As the next installment in my series learn something about fashion, today I’ll be ranting and raving about another piece of terminology that just isn’t right. Here you can see Republican candidate Mitt Romney and some other guy in button-down shirts:The term button-down refers not to the opening but to the collar, which buttons down. These shirts are considered to be more casual than a shirt that does not button down. Here you will see President Barack Obama sporting a button-up shirt:These shirts are considered classier, more upscale, and smarter. The character that makes this shirt a button-up shirt is the fact that when you put it on you button it up. For some reason, people like to call all shirts that button up button-downs. To be fair to those who misuse these terms, at the end of the day I assume that the President does unbutton his shirt from the top down, however we do not refer to this as buttoning-down but rather unbuttoning a shirt. He could only button-down his shirt if he were wearing a button-down.
I do have to make a few things clear. Not all button-downs are button ups, for example it’s common to see button-down polo shirts. Alternately, most button-up shirts are not button-downs. They refer to totally different things so any combination of shirt or collar style could be used. However a shirt with a button closure and no buttons on the collar is never called a button-down.
Why is this a problem for me you ask? Because these terms actually mean things and when you use a term that means one thing for another thing, we lose the real meanings of both. You may have realized by now that the learn something about fashion series is really just me correcting common language mistakes. Good for you: gold star.