Button Up vs Button Down | Differences Explained

button up vs button down

Being asked to wear a button up shirt as opposed to a button down shirt can create confusion if you aren’t familiar with these terms. They may sound very similar, and some people might even use these terms to mean the same thing.

However, if you know your shirts, there is a clear difference between the two. Read our guide to compare button up vs button down shirts and the next time you are looking for a specific shirt, you’ll be able to tell right away. 

button up vs button down helpful guide infographic

 

Button Down vs Button Up Shirts 

 

Button Up 

Button Down

Collar  No buttons are present on collar so collar points stand upright  Buttons are present on collar points and fastened down
Fabric Tightly woven material for a more professional look Wide range of materials that include casual fabrics like flannel
Colors Professional button up are found in lighter colors like white and light blue Can be found in a wide range of colors
Formality Worn for formal dress codes like business professional or semi-formal attire Worn for more casual dress codes like business casual or casual attire

What are Button Up Shirts?

Button up shirts are probably what you’re picturing right now. They’re the most common types of shirts that you most likely purchase for work and find in your closet. 

A button up shirt is exactly what it sound like: these shirts have buttons placed all the way up to the front, right up to your neck. Button up shirts are also known as dress shirts, so next time you’re shopping, you can just refer to them as dress shirts or collared shirts to avoid any confusion.


slim blue button up dress shirt

A button up shirt is a dress shirt that you can wear at semi-formal or formal events with a tie, or loosely if you’re aiming for a smart casual style. They’re commonly worn because you can wear them for any type of event, and dress it up or down as you like.

Button up shirts and dress shirts are an indispensable and versatile addition to any man's wardrobe. Their adaptability allows them to seamlessly transition from casual to formal occasions, making them a valuable investment.

With their timeless appeal, button up shirts can be effortlessly paired with various bottoms, such as jeans, chinos, or dress pants, offering endless styling options. Whether worn untucked for a relaxed look or tucked in for a more polished appearance, button-up shirts effortlessly elevate any outfit. Here's also a separate guide on how to wear dress shirt with jeans for those going more casual.

Furthermore, button ups can be layered under sweaters, vests and waistcoats, or jackets to add depth and sophistication to ensembles. We also have a list for the best untucked shirts for men.


From boardroom meetings to weekend gatherings, button up shirts epitomize versatility, making them an essential component of a well-rounded and practical wardrobe for men.

 

 Top 3 Button Up Dress Shirts for Men

# Brand Rating Comments
1

[Overall Favorite] White Button Up Dress Shirt | The Crescent

Check Price

★★★★★

4.9 / 5

  • Sold out 5x
  • Best-selling white button up dress shirt
  • Perfect professional or business wear
  • High quality 100% cotton
  • Free shipping, exchanges & returns
  • Slim Fit Collection
2

Light Blue Button Up Dress Shirt | The Waterbend

 

light blue professional button up for men

 

★★★★☆

4.8 / 5

  • Herringbone weave
  • High Quality
  • Made of 100% cotton
  • Slim Fit Collection
3 Black Non-Iron Button Up Dress Shirt | the Yin

 

black button up dress shirt for men

 

★★★★☆

4.7 / 5

  • Non-iron material
  • Easy to steam
  • Slight stretch
  • Wrinkle Free
  • Slim Fit Collection

What are Button Down Shirts?

A button down collar shirt is a shirt with buttons on the collar points when you attach them - or a button down collar. They’re called button down because you can, and you should, button the collar down onto your shirt. 

Like the button up shirt, you can style button down shirts as you want and make it work for casual or more formal events. Buttons on the collar for button down shirts are almost like an adornment to the garment.

However, one thing is clear, if you’re wearing a button down collar shirt, the point is to pin your collar down. The collar buttons aren’t only for decoration, but they also keep the collar from looking flimsy.


If you’re going for a smart casual look, then the button down shirt is a good option to keep in mind if you want to steer away more traditional shirts. Here are the top 3 button down shirts for men.

