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Styling a Button Up Shirt vs Button Down Shirt

Button up, button down. Tom-ay-to, to-mah-to, right? Well, not quite. Despite their striking similarities in name and appearance, button ups and button downs can be distinguished—but only by a single trait.

(Don’t worry—if you were today years old when you realized the terms aren’t to be used interchangeably, we’re not judging. And you’re likely, not alone.)

Either way, we’re not here to pick sides in the button up vs button down debate. Instead, we’re decoding the difference between the two and serving up some casual and formal shirt style tips so you can rock them however you see fit. So, if you’ve ever wondered how to style a button up shirt or button down, we’ve got you covered.  

Black button up with red piping

What’s the Difference Between Button Ups and Button Downs?

At first glance, button ups and button downs look remarkably similar. Both shirts have collars with collars along the front. However,allcollared shirts with buttons that clasp in the front can be considered button up shirts. Button ups are typically made with:

  • Cotton
  • Satin
  • Linen
  • Poplin
  • Silk
  • Flannel

The major differences between button down vs button up shirts take a little fashion know-how to spot—but here’s a hint: peep the collar style. While most buttons on a button up shirt stop at the collar, buttondownstake it one step further by including a button on each apex of the shirt’s collar, allowing you to fasten the collar in place by buttoning it down (hence the name).

Button downs have a pretty unique origin story, too: 

  • They were first created in the late 19th century for polo players in Britain, looking for a way to stop their shirt collar from flapping around as they galloped across the fields on horseback. 
  • The solution was the collar button. Two buttons were added to the collars of their uniform shirts, andvoila—the button down collar (originally known as the polo collar) was born.

These days, you don’t have to be a polo player or an office worker to sport button down collar shirts (or button ups, for that matter). Anyone and everyone can wear these shirts—plus, they make for a must-have addition to your closet thanks to their infinite styling potential. 

Two models wearing a white button up

Styling Different Types of Button Downs and Button Ups

Just howdoyou bring button ups (or downs) into your wardrobe rotation? Tune in—we’re putting their versatility on full display. 

Long Sleeved Button Ups

Long sleeved button ups are the ultimate closet staple piece. Easy to wear on their own or as a layering piece, they’re the go-anywhere, do-anything top you’ll always turn to. Here are a few of our fave long sleeved button up styles to make uniquely your own:

  • Bring a blast from the past into your closet with a 70s-style satin top like theEmpower Satin Button Up. Wear it with multiple buttons undone to show some skin or tie the bottom in a knot to make it a slightly-sassy crop top.

Short Sleeved Button Ups

Easy to slip on and ideal for warmer weather, a short sleeved button up shirt checks all the boxes. Plus, shorter sleeves and less fabric are an enticing option whenever you’re itching to play with pattern or color without overwhelming your whole look.

If you’re going for patterns, look for tailored yet fun options like theEssential Button Up in prints like vibrant Leaf or abstract Wanderlust. Looking for a more subtle play on pattern? TheEmpower Piped Button Up features colorful borders around the buttons and collar. Wear your patterned button up short sleeve shirt on its own or with a simple solid colored tank underneath to keep the focus on the print.

Accessorize Your Button Up

The simple shape of button ups and button downs lends itself to a world of possibilities for reimagining and reinventing.

Give that classic button up a bit of edge by adding 14-karat gold-dipped or stainless steelcollar clips joined by a chain to the collar. Take it a step further by pairing it with theEmpower 6-Way Corset on top for an ultra-cool, ultra-versatile spin on an old favorite.

Get Unbuttoned with WILDFANG

Button ups and button down shirts aren’t confined to the realm of stuffy office wear—they’re your style canvas, free for you to paint as you wish. Whether you’re into patterned button ups or sheer button downs, WILDFANG offers something for everyone. If your signature look is a bold button up, learn how to layer clothes and rock it for all four seasons.

We’re all about creating clothes foryou—your masc, your femme, and your everything in between. At WILDFANG, no matterhowyou wear your button ups, you can find clothes that fit you—not the other way around.Stop by today to explore our collection of stylish, climate neutral clothes made for your closet.