see what is going on in front of them. To make things easy, they came up with a bunch of extra buttons. They were installed on the polo shirts – by the collars – to keep them down.

Back then, no one imagined that such polo shirts would become a fashion statement. The polo collar was a matter of practicability. John E. Brooks had a different idea though. He watched a game in England before going back to the USA. He fell in love with the style and started manufacturing it – this is how the polo collar shirts came out.

During their first decades on the market, these polo collar shirts were popular among sports people only. People not involved in sports disliked them in the first phase. Athletes involved in all kinds of competitions went for these shirts for their practical purpose – collars would not flap around, so they were extremely handy.

With time, the design was implemented into the fashion industry as well. These days, they are available in most stores. They are just as handy in sports – watch athletes on a tennis court, but you can also find formal designs and styles.


Bottom up vs button down – What to know about wearing shirts

Whether you are into small details or you simply want to make a statement, most people will not really make the difference when you show up at a casual dinner or a formal meeting at work. However, there are a few unwritten rules you should pay attention to.

A button down shirt is considered to be smarter than a button up alternative. Mix it with a nice tie and a slim fit sweater and you will achieve a fashionable smart outfit. The button down shirt is simply made to look great with a tie, so make sure you match them accordingly.

On the other hand, button up shirts are more casual and general. They can be worn anywhere, anytime. Sure, you can match such a shirt with a tie. Throw in a fashionable suit and you will look great. But on the same note, you can also match a button up shirt with a pair of jeans for a casual meal out. Other than that, chinos make a great choice for button up shits too – smart casual outfit.

The shirt itself is not the most important thing to consider when you are after an interesting outfit. Instead, you have to consider every element related to the outfit and make sure you come up with a unitary style. It makes more sense to assort colors by the book, jackets and so on. To keep things simple and get ready for any situation, it pays off having shirts in both styles – at least one of them. This way, you will be prepared for any type of situation and you will know exactly why some shirts come with extra buttons on the collar.

There are no rules when it comes to buttoning the collar. While it may look a bit unusual, you can leave the buttons out if you want to achieve a chilled and casual style. You might as well adopt this look for a casual day at the beach or in a park. Everyone has a different style. For instance, Gianni Agnelli – a fashion icon and the main shareholder of Fiat – used to leave the collar free in the wind.

Button up Shirts

Frequently asked questions

Still unsure about button up vs button down rules?

What is the difference between a dress shirt and a button down?

Generally speaking, a dress shirt is usually a button up shirt. It comes in all kinds of fabrics and colors. From this point of view, the difference between a dress shirt and a button down is the same as the difference between buttons up vs button down shirts.

What does button down mean?

Button down means the collar can be kept in place by buttoning it. The collar features a couple of buttons – one on each side, as well as button holes. You can keep the sides of the collar in place – great for windy days or certain types of outfits.

What is a button up shirt called?

Button shirts can be found by more names in commerce. As a general rule of thumb, a dress shirt is also a button up shirt. You can also find it as a button or button front shirt. Different stores use different definitions for this style, but in theory, they all refer to the same type of garment.

Is button-down hyphenated?

Not always. The word can be hyphenated, but it is not a general rule.


Button line, the difference between button up vs button down is in the actual collar and the buttons attached to it. Each style is widely accepted for most outfits, yet small details can push you in a more casual or formal direction.

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