You Asked: How Many Buttons Should I Undo On A Shirt?
Illustration by Ms Anje Jager
We answer your most pressing style questions.
I write these words in the midst of a dank New York fog-a-thon with the threat of a wet long weekend for many on this side of the Atlantic, at least – but apparently summer is on the horizon, if the theme of your questions is anything to go by. This week we style out patterned camp collars, examine how to keep cool when cycling to work, and tackle the hot-button topic of how much you can undo your shirt.
How many buttons is it OK to undo on a dress shirt?
Ravi G, via email
But in the interests of giving a definitive answer to a direct question, the answer is: two.
Undoing just the top button on a dress shirt when going tieless often looks uptight, not terribly relaxed. This is particularly the case if you can see any strain on the fabric around the second button. It wants to be undone.
However, undoing more than two buttons to expose too much skin begins to look a little like a Lothario. Where’s your gold medallion?
Ergo, two buttons is the sweet spot.
Today’s man about town wants a hybrid of function and fashion – stylish products made from performance fabrics for maximum versatility. You don’t have to wear skin-tight clothing for cycling, but nor do you need to schvitz in a suit. The relatively recent emergence of luxury sportswear has made it unnecessary. Men need pieces that effortlessly transition between their work and social lives, but can still be appreciated for their considered style and performance.
At the most basic level you could look to wear indigo or black jeans that have 2 per cent elastane woven into them which will give you some extra stretch and flexibility when pedalling on a bike – Nudie Jeans and AG Jeans offer particularly good options. Better still for summer, Club Monaco make a stretch-fit chino. On the top half look for lightweight pieces made from merino wool, which is a natural product that both looks good and feels comfortable against the skin, is excellent for temperature regulation and wicking away perspiration, and is naturally anti-bacterial. This is why so many designers use it as a more aesthetically acceptable alternative to Lycra.
A lot of brands now offer unstructured stretch-fit tailoring pieces – such as this seersucker blazer from A.P.C. and this waterproof stretch-shell blazer from Theory. As for an outer layer that you can easily stash in a bag, how about this NN07 waterproof stretch-shell jacket?
Meanwhile several performance apparel brands like Patagonia and Nike have got very good at disguising their tech spec behind good design. You could, for example, wear this sweat-wicking T-shirt from running brand Iffley Road under a blazer and no one would think you’re wearing running gear.
Battenwear is a casualwear brand whose raison d’etre is to design clothes that look cool around town but are built for the great outdoors – a current standout piece being this olive green shell blazer with detachable hood.
Likewise Vancouver-based brand Arc’Teryx Veilance makes outdoors gear that is as stylish as it is practical. I don’t cycle to work, but I do commute on the Subway in New York City, which can be stultifying in the months of July and August. My go-to on particularly muggy days over the last couple of years has been this navy combo of blazer and trousers – it’s worked out to be excellent value for money on a cost-per-wear ratio.
First of all, @leoalbertoo, allow us to commend you on your admirable intentions to embrace two of this summer’s strongest trends: camp collars and printed shirts. But you’re quite right, it’s not always easy to successfully style such statement pieces. They look great on the hanger but what on Earth do you wear them with?
A useful tip with any boldly patterned and/or coloured garment is to allow it to take centre stage in your outfit – everything else should complement but not compete. So keep the accompanying items low-key – muted block colours, no patterns.
For the lower half, choose a pair of trousers or shorts in a colour that echoes or co-ordinates with a secondary colour in the shirt, ideally in a darker tone. Note, for example, how this Our Legacy shirt has been styled here with a pair of beige chinos that picks up the beige in the floral pattern. This busy Gucci shirt is allowed to pop against the blank canvas of black trousers which agree with the black in the background of the shirt.
It can also be useful to wear a plain white or light-coloured T-shirt underneath the shirt – it just looks clean and a little smarter than exposing too much neck/chest. Plus it gives you the option to wear the shirt completely unbuttoned as an overshirt – which is a good look.