The Essential Guide to Men’s Casual Button-Down Shirts

Button-down shirts are integral items in many men’s closets, providing comfort, versatility, and classic style. This comprehensive guide will explore the top casual button-down shirts for men, tips for choosing the right one, and frequently asked questions about these wardrobe essentials.

Whether you’re new to the world of men’s button-downs or looking to update your collection, this post has everything you need to know about these iconic staples. We’ll share our picks for the top 5 casual button-down shirts that no man should be without, along with detailed information on selecting the best fit, material, color and pattern for your needs and style.

We’ll also answer common questions men have about caring for and wearing these classic pieces. By the end, you’ll be ready to refresh your closet with the perfect button-down shirts to pair with jeans, khakis, suits and everything in-between!

Top 5 Men’s Casual Button-Down Shirts

The button-down shirt originated as a polo player’s shirt with buttons to secure the collar, but has long since become popular far beyond the polo grounds. These shirts offer comfort, polish, and rugged capability all in one.

Let’s explore the top 5 casual button-down styles that should be staples in every man’s wardrobe:

1. Classic White Button-Down

The quintessential button-down shirt is clean, crisp white cotton with a traditional button-down collar. It’s a truly timeless and versatile piece that can be dressed up or down seamlessly. A quality white button-down looks sharp worn under a navy suit, yet equally at home with jeans on the weekend.

The white button-down’s medium-weight cotton makes it ideal for year-round wear. It somehow always looks polished and put-together, even just worn casually over a t-shirt. Brands like Brooks Brothers, J.Crew, Uniqlo, and Banana Republic offer excellent options that will stay bright and fresh-looking wash after wash.

While some men may shy away from white for fear of stains, this classic deserves a place in every closet. It pairs well with virtually anything and allows other colors in an outfit to really pop. Keep a Tide pen on hand for spills and consider sizing up for a roomier fit that layers comfortably over undershirts.

2. Chambray Button-Down

Chambray fabric adds an extra layer of depth and texture to the traditional button-down. The chambray button-down shirt features subtle vertical stripes that provide visual interest without being overpowering. Garment-dyed for a soft, worn-in look straight from the package, chambray has a lightweight feel that makes it ideal for layering under sweaters as autumn approaches.

Chambray button-downs from J.Crew, Bonobos and Eddie Bauer offer a more relaxed fit than stiffer oxford cloth shirts. The denim-like chambray fabric comes in a range of blues, gray and faded hues that pair well with jeans or khakis. It manages to straddle the line perfectly between polished and laidback.

3. Oxford Cloth Button-Down

A soft oxford cloth cotton button-down with a button-down collar is the quintessential preppy wardrobe staple. While Brooks Brothers popularized the oxford shirt style, many brands now offer versions featuring the signature details: a button-down collar, a box pleat down the center back with a locker loop, and a relaxed fit.

The breathable, lightweight oxford fabric has a slight texture that keeps this shirt cool and comfortable in warm weather. Unlike stiff broadcloth dress shirts, oxfords look great worn casually with the sleeves rolled up. The versatile oxford transitions smoothly from boardroom to polo match, and can be layered under a sweater or worn on its own.

While you can’t go wrong with classic blue, companies like Brooks Brothers, J. Press and LL Bean offer oxford cloth button-downs in practically every color under the sun. Stock up on a few easy-matching solids like white, blue and pink, and add some bolder stripes, plaids or checks for increased flair.

4. Flannel Button-Down

When the weather turns cool, few shirts offer the soft, warm comfort of a flannel button-down. The soft brushed fabric provides efficient insulation without bulk, making it ideal for brisk fall and winter days.

Flannel button-down shirts typically feature the classic button-down collar along with details like a chest pocket. The casual, outdoorsy style conjures images of chopping wood or sipping hot cider by the fireplace. But these shirts also layer nicely under a chunky cardigan or puffer vest for a smart-casual winter look.

Brands like L.L. Bean, Pendleton and Patagonia offer a myriad of rugged flannel options in classic buffalo check plaids. But you can also find flannel button-downs with a more refined fit and delicate pattern from J.Crew and others, proving the versatility of this cold-weather staple.

5. Denim Button-Down

A button-down collar adds polish to a classic jean shirt, resulting in the denim button-down. This style offers laidback versatility and endless outfit pairing options. Wear it buttoned up over a t-shirt with dark jeans, or layered open over a henley and khakis. The denim button-down injects rugged texture into more refined looks as well.

Many popular denim brands like Levi’s, Gap, Madewell and Everlane offer their signature denim fabric in a button-down cut. Look for soft and thick fabrics that mimic the feel of your favorite broken-in jeans. Tonal blues and gray washes make for easy matching, but don’t be afraid to branch out into indigo shades as well – they pair surprisingly smoothly with navy pants, jackets and more.

How to Choose the Right Men’s Casual Button-Down Shirt

Now that we’ve covered the casual button-down shirts every guy should own, let’s explore some key factors to consider when selecting your next favorite shirt:

Look for the Right Fit

An ideal casual button-down shirt skims the body without clinging or billowing excessively. The shoulders sit smoothly without straining the fabric, and the sleeves end around the wrist bone. For the most versatility, select a size that allows for easy layering over a t-shirt.

Take body type into account when assessing fit as well. An athletic cut will suit muscular frames, while husky or slim fits account for broader and thinner builds accordingly. If between sizes, consider sizing up in the neck and shoulders for maximum comfort.

Consider Fabric and Features

The fabric of a button-down shirt determines its overall look, feel and versatility. Soft, lightweight oxford cloth and chambray make for breathable, casual wear. Flannel provides insulating warmth for colder weather, while denim offers a classic, rugged look.

