An Ode to Short Sleeve Button Down Shirts

I am the number one short sleeve button down shirt apologist.

This article was tagged with: Personal Style

There are 647 words in this article, and it will probably take you less than 4 minutes to read it.

This article was published 2023-09-18 00:00:00 -0400, which makes this post and me old when I published it.


Purists may look down upon the humble short sleeve button down shirt, but not I! I recognize all that it has to offer. I know that they are inherently less formal because of the associations of long sleeve button downs with black tie attire, but they nonetheless have their place in our closets. What is their place you might ask? I have two answers: one born out of utility and one of aesthetic.

From a utility standpoint, short sleeves are useful because they are less hot to wear, especially in the warmer seasons when you still have to look somewhat professional. I wear short sleeve button downs to work in the spring and summer months because I would otherwise be drenched in sweat just from walking outside for a few minutes in a long sleeve shirt. Some might say that you could just roll down the sleeves of a long sleeve shirt, but for me, the rolling techniques never kept my sleeves up. Additionally, I think that it completely changes the vibe of your outfit with a short sleeve vs rolled up long sleeve. Rolled up sleeves is like someone who is rolling up their sleeves to get into the “dirty work,” but really they aren’t doing anything to help. Another way to use the short sleeve to your advantage is if you want a layered collar sweater type look. Sometimes the weather might not be right for a long sleeve button down underneath a crew neck sweater, but sometimes you can swing it if you use a short sleeve button down. They sell fake detachable collars that you can use to achieve a faux layering type look, but I think that is cheating.

From an aesthetic standpoint, I think that short sleeve button downs are a way to land square in the a preppy casual look, basically a more dressed down, casual kind of look. Short sleeve button downs will never be as formal as long sleeves, and that’s okay because you can use that to your advantage. With a dressy casual look you get to take a lot of fun risks that you maybe wouldn’t be able to do constrained to a more formal aesthetic. There are a lot of fun prints that you can get on your shirt, but if that’s not your vibe, there are plenty of solid colored shirts as well. Another option is to go the bowling shirt route, which is pattern, but not as out there as a novelty printed shirt. There are companies making modern ones, but you could definitely find one at the thrift shop or vintage store as well if you want a more timeless look.

Here are a few ways that I like short sleeves to be styled: Collared Sweater

A sweater and collared shirt layering moment (From Gazman)

With a Tie

A shirt and tie but in a more casual, messy way (From Joom)

Tucked in

You can tuck in a short sleeve button down! You can experiment with half-tucking too. (From Ethan M. Wong)

With a shirt underneath

You can always have a shirt underneath for sweat and/or layering (From Esquire)

There are a few drawbacks to short sleeved button downs that I think are worth mentioning because I think that short sleeve button downs are a bit less versatile than long sleeves. For one I think that tucking in a short sleeve button down can look really awkward for reasons that I’m not really sure. I also think that ties can be hard to pull off with short sleeve shirts, but honestly with confidence I think that it can be pulled off. Other than that I think that there are far more overwhelmingly positive reasons on why short sleeve button down shirts should have a place in your wardrobe.


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