 

 Top 3 Button Down Shirts for Men

# Brand Rating Comments
1

[Overall Favorite] White Button Down Print Collared Shirt | The Melati

Check Price

★★★★★

4.9 / 5

  • Our Best Selling Button Down
  • Small floral print
  • Contrasting collar design and trim
  • Free shipping, exchanges & returns
  • Slim Fit Collection
2

Men's Red and Blue Button Down Flannel Shirt | The Showa

 

 

★★★★☆

4.8 / 5

  • Flannel material
  • Medium weight fabric
  • Made of 100% cotton
  • Slim Fit Collection
3 Black Non-Iron Button Up Dress Shirt | the Yin

 

blue and white check button down collared shirt for men

 

★★★★☆

4.7 / 5

  • Button down collar
  • Versatile blue & white design
  • Easy steam
  • Machine washable
  • Slim Fit Collection

History of Button Down Shirts

mens button-down shirt close upButton down shirts were originally made for polo players and a polo match in 19th century England to keep their collars from obstructing their view by fasting them onto their polo collar shirts, thus preventing the collars from impeding their play while maintaining the sport’s classy appearance.

It was made official by John E. Brooks in 1896 who introduced the button down shirt in his grandfather’s retail company located in the United States called Brooks Brothers. While the pinning of the collar onto the shirt was a quick do-it-yourself solution for polo players in England, he borrowed the idea and made it popular in the American market.

The shirts became a hit with athletes and were then worn for style, and not only for the polo sport. These were adopted by a specific demographic and were sometimes worn to fit the preppy look. 

In fact, button down shirts became very popular among Ivy league students and 1950s American president John F. Kennedy, but eventually became a fashion item worldwide. 

 

How to Decide between Button Down vs Button Up?

Here is a list of frequently asked questions that will help you decide which type of shirt to go for:  

Essentially, the difference is that one has buttons for the collar and the other doesn’t?

That’s right! Just remember that a button up shirt has buttons all the way up front, and a button down short is meant to pin down the collar.

 

If I’m going to a formal event, which one should I wear?

You can wear either. However, if it is a conservative environment, it’s always safe to go with your classic dress shirt (button up shirts) and pair it with a tie and suit.

Remember that the button down shirt originates from sports, so not everyone might view it as the appropriate choice for a formal event. 

formal shirt and tie

 

Should I wear a tie with a button down shirt?

That’s up to you! You can wear your shirt with or without a tie, it depends on what type of event you’re heading to and your personal style and preferred collar style.



Is it necessary to button down the collar on a button down shirt?

You should always button down the collar on a button down shirt.

The star item is your collar, so just make sure to fasten it onto your shirt to complete your outfit, and have your collar looking clean.

 button down shirt in fall setting

 

Should I always button all the way up if I’m wearing a button up shirt?

Not at all. Again, use your judgement as it depends on what type of event you’re preparing for. 

You can leave the top buttons undone for a more casual look, or button them all the way up even if you’re not wearing a tie. 

 

Conclusion

Ultimately, it’s always a good idea to keep both types of shirts in your closet in case you want to change it up every now and then. 

The button up shirt is definitely a timeless classic clothing item to have, but a button down shirt shows that you’re able to style anything. 

 

Frequently asked questions about button up vs button down

Is it OK to wear a button-down collar with a suit?

While traditionally considered more casual, wearing a button-down collar with a suit has become acceptable in contemporary fashion, allowing for a touch of relaxed sophistication or a blend of traditional and modern styles, depending on personal preference and the event's formality.

Is a polo shirt considered a button-down?

No, a polo shirt is not considered a button-down shirt. Polo shirts typically feature a placket with two to three buttons, but they do not have a button-down collar like traditional button-up shirts.

Which is correct button up or button-down?

Both "button up" and "button-down" are correct terminologies, but they refer to different aspects of a shirt. "Button up" generally refers to the action of fastening the buttons on a shirt, while "button-down" specifically describes a shirt with buttons on the collar points to fasten them down.

Why is a button-down called a button-down?

A button-down shirt is called so because it features buttons on the collar points that can be fastened down, originally designed to keep the collar in place during active pursuits like polo or tennis, hence the term "button-down."

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