Details like a button-down collar, chest pocket, and center back pleat echo traditional men’s shirting. Avoid stiff, scratchy fabrics and seams in favor of soft, durable materials. Garment-dyed fabrics and washed finishes enhance the laidback vibe as well.

Choose Color and Pattern Wisely

Stick to simple solids, checks and stripes for maximum versatility. Light blue, white and pink oxfords pair seamlessly with jeans to suits. Bolder buffalo plaids and checks smartly offset neutral pants and jackets. Just be sure to anchor busier patterns with solid complementary pieces.

Deep jewel tones and darker shades may dress up better for the office or formal occasions. And don’t overlook classic stripes – they add interest in a subtle way. Just be sure to scale the stripe size appropriately to your body type.

Determine Level of Casualness Desired

Not all button-downs are created equal in terms of formality. Crisp oxfords and darker chambrays skew dressier, while faded, broken-in flannels and light denim read more casual. The thickness and structure of the fabric impacts formality as well – an ultra-soft oxford cloth looks more laidback than a starched broadcloth.

Consider the wash and level of fading too. Garment dyeing or significant fading adds to the relaxed vibe of a button-down. Similarly, smaller-scale plaids tend dressier than the bold buffalo check flannels synonymous with cabin weekends.

Evaluate Expected Durability and Care

Heavier oxford cloth and flannel cottons will maintain their structure and appearance after many wears and washes. Lighter weight chambray and denim may fade and wear more quickly.

Check if the shirt is pre-washed or pre-shrunk to avoid significant shrinkage down the road. Always follow garment care instructions, as some may require dry cleaning or hang drying.

With some smart detective work inspecting fabric, construction and care recommendations, you can invested in button-downs built to last.

Factor In Budget

Well-made button-downs representing versatile styles like oxford cloth and chambray are investments worth making. Searching out sales, buying quality pre-owned or even learning to sew your own are ways to obtain coveted designs more affordably.

Balancing cost with expected wears, laundering frequency and number of years the shirt will remain stylish in your closet helps ensure money is allocated wisely. A higher initial outlay on hard-wearing fabrics often saves money over fast fashion iterations.

By now you should have a good grasp on the key criteria that make a button-down shirt classic versus trendy. Next let’s turn to some frequently asked questions about fit, care and styling to complete your expertise!

Frequently Asked Questions about Men’s Casual Button-Down Shirts

What exactly is the difference between an oxford shirt and a dress shirt?

While the lines can blur between more casual oxfords and dressier takes on the button-down, some key differences remain. Oxford shirts skew casual, with soft breathable oxford cloth fabric in a relaxed fit. Dress shirts often feature crisp cotton broadcloth or twill weaves and are cut trim to tuck in smoothly under suits.

Oxfords tend to have details like a button-down collar, chest pocket and back locker loop or pleats. Dress shirts have more minimalist designs focused on complementing tailored jackets. Both can look sharp when done right, just on different ends of the formality scale.

How should a men’s casual button-down shirt fit?

The ideal casual button-down skims the body without clinging or billowing excessively. There should be no pulling at the buttons, which indicates the shirt is too small. The sleeve cuffs should end around the wrist bone, allowing the sleeves to layer smoothly under sweaters and jackets.

For the most versatility, size up if between regular and loose fits. Take body type into account as well. An athletic cut will accommodate muscular frames more comfortably, while husky fits work best for broader gentlemen. Move comfortably and check for any gaps at the waist or constriction in the shoulders to ensure the optimal fit.

What’s the best way to wash and care for casual button-down shirts?

The good news is that most 100% cotton button-downs and cotton blends can be safely machine washed and dried. Wash in warm or cold water on a gentle cycle using mild detergent. Never use hot water as this can shrink fabrics.

For minimized wrinkling and maintenance of shape, button shirts before washing. Hang dry or lay flat to dry when possible. Tumble dry on low if needed, removing from the dryer immediately.

Only use non-chlorine bleach if necessary on white or light colored shirts, avoiding bleach entirely on darker colors. Always check garment care labels as some button-downs may be dry clean only or require other special care.

What are some versatile, easy-matching color options for casual button-downs?

For maximum versatility across seasons, opt for light blue oxfords that seamlessly match everything from jeans to navy suits. A crisp white button-down looks equally at home with both casual and tailored looks.

Pink button-downs inject some preppy personality into any outfit, working also as a neutral. Navy offers a classic nautical sensibility that pairs well with khakis or olive pants. For an alternative to white, try a light purple or lavender oxford.

And for the autumn and winter months, green button-downs in jewel, olive or forest tones provide an earthy base layer for outfits.

What types of shoes work best with casual button-downs?

From laidback to refined looks, casual button-downs pair nicely with many shoe styles:

  • Leather boots like chukkas, Chelseas or blucher mocs
  • Clean white or navy canvas sneakers
  • Leather loafers or boat shoes
  • Oxfords for dressier occasions
  • Work or hiking boots for outdoor adventures

Aim for properly-fitted, quality materials like full grain leather. Match belt leather to shoe color, with brown or tan being the most versatile. With casual button-downs, simple, classic shoes stand the test of time.


We’ve covered everything from quintessential casual button-down styles to smart selection criteria and answers to frequently asked fit and care questions.

Outfitting your closet with versatile button-down shirts in fabrics, colors and prints you love makes getting dressed effortless. Taking proper care to maximize their lifespan gives you maximal value from these timeless investments.

With so many options, every man can find button-downs that express his personal taste and pair perfectly with his existing wardrobe. Whether you prefer preppy pink oxfords or rugged buffalo check flannels, let this guide provide the blueprint to build your ideal button-down lineup.

From lazy weekends to the office and date nights, you can’t go wrong anchoring an outfit with a quality casual button-down. So next time you need a wardrobe refresh, you’ll know exactly where to start your shopping!

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