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The Five Types of Casual Button-Down Shirts You Need in Your Closet

Casual button-down shirts may be the hardest working piece of clothing in our closet.

They look great worn to the office, out for drinks, and on the weekends. Here we’ll review the top five casual shirts you need in your closet.

First, let’s review the characteristics that qualify a casual button-down shirt.

A casual shirt is more relaxed than a dress shirt. Casual shirts should always be styled comfortably: un-tucked, rolled sleeves, and in casual fabric. The hemline is typically a shirt-tail hem and makes the shirt look great when worn un-tucked. Sleeve cuffs are banded cuffs and have softer interfacing than dress shirts so the sleeves can be rolled up. The fabric of casual shirts are more breathable, soft, are not covered in formaldehyde made for non-irons and are available in a wide range of solids and patterns. Unlike most dress shirts, casual shirts can have one or two chest pockets for added detail and function.

Now let’s dive into our top five recommended casual button-down shirts.


1. Spread Collar Shirts

A spread collar shirt is the most popular of men’s casual shirts. The collar points spread away from the center placket, point down at a 90-degree angle, and are available in a variety of widths. A standard spread collar has a 5” space between both points. The different widths accentuate your facial features: narrow collars emphasize a long slender face and vice versa. This is a traditional collar worn with a tie so it is the most common shirt in most mens closets even though ties are becoming a thing of the past. Spread collar casual shirts are best styled with the top button undone, dark washed jeans, and your favorite sneaks.

° What they are great for: Collar spread differences can accentuate facial structure, versatile for outfitting, timeless appeal

° Downsides: May require ironing collar points after wash so they lay flat

Find some here
Spread Collar Shirt Image

1. Button-Down Collar Shirts

The button-down collar is hotly debated as either too traditional or too casual, but we think it is a classic all-American collar that will never go out of style. Each side of the collar is secured down with a button or snap. The buttons on the points of the collar originated in 1896 in England for Polo players to secure their collar points during a match. They then became functional for securing a tie in place and were popularized by the menswear brand Brooks Brothers. Now, we wear them casually without a tie – especially when we can’t stand to iron collar points of a spread collar. You can even wear your collar buttons undone. Many shirts now offer a hidden-button collar which appears to be a spread collar, but has hidden buttons on the underside of the collar point to secure the fly-away points. The hidden-button collar might be the best of both worlds. Button-down collar shirts are great for a classic look when paired with a casual jacket, chinos, and desert boots.

° What they are great for: Great for layering jackets or sweaters on top, less ironing needed to keep your collar points from flying away

° Downsides: Can often look traditional/collegiate if the shirt style is plain

Find some here
button down collar shirt

3. Utility Shirts

Deep rooted in history, utility style has transformed our culture for centuries. Utility shirts aren’t credited to any one brand or designer; however, roots can be traced back to standardized military uniforms and workwear. The key utility features on a military shirt that inspire us today are: epaulettes on shoulders, metal buttons, and pockets details. The work shirt we are inspired by today is a result of the Industrial Revolution, when much of the American workforce was forced from the fields into urban industrial jobs, creating a high demand for safe, durable, and functional workwear. The work shirt is commonly a woven button-up collared shirt with two button closure chest pockets. The pockets were designed for functional use of tools, supplies, and pens. Sleeve lengths were long to protect arms from hazardous chemicals, machinery, and the elements. Collars were buttoned down to avoid flipping up during physical labor. During WWII, the U.S. government commissioned workwear manufacturers, such as Dickie’s, to produce military uniforms. Which inevitably blended workwear and military style from then on. The various pockets, buttons, and other design features allow for a wide range of utility shirt styles for your closest. Check out our style guide for great outfitting ideas.

° What they are great for: Easy transitional pieces, masculine look, timeless and versatile

° Downsides: Pockets add bulk when layered, can’t be tucked in, not appropriate for formal occasions

Find some here
Utility Casual Shirts

4. Shirt Jackets (aka Overshirts)

A shirt jacket is a hybrid, half of a jacket and half of a shirt. Typically, the shirt jacket has a boxier fit and can be worn over a t-shirt. The fabric can be slightly heavier than casual shirts 1-3 and is a great alternative to a sweater for cooler weather. The jackets sometimes have larger buttons, snaps, or zipper closures to resemble a jacket, and even a wider range of pockets to hold your everyday essentials. It’s the perfect transitional piece between season’s. The shirt jacket represents an outdoorsy, tough, and rugged look if you pair back to denim and boots.

° What they are great for: Transitional, easy casual look, wearing around the office, perfect for the guy who loves just a t-shirt & jeans

° Downsides: Not as formal as a shirt for business settings, boxier fit not meant to wear under sweaters, can’t be tucked in
Shirt Jacket Image

5. Band Collar Shirts (aka Collarless Shirts)

The band collar shirt has been a men’s icon for statement dressing since its 1920’s origination from detachable collars. The style has many nicknames: band collar, collarless, grandad collar. The only characteristic is the neck band on the shirt lays flat against you, it does not stand up on your neck. (Nehru and Mandarin collars stand up). The band is 1” wide or less, and is soft and pliable without a stiff interfacing inside the collar. The lack of collar makes this shirt great for Summer months and sunny vacations. Wear the shirt buttoned all the way for a modern look, or with the top buttons undone for a relaxed casual style.

° What they are great for: Can easily be dressed up under a blazer and looks great worn alone, summertime coolness (no collar!)

° Downsides: Difficult to layer on top (conflicting necklines), can be restricting at your neck if fit is wrong

- Find some here
Collarless Shirt Image

Final notes

Casual shirts should be the backbone of your closet. The spread collar and button-down collar can be styled up for a timeless date night, a utility shirt is great for work and drinks after, the shirt jacket will cover your t-shirt looks, and the band collar shirt is a quick swap out option for a more modern look.

Need help with outfitting ideas? Check out our guide here. Have other men’s shirt questions? Check out our other information pages here.