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Q&A: What’s the deal with fastening the top button on a shirt?

Q&A: What’s the deal with fastening the top button on a shirt?

If there's a truism we share time and again, it's that small details can make a big difference. Hence the question of whether to close a shirt's top button, which comes up surprisingly frequently. 

At its core, the answer's simple. "Undoing your top button makes you look (and feel) more relaxed. It works perfectly for outfits with casual shirts. But in a formal outfit, like a suit and tie, you'd of course always do the top button up," says Thread senior stylist Alice Watt.

Because it's not always that straightforward—and it can make a big difference—Alice talks us through some iffy scenarios below.

Do up your top button if … 

You’re wearing a tie

"Yes, this is obvious. But that's not only because ties look better when your shirt's done up; the shirts look better, too. Dress shirts' collars are designed to be fully buttoned up."

Photographed: Mr Start white shirt (£110), Drake’s black silk tie (£105)

You want to make an outfit more style conscious

"A fully done-up shirt is a calculated move. It's more put-together and slightly more daring than an unbuttoned shirt would be."

Photographed: Jigsaw Oxford shirt (£69), Gant grey chinos (£70), Private White V.C. x Grenson suede shoes (£350)

Your shirt is boldly patterned

"Some patterns demand structure for the elements on either side to line up. By doing up the top button, you help the print look its best."

Photographed: All Saints dark-navy checked shirt (£90), Levi's vintage 501 navy jean (£225), Whistles camel suede Derby (£150)

You’re wearing a granddad-collar shirt

"These shirts, which are essentially collarless, look best done up all the way as this keeps the round neck intact. They don't sit as well if you leave them undone."

Photographed: Oliver Spencer white granddad shirt (£95)

Don't do up your top button if …

You want to keep things casual

"Buttoned-up has become a synonym for conservative or thought-through. If that's not what you're going for, unbutton the top button—no matter whether you're wearing a shirt on its own or under a jumper or jacket. If you're prioritising comfort, you'll probably wear your shirt like this 90 percent of the time." Browse outfits with casual shirts.

Photographed: Oliver Spencer grey blazer (£349), Oliver Spencer blue chambray shirt (£99), Norse Projects navy twill chinos (£100)