Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rand Paul and the Button-Down Collar

It occurred to me today that, if Rand Paul wins the presidency next year, it could do a lot to re-popularize the button-down dress shirt (much the same way that I wish every incumbent president would regularly wear hats). While he doesn't wear them exclusively, he seems to wear them more often than not -- and, as can be seen here and below, he not only wears them, but he doesn't even stick to just white, wearing them also in light blue, stripes and even in pink.

We haven't had a president in my lifetime that favored the button-down, and I'm not sure we ever had one before my lifetime either. George H.W. Bush, probably the preppiest president ever, favored them earlier in his life, but seemed to largely abandon them around the time he ran for president in 1980. (It has long been rumored that his campaign advisers suggested that he ditch them because of the elitist connotations the button-down had at the time.)

G. Bruce Boyer has opined that the Ivy look may have come into disrepute among the general public at least partially because of Vietnam and Watergate; many high-ranking government officials in that era wore it, but it went into a decline among people in those positions around the mid-late 70s. 

I suspect that such a connotation for the button-down is lost now; I don't think the hyper-casual general public of 2015 stops to differentiate much between different collar styles being more or less elitist. (At this point, most "dressing up" in general is probably seen as elitist, but thankfully it's still expected of the president.)

It'll be interesting to see what happens, and it'll definitely be fun sartorially to see a major presidential candidate stray from the generic white point-collared shirt with stiff collar stays.

NB: This post is only about Senator Paul's clothes; no comments about his politics -- either for or against -- will be published.


Marc said...

Whose idea was it to put the buttons in the wrong place so that the collar leaves bend out of shape? Even worse, who could have ever thought it was stylish?

Johnny said...


Thanks for commenting.

Almost everyone who's a fan of the button-down collar considers it stylish precisely because of how the collar bows out, or "rolls." That's part of what makes it what it is; without the roll, it's just a point-collar with button holes.


I read somewhere (probably on Ivy-Style.com) that, in the Ivy heyday, Brooks Brothers' competitors would buy Brooks oxfords, measure the placement of the collar buttons and the dimensions of the collar, cut the collar open, and everything else they could think of to try to figure out how Brooks got its collar to "roll" so distinctively, but they were never able to replicate it.

Are you from the United States? If not, maybe it's an American thing.

Ironically, I thought the same thing as you when I was a little kid -- I couldn't understand why they didn't move the buttons so the collar would lay flat. But now I love the it.

Marc said...

I see. Thanks for the explanation. I'm not from the U.S. I'm from England, wich has no doubt coloured my perceptions.