If there’s one summer-ready menswear piece that’s making a splash these days, it’s the short-sleeve button-down. Short-sleeve button-down shirts are perfect for a hot, sunny day when you want to look put together but can’t tolerate the heat that comes with wearing long sleeves. These shirts offer a helpful style compromise because they look more polished than your average cotton t-shirt but are less formal than the traditional long-sleeve button-down shirt, making them highly versatile. You can pair short-sleeve button-downs with everything from shorts to jeans all the way to dress pants and make them work for just about any occasion like that hot date you've got lined up for Friday, the big meeting you've been prepping for or your family's annual beach trip.
The bottom line is that you need to have a few of these shirts in your rotation.
But first—some style tips. Short-sleeve button-downs come in a bevy of bright colors and playful patterns, and you shouldn’t shy away from those bolder options. However, if you're looking to create a balanced outfit, we recommend pairing a printed shirt with solid shorts or pants. On the other hand, if you’re wearing patterned shorts or slacks, keep things simple up top with a solid short-sleeve button-down.
Short-sleeve button-downs come in a range of fabrics, too. You can never go wrong with cotton, which is among the most breathable of materials. Linen is also a stellar choice on those particularly hot and humid days and it has a looser weave which means you’re bound to feel cooler while wearing it. You might also want to opt for short-sleeve button-downs made with high-tech, quick-dry fabrics that can wick moisture away.
Wondering how to wear a short-sleeve button-down? Here are four outfit ideas to get you started.
Lounging Around the Resort
There’s no style rule that dictates you can only wear a t-shirt or tank to the beach. You’re going to want to pack a couple of short-sleeve button-downs for that tropical getaway you’ve been looking forward to for months. Pair one with your swim trunks and a pair of canvas sneakers or leather sandals and you’ll still look put together with minimal effort, even if you’re just lounging by the pool or grabbing a cocktail at the tiki bar.
When you’re looking for an effortlessly cool look for that backyard get together, look no further than a patterned short-sleeve button-down with trim fit shorts in a vibrant tone. If you’re a messy eater who is afraid of getting sauce on yourself, try to steer clear of white or pastels and aim for darker tones and big prints that will allow for a few small spills to happen without getting noticed. Wear your shirt untucked and top off the ensemble with a pair of slip-on sneakers. Bonus points if you bring along your Grandma’s famous potato salad and an ice-cold 6-pack.
Casual Date Night
You’ve got a date this weekend and you want to look good without having to try too hard; Date night calls for a look that’s equal parts polished and playful. Try a printed dock shirt with chinos in a neutral tone like khaki, navy or charcoal, and round out the look with a pair of classic boat shoes or canvas sneakers. Tuck-in your shirt and wear a leather belt if you’re seeking a look that’s more hip, or leave it untucked for a carefree vibe.
Casual Friday at the Office
If you're one of the lucky ones, you might be able to get away with sporting a short-sleeved button-down at the office—if not during your typical workday, at least on casual Friday. If you work in a more corporate environment, a short-sleeved button-down with a classic pattern like stripes, plaid or gingham is your best bet. If you've got a ‘cool boss,’ then perhaps you can get away with a bold print. Go for dark jeans if your workplace permits denim, or keep things professional-looking with gray, navy or khaki chinos. Tie your ensemble together with a matching belt and dress shoes. Remember: You can tuck your shirt in or wear a blazer to achieve a more upscale look.
If you’re ready to elevate your summer look, go ahead and add some short-sleeve button-downs to your wardrobe. Don’t forget that the most important factor to consider is the fit. A flattering shirt will fit close to the torso without being too tight, with the sleeves ending somewhere near the middle of the bicep. The right length is also key; If it hits right at the waistband, it’s too short, and if it falls below the fly, it’s too long. A couple of inches below the top button of your shorts or pants is the ideal length. You want to have just enough fabric at the bottom so that you have the freedom to wear it tucked or untucked, depending on the occasion and desired look. A short-sleeve button-down is meant to be a bit more casual than its long-sleeve alternative, so skip the stuffy tie. Also, feel free to unbutton two of the top buttons (or three if you’re feeling adventurous)—just don’t be surprised when you turn a few heads.