What’s the Difference between a Button Up Shirt and a Button Down Shirt?

Have you ever wondered why some people refer to shirts as button downs while others refer to them as button ups?

Don’t worry you’re not alone, as even most fashion elites can’t give you a clear definition. So whether its casual button down shirts, mens dress shirts, women’s button down shirts, polo shirts, a shirt dress or a shirt blouse, we’ve got you covered. Below is a simple breakdown for remembering the difference between this complex fashion question. Well it's actually not that complex at all.

The Button Up Shirt: This term technically encompasses most shirts and refers to any shirt that is fastened on the shirts center front by shirt buttons. Sometimes button up shirts are commonly referred to as “Button Fronts”. Most dress shirts, casual shirts and polo shirts are considered button up shirts. As a mental reminder, we like to think of the upward direction of fastening the shirt buttons, starting from the bottom and finishing at the top.


The Button Down Shirt: Consists of any button up shirt that has additional shirt buttons on the collar. These additional shirt buttons allow you to fasten down the collar for stability. Hence…”button down”.


The origin of button down shirts is traced as far back as the 1890’s when they where first introduced by John E. Brooks from Brooks Brothers who was inspired by the polo players of England. The button downs initial purpose was meant to keep the polo players shirt collars in place during the intense sport. Upon returning to the states John E. Brooks intention was to position the use of button down collars on dress shirts. However by the 1930s athletes across America began using button down collars for their ability to maintain a stable collar appearance during sporting events. The common use of the button down collar in sports became synonymous with a more casual look rather than formalwear.

Today button down shirts continue to be a great casual alternative to the traditional button up dress shirt. So the next time you’re faced with making a button up shirt decision, you’ll be educated with a bit of history for an easier purchase or bar room conversation. So stay classy and button up that button down! 

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