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The Button Down Shirt - from the British Raj via America back to England

Many people know the story of the origins of the button down shirt but it’s the side stories that make it an interesting one. For those that don’t know oxford shirt wearing polo players of the British Raj in the late 19th century were tired of their collars flapping in the wind and devised small buttons to hold them down. They didn’t know what they had started but the american, John Brooks, saw something he liked and began selling the look through his family shop, Brooks Brothers, starting something that became a wardrobe staple for over 100 years.

Over the decades that followed the size of collars varied widely but button downs remained a constant. They were a major part of the 50's jazz scene with the likes of Chet Baker and John Coltrane being fans. Many people recognise them most as being the main stay of Ivy style in the 50’s and the later trad revival in the 70’s. In the movie world the likes of Paul Newman and Steve McQueen loved them on and off screen. The style also crossed back to England with Michael Caine in the early 60's and the late 60's and 70's with the Mods and Skinheads.

Button downs also have an Italian connection with Brooks Brothers being a favourite of stylish Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli for most of his life and the look was passed on to his former employee, Luca Cordero Di Montezemolo. The latter being well known for unbuttoning his collar buttons as well as running Ferrari.

Many have followed the trend over the years and Brooks went to the extend of suing Ralph Lauren in 1999 over the style. They won and hence Brooks is "The Original Polo Shirt" to this day. However there are many excellent exponents of the style these days each with their own twist on the classic style. We're just proud that the style has gone full circle and that we've managed to bring quality production back to these shores.

 

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