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Traditionally, button-downs are worn only with blazers and sports jackets. (iStockphoto/iStockphoto)
Traditionally, button-downs are worn only with blazers and sports jackets. (iStockphoto/iStockphoto)

Can I wear a button-down shirt with a suit? Add to ...

Question

I have noticed lately that executives have taken to wearing button-down shirts with suits. I thought convention was that button-downs are to be worn only with blazers and sports jackets.

Answer

First, let's explain the terminology to the very young. Button-down means a shirt with a collar with buttons on the points. A shirt with buttons down the front is called a shirt. (A shirt without buttons is called a T-shirt.)

More related to this story

The conventions of wearing button-down shirts is one that change as it crosses the Atlantic. Button-downs are a very American look. They were introduced by Brooks Brothers in 1896, based on polo shirts and became a staple of casual dress at university sporting events. This association with privilege has led to them being worn with blazers and ties by many a respectable American, and now sometimes even with suits.

That's where a Brit - and anyone with anglophilic class-consciousness - would object. In classic western sartorial convention, a button-down is too casual for a suit. I would never pair the two.

Russell Smith's latest novel, Girl Crazy , was recently published. Have a fashion question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com .

 

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