Men's collared shirts seem pretty simple -- you hear "button-down" and think of the classic dress shirt complements a suit and tie. But there's actually two different types of men's shirts with buttons: the button-up and the button-down. The button-down is the more informal of the two, so you can't wear it interchangeably with a button-up shirt. Understand the differences so you're always wearing the right style -- no matter what the occasion.
All About the Collar
Both button-down and button-up shirts feature a series of buttons down the front that hold the shirt closed. They typically have long sleeves with buttoned cuffs, though some short-sleeved styles are available. Button-down shirts feature a collar with small buttons at the tips to hold the collar down and are not meant to be dressy. The button-up shirt has no buttons on its collar and instead uses collar stays to keep the collar from turning up.
Dressing for the Occasion
Button-down shirts have a more casual feel and should not be worn with suits. You can pair one with a tie and khakis if you’re headed to a meeting or party with a business-casual dress code. A button-down also works well without a tie, so you can team it with jeans and dress boots for an even more relaxed look. A button-up shirt has a formal feel; wear it with a suit and tie to the office or a formal party. Because the collar easily lifts up, it’s also a good option under a crewneck sweater for more casual looks.