Difference between Button-up and Button-down Shirts

By: | Updated: Nov-18, 2017
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To those who are not fashionably inclined, a button-up shirt and a button-down shirt sound exactly the same. The surprising thing is, they are actually not and there is a huge difference as to when you can wear a button-down shirt and when you should wear a button-up shirt. Who knew shirts could be so complicated? This article will discuss the difference between the two so you can avoid a fashion faux pas.

Summary Table

Button-up Shirt Button-down Shirt
Any shirt that has buttons all the way up its front A button-up shirt that has buttons on the collar to keep it from flopping up
Worn in formal and semi-formal settings Worn in casual settings
Can be worn with a tuxedo and tie Should not be worn with a tuxedo and tie, although it can be worn with a tie for a preppy look


Different kinds of shirts

A button-up shirt is practically any top garment that has buttons all the way up the front. It can be worn in both semi-formal and formal settings. It is the perfect choice when you plan to wear a tie or a tux. Job interviews, formal and semi-formal events or parties, or dinner at a classy restaurant also call for button-up shirts.

A button-down shirt, on the other hand, is a button-up shirt that has tiny buttons on each collar. These shirts were originally created for and worn by Polo players. The purpose of the buttons was to fasten the collar to the shirt, so it wouldn’t flop up and distract their vision when playing. It gained popularity since then and was used by other athletes as well. Nowadays, however, button-down shirts are no longer exclusively worn by athletes and are also worn by those who want a casual or preppy look.

Informal events and casual settings call for button-down shirts. If you want to look dressy but wearing a tie would be too much, a button-down shirt is a good choice. Though most fashion experts say these shirts should never be worn with ties, some say that a skinny tie goes well with a button-down shirt but only if you want to achieve that fashionably nerdy look.

Button-up vs Button-down Shirt

What, then, is the difference between a button-up and a button-down shirt?

A button-up shirt is any shirt that has buttons all the way up its front. A button-down shirt is a button-up shirt that also has buttons on the collar which are added to keep the collar from flopping.

A button-up shirt is appropriate for semi-formal and formal settings. It goes perfectly well with a tuxedo. It is also a good choice for dinners at posh restaurants, job interviews, and both formal and semi-formal events. On the contrary, a button-down shirt is worn in less formal settings. It is a no-no to wear it with a tuxedo and tie at a formal event, but it can be worn with a skinny tie if you simply want to look fashionable in a casual setting. It can be worn when the occasion calls for a casual outfit.

To put it simply, a button-down shirt is a button-up shirt, but not all button-up shirts are button-down shirts. The difference lies in the buttons on the collar.

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