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How the Button-down Collar Was Invented

May 11, 2016

The button-down collar is ubiquitous in modern men's shirts. In America, the look has become synonymous with a stuffier, New England Brooks Brothers aesthetic (more on this below). In the UK it is more synonymous with a casual, sporty look. This means you won't catch British men donning a button-down collar under a suit. Regardless of how you view it, the button-down collar is a favorite of Pacific Issue because of its interesting history and versatility.

The beginning of the modern button-down can be traced back to 1896, when John E. Brooks (of Brooks Brothers acclaim) watched a polo match on a business trip to England. Brooks wasn't amazed by the polo match itself, but a tiny adaptation to the players' jerseys. After a lot of frustration with their collars flying up in their faces, Polo players in the mid-19th century had begun to sew small buttons on the collar to keep it in place.

Brooks brought this idea with him back to America and launched the Brooks Brothers button-down collar sport shirt. The rest, as they say, is history. In America, the button-down was considered a more sporty, casual style until the 1950s when some pocket protector nerds decided it was ok to wear them with a suit jacket. In the UK, the button-down has remained a sporty look reserved for more casual affairs.

So we learned two things today:

  1. Polo - the world's most elitist sport, spawned one of the world's most ubiquitous styles of collar.
  2. When visiting the UK, don't wear a button-down collar with a full suit. It's nearly the equivalent of throwing a t-shirt on under your suit.

What next? Create Your Own Button-down collar shirt: