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16. November 2018

The Mad Tailor: The Button-Down Collar


Maximilian Mogg

The button-down collar can be a difficult topic for many. Where did it come from? Is a tie an absolute no-go? If not, will just any tie do? If I can wear a tie with it, can I wear a suit with it too? If I can wear a suit with it, what type of suit? Should I actually only be wearing it when doing sports? And, the final pressing question, should I maybe (just maybe) take a deep breath and try not to overthink it?


It was polo players who originally brought the button-down collar into existence. They simply couldn’t stand having their collar bat them in the face during a wild game. As such, they asked that their shirt makers add small (hidden) buttons with which to attach the collar points to the shirt. The American haberdashery Brooks Brothers – a major source of inspiration for us – took this idea one step further and launched the iconic OCBD (oxford-cloth button-down) with visible buttons, no collar interlining, and its characteristic collar roll in 1896.  This collar roll is the result of the relatively close positioning of the buttons to the front band of the collar. As the collar has no interlining, it forms that classic ‘S’ shape. As for the oxford cloth, it is the perfect choice for sports as it is breathable, durable, and, due to its more rustic weave, informal. The shirt quickly became a staple of the Hollywood elite and, later, came to define a certain kind of Preppy or Ivy League style. Whether you were running a large listed company in Manhattan or fixing tug boats in Baton Rouge, you did it in your OCBD. A true American classic.

How to wear

The OCBD (and the button-down collar in general) is generally restricted (in Europe at least) to casual settings.  As such, we would recommend foregoing a tie (although a knit tie is not inconceivable) and wearing OCBDs with odd-trouser/sports coat combinations. We’re thinking flannels or jeans and a Tweed jacket. OCBDs also go well with crew neck or chunky rugby sweaters.

However, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: Wearing an OCBD with a double-breasted flannel suit and tassel or penny loafers and a tie is not inconceivable. I mean… It really isn’t cool… Or is it?

In any case, due to its origins and its design, the button-down collar will never quite be the most elegant choice. However, it’s a fun alternative to play with.

Further information

Firstly, we are currently working on a Zee Jerman Button Down (ZJBD). We will subsequently be releasing a Zee Jerman Button Down One-Piece Collar (ZJBDOPC). Secondly, yes, we are working on our abbreviations. Thirdly, OCBDs go well with a deep box pleat in the back and are also a wonderful opportunity to explore the world of inverted box pleats. Finally, we recommend having your OCBD cut slightly looser. However, as always, it’s dealer’s choice. MM/DC