02 June 2015

Button-Down Collar Addendum

If you search online to learn why the top bed sheet should be placed face down when making the bed, your hunt will be quick and easy. As noted in last Friday’s blog post, Deferred Guidance, you’ll find numerous sites offering more or less the same information. That’s not always the case of course. Take men’s fashion or just shirts.

Button-Down Collar Shirts

Cary Grant in button-down collar shirt and suit in the 1946 movie, Notorius. (manlawmondays.com/category/style/page/2/)
Working in academia, I normally wore button-down collar (BDC) shirts with a tie, often with a sweater and occasionally with a blazer or sport coat. Later, working in government, I wore a sport coat or suit every day and continued to wear BDC shirts.

Suddenly a sartorial alert sounded: BDC shirts should not be worn with suits!

Frank Sinatra in button-down collar shirt and suit in the 1960 movie, Ocean’s Eleven. (bamfstyle.com/tag/danny-ocean/)
I could never be mistaken for a fashion pate, yet I rushed to the Internet to learn if I was indeed breaking the rule. Although Wikipedia is now available to offer details I wasn’t seeking at the time--BDCs were introduced by Brooks Brothers in 1896, patterned after shirts used by English polo players, used only for sports shirts in the U.S. until the 1950s–every relevant website I happened upon concurred with the alert. 
Paul Newman in button-down collar shirt and suit in the1966 movie, Torn Curtain. (This might be excused as he was playing a scientist.) (putthison.com/post/48137518229/q-answer-can-i-wear-a-button-down-collar-shirt)
Changing Fashions

If I search now, however, the online advice goes either way. Most sites still discourage wearing BDC shirts with more formal suits; but the traditional style has been changing since the mid-20th century, especially in the U.S., the home of the BDC shirt. 
Gianni Agnelli was an Italian industrialist, principal shareholder of Fiat and fashion icon. Here, he wore a button-down collar shirt, tie and suit, with the collar buttons unbuttoned. (www.gentlemansgazette.com/gianni-agnelli-style-gentleman/)

That’s not to say that some of the more elegant among us haven’t always defied tradition. Fred Astaire reportedly wore BDC shirts with double-breasted suits. Before my awakening, I probably would have too. Fortunately, I never owned one of those suits. It has nothing to do with my dancing.


Button-down collar shirt background from Wikipedia and Wall Street Journal:
Example website that says it’s ok to wear BDC shirts with suits: www.thefineyounggentleman.com/america-fuk-yeah/a-button-down-collar-with-a-suit/
Example website that says never wear BDC shirts with suits:
Example websites that discourage wearing BDC shirts with more formal suits:
GQ interview with Fred Astaire:

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