The button down collar has a unique history here in the United States. It has been worn by everyone from presidents to business leaders to actors looking for a traditional, sometimes folksy, practicality in their business attire. Like many ‘traditional’ American staples, the button down collar has roots over the pond — it was originally conceived by English Polo players looking for a shirt collar that wouldn’t fly in their faces while attempting a back shot (thus the collar style has also been called the ‘polo collar’).
The collar was later adopted and cemented in American lore by the Ivy crowd looking for a the appearance of pragmatism, although it would take a particularly gnarly nor’easter to really need those buttons. The full roll and unlined, natural collar have come to define ‘trad’ style for generations — again, leading to yet another moniker, the ‘university collar’.
Washington, DC is very possibly the only city in the world where it is acceptable for men to wear a button down collar with a tie. If done right, the look can certainly harken the good old days, when men realized that dressing practically was important both for the functions of their day and the outward appearance of having their ‘stuff’ together. The phrase ‘buttoned down’ is not lost on these men of substance — it’s a good look for accountants, money managers, and politicians; men entrusted with the responsibility of determining a better future for others.
But, like all matters of style, the correct balance is key. A too short collar point or flat body, even a liner that is too strong can bring the entire look crashing down into a giant, flaming faux pas. So if you prefer the button down collar, proceed with caution. Sometimes chasing the lure of practicality can be a fools errand. Like the shiny new sports car or long legged brunette at the end of the bar, we don’t recommend committing to the stoic’s life if you aren’t ready for the trust.