The History of the Button Down

The history of button down shirts dates back to 1869, in England. Polo players often found the collars of their shirts would flap up in the wind, and impair their vision. So they attached buttons to their collars, in order to hold them down for matches.

It was John E. Brooks who first made the button down shirt a fashion item. After watching a polo match in England, he went back to his American company and immediately started manufacturing them – first known as polo collar shirts.

The button down really became a distinct fashion move when the Italians adopted it in the mid-1900s. Style legend Gianni Agnelli incorporated the button-down shirt into his personal uniform, wearing it unfastened for a look of instantly recognizable sprezzatura.

During the post-war era, a sexual revolution coincided with second-wave feminism and the women’s liberation movement. The button down became a statement. By women wearing a men’s dress shirt, it symbolized independence and a desire for gender equality. A men’s shirt or masculine clothing was the satorial equivalent to be taken seriously in the workplace, and in society.

The button down shirt has been adapted by each generation, retaining its defining details while adapting to contemporary tastes. It is a modern wardrobe staple.

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