March 2010 | Welcome to a new year of Ask our Butler.
“To button or not to button? … That is the question.   Whether ‘tis nobler…” oh well, you know the rest and my apologies to the Bard for my (dreadful) play on words.

After a restful new year break, yours truly is traveling and working abroad at present but is always ready with suggestions and advice.

From my (less-than) poetic start, perhaps you’ve gathered that I want to chat about the button-down collar as compared to a classic or cutaway collar on a men’s shirt.

Introduced by Brooks Brothers in the United States (by those crazy yanks!) <it takes one to know one - Ed> the button-down collared shirt has become an institution for men’s style. The question generally is when to wear or when not to wear.

In North America, you’re just as likely as not to see a gentleman in a finely cut and tailored expensive suit wearing a button-down collared shirt and necktie… unless he is well informed and dressed properly by his butler or valet. Technically, wearing a button-down shirt in this manner is not considered correct. The button-down shirt is better known as a casual shirt and in this butlers’ opinion should generally be treated as such.

That said though… Sir has often made it well known to me that he likes his button-down collars. Part of the reason is that when he is not fastidious about tying his necktie the collar can hide the slightly hurried job. The other reason Sir likes this collar? It is easy to remove the tie and have an immediately casual appearance yet still carry a modicum of decorum in appearance with a neatly presented collar line.

When would I personally wear a button down collar shirt? During my long (long) career, I would often wear a button-down collar shirt with a necktie, sports jacket and (gasp) blue jeans! Yes, when working in the construction industry I needed to maintain my presence and wear durable, serviceable garments. Thus, the button-down collared shirt accomplished both tasks very handily.

So, what is the correct answer to the question? At the end of the day it all comes down to personal choice. In my humble opinion, if you are seeking to maintain a completely professional and proper appearance then wear a classic or cutaway collar for business, and save the button-down collared shirt for more casual occasions - and do enjoy wearing it! A button-down collared shirt with a pair of chinos/khaki trousers or blue jeans and loafers and casual necktie is a very well presented look that can add a certain je ne sais quoi to your wardrobe style.

Au revoir for now from the Bay Area wet lands of California , USA.

Yours in gracious service,

The Butler