The four important elements of button-down

When in doubt, err on the side of boring

Wear a good casual button-down and put yourself in a different category of guy.
  • Wear a good casual button-down and put yourself in a different category of guy.

Learn to wear a casual button-down shirt. It’s the most versatile shirt on offer, appropriate for everything but weddings and funerals.

They’re not dress shirts. The main difference is that you can wear casual shirts untucked.

There are four important elements: fit, color, pattern, and material. Fit is the most important.

Make sure the shirt doesn’t hang past the middle of your crotch. Unbutton the cuffs (the ends of the sleeves) and drop your arms to your sides. The cuffs should not go past your thumb’s first knuckle. There should be only enough fabric to give you an unrestricted range of motion, with no more than a couple inches of spare material anywhere. If the shirt doesn’t satisfy these guidelines, don’t wear it.

Go for solid, neutral colors. Black, navy blue, light blue and white are the most versatile and flattering. Dark and olive green, tan, gray and maroon also work.

You can get away with patterns if they’re small and muted. Choose shirts without logos when possible. When in doubt, err on the side of boring.

Most of your shirts will be standard cotton cloth. It’s worth owning at least one denim shirt and one linen shirt, too.

Don’t tuck unless you have to. Long sleeves are better, but short sleeves are fine, too. Put on some nice jeans or chinos and some casual leather shoes, and you’re set for 80 percent of your life.

You should thrift these. Thrift stores are glutted with casual button-downs — all the cheap mall brands you’re familiar with, and much higher-quality ones, as well, usually at the same price. Bonus: pre-worn shirts won’t shrink or fade when you wash them.

Try on an oxford instead of that wicked sick brewery tee and see if you feel different on the inside. You’ll certainly look better on the outside.

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