Date
22 September 2017
Most fashion experts say undoing just the collar button makes you look stuffy, but others say unbuttoning the second one makes you look a tad too casual. Illustration: WSJ
Most fashion experts say undoing just the collar button makes you look stuffy, but others say unbuttoning the second one makes you look a tad too casual. Illustration: WSJ

A question of shirt buttons

There’s an ongoing debate among men about open collars: When you’re not wearing a tie, is it better to have one button undone, or two?

On a busy day in the office, your boss and colleagues probaby wouldn’t care even if you have your shirt untucked and entirely open as long as you finish that urgent report or billing. 

It also depends on the weather, you might say. Or your physique. You could probably get away with having your shirt open up to the belly line if you’re Magnum P.I. or Burt Reynolds when he was younger.

But one must remember that without a tie, the collar opening becomes the focal point, and therefore the question about shirt buttons is highly relevant in an office setting.

Most haberdashers and fashion consultants believe that undoing just the collar button makes you look a bit constricted or stuffy. So they recommend two buttons undone.

However, Samuel Barrett, a 25-year-old corporate strategist from London, tells the Wall Street Journal that men who undo just one button show that “although they aren’t wearing a tie, they’re still adhering to formal business practice”.

Open the second one and colleagues might wonder if you’re being a bit too casual even for a casual Friday.

“In a professional setting, you’re not going to want to unbutton as many,” the newspaper quoted Eric Jennings, vice president of menswear at Saks Fifth Avenue, as saying.

After office, of course, feel free to unbutton more, he says.

“Your neckline looks better with two buttons open,” says Mark Cho, co-founder of the Armoury, a Hong Kong-based haberdashery that has just opened its first US store in New York. “When it’s just one button open, it kind of looks like you forgot your tie.”

Others like their neck to breathe but hesitate opening the second button because it will show their undershirt or their chest hair, which makes some people wonder what is wrong with showing either.

In an effort to end the discussion, John O’Donnell, founder of men’s fashion brand johnnie-O, created the Tweener Button for his shirt line. A Tweener shirt offers a hidden button halfway between the collar button and the second one. 

He says many corporate workers like the idea, and have embraced the Tweener without hesitation.

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RA/CG

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