Men's Button Down Shirts: More Uses Than You'd Think

Whether you’re someone who’s just getting started experimenting with a better fashion sense or a veteran menswear enthusiast with a killer wardrobe, men’s button down shirts are an enduring staple of closets everywhere for a very good reason. With a little bit of styling know-how and variation in cut and material, button down shirts can be a very appropriate choice that pairs perfectly with just about any occasion or anything else in your outfit.

That’s also what makes button down shirts a perfect choice as the next truly high-end garment to add to your wardrobe -- even for people new to menswear, a perfectly fitting shirt made from quality materials is an addition that offers both versatility and longevity. Rather than buying many low-quality, inexpensive, okay-fitting button downs over the years, you can instead invest in one perfectly-fitting, high quality shirt that looks outstanding and lasts for ages.

Especially if you haven’t really invested in high-end menswear in the past, making a button down your first choice is a near perfect place to start.

But if you’re still not convinced, keep reading: I’m about to show you how one premium quality button down can take you from the most casual summer afternoons to the most formal professional and personal settings year-round without breaking a sweat.

Very Casual: Family Day at the Park

I find day-to-day scenarios like this one to be a great opportunity to step your fashion game up just enough to be noticable. After all, the majority of the clothes we wear in our lives are for “day-to-day occasions” -- why should looking and feeling good be exclusively reserved for experiences that “deserve” the effort?

Especially on a nice summer day like this, I’d recommend something casual and comfortable: a nice pair of shorts, a well-fitting tee shirt, and a cuffed button-down with some espadrilles or Birkenstocks. In an outfit like this, you’ll be perfectly straddling the line between looking put-together and looking casual, and you won’t feel overdressed or uncomfortable.

Additionally, this outfit is a perfect segue for me to introduce one of my favorite (and, in my opinion, often overlooked) features of button-downs: the transformational effect of cuffing your sleeves. This makes every button down shirt you buy effectively play the role of two shirts, and for many guys, can make spending extra cash on short sleeved button downs a thing of the past.

Just make sure you’re cuffing your shirt the correct way and you’re all set.

Casual: Afternoon Cocktails in OTR

For a context like this, you’re more than likely going to be looking for something a little bit nicer than normal, but still definitely casual and fun to wear. A classic button-down is, once again, a totally perfect option in this scenario: something as simple as a well-fitting button down with some slim jeans (cuff those ankles) and low top white sneakers would be totally perfect.

With a little additional layering, you can do even more: throwing a leather jacket or a bomber over this would add even more character. You could even switch out the jeans for a cropped ankle pant and pair with a leather loafer for something even more fashion-forward. And, of course, accessories like watches, necklaces, or earrings allow you to personalize even further.

In my mind, outfits like these are a great way to represent your personal style at its most pure, and a perfect opportunity to wear something that you’d be proud to be Instagrammed in. As long as you feel good in what you’re wearing, any of these options are pitch-perfect for a casual outing with some friends.

Semi-Formal: First Date

First date outfits can be challenging: you’ll find yourself straddling the line between “dressing to impress” and “not looking like you’re trying too hard to impress because you’re just naturally impressive”. Thankfully, with the help of a few really impressive garments, you can pull off an “effortlessly awesome” look without spending a lot of time.

Start with a button-down as your base layer for your top. From here, you have options: personally, I’m more inspired by Heidi Slimane’s Saint Laurent in a lot of my fashion, so my natural follow up would be extremely slim jeans and my favorite leather chelsea boots. Another less rock & roll option would be some corduroy pants, a nice belt, and a french tuck. Even a nice pair of jeans and some clean looking sneakers can show you at your best without making you look like you’re trying too much.

I would never go on a first date without at least one additional layer, and unless it’s 90 degrees out, you probably shouldn’t either. Once again, plenty of options, but bold materials and cuts can make a great impression here: maybe a gorgeous suede jacket or a stunning overcoat? If you’ve dressed down other elements of your outfit, a casual blazer could also work really well.

For semi-formal outfits, button downs set a nice, clean, semi-upscale workstation upon which you can build outfits that represent your personality and style. They’re truly the bedrock foundation of the great first impression you’re about to make.

Formal: Important Day at the Office

And finally, the most formal event type on this list: an important day at your office where you’re looking to make a great impression. It’s time to bring out the blazers.

You’ll know your own workplace best, so adjust the level of formality accordingly. If you can get away with it, I love ditching ties -- just an unbuttoned top button on your button down with a tailored blazer, formal pants, and gorgeous leather derby shoes will make an amazing impression. If you need to amp up the formality even more, adding a tie and a pocket square can tie your whole look together.

In this case, fit and materials are what will differentiate the good looks from the great ones: make sure your button down is a nice, crisp Oxford, and that your blazer has been fitted to suit you perfectly.

As you can see, no matter the occasion or level of formality, high-quality button downs made from great materials can make a great impression and improve the quality of your entire outfit. For a garment so ubiquitous and so versatile, it almost doesn’t make sense to do anything but take the leap and invest in a little extra quality here -- it’s the difference between looking great only on special occasions or looking great every day.


Ready to invest in an outstanding button-down? Hellman Clothiers has you covered: we stock only the finest in American and Italian menswear brands. Check out our website or visit our location in Downtown Cincinnati to grab a button-down that will earn a permanent place in your wardrobe.