Difference between dress shirts and business casual shirts?

So I sometimes hear people refer to dress shirts and then business casual shirts separately. Can't you wear dress shirts for business casual, just unbutton the top button and don't wear a tie?

Also are button down collars acceptable for business casual?

dress shirt vs casual shirt

The distinction here is being drawn between two different types of button down shirts. The sports shirt and the dress shirt. Here's an excerpt from Lawrence Hunt fashion on the distinction between the two.

Dress Shirt

It is most commonly part of a man's business attire, and may have a variety of different collar styles, as well. Most dress shirts are long-sleeved and they have buttons down the full length. A dress shirt with a tie and suit jacket is semi-formal; a dress shirt without a tie, whether or not it is paired with a suit jacket, is considered semi-formal.

Sport Shirt or Casual Button Down

The differences between dress shirts and sport shirts certainly have some blurred lines, but there are a few simple ways to tell them apart. For example, a dress shirt is typically styled more conservatively, with stiffer collars and neutral colors. On the other hand, a sport shirt may contain bigger and bolder patterns, collars that are less stiff, and even epaulets and pockets. Some sport shirts are made from materials generally deemed "comfortable" such as denim, and still others contain blends of cotton, polyester, and other materials. Sport shirts pair well with jeans or slacks and are perfect for everyday casual wear.

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Comments (57)

May 27, 2013

Yes dress shirts are actually preferred for business casual (top button unbuttoned). The distinction you're hearing about is dress shirt vs. sport shirt. Sport shirts technically aren't supposed to be worn in business casual (they're just regular casual) but these days people get away with it. If your office dress code is business casual though you should 100% stick to dress shirts. With regards to button down collars - it depends. They do make button down dress shirts (they're not very stylish) but most button down shirts are sport shirts.

Here's an example of a sport shirt that you could probably get away with (I don't recommend it) in a non-strict business casual setting: http://www.brooksbrothers.com/Supima%C2%AE-Cotton-...

Here's an example of a very sporty sport shirt that should only be worn in casual settings: http://www.brooksbrothers.com/Supima%C2%AE-Cotton-...

Here's an example of a button down dress shirt (perfectly acceptable but I think it makes you look goofy): http://www.brooksbrothers.com/Supima%C2%AE-Cotton-...

I'm not going to link a regular dress shirt because I assume you know what those look like.

Jun 5, 2013

Better find out what your company likes. You dont want to make a blunder in front of your boss. Again, there are some casual shirts that can get away with formal. But choose with care.

In Time I wander

Jun 9, 2013

Button-down collars are inherently less formal than a point or spread collar. They originated in England when the aristocracy grew tired of their shirt collars flapping up into their face as they enjoyed their matches of polo. As you can imagine, jouncing around on horseback isn't very conducive to keeping your collar flat against your neck. The original 'polo' shirt was coined when some practical soul first had the genius idea to affix buttons to keep the collar in place.

Sartorialists will tell you that the button-down collar therefore has no place in gentlemanly settings, as a gentleman in any kind of formal environment would be engaging in no activity so strenuous as to necessitate his collar being kept down with the aid of buttons. Today, it has become (unfortunately) acceptable, even common, to see men heading into and out of offices with button-down collars and ties. I think it's become the quintessentially professorial look, actually; think of every prep school or collegiate teacher you've seen in film or in person. Chances are, they wore an oxford with buttoned collar and bow tie or repp stripe.

Personally, I absolutely loathe the 'business casual' look most men today espouse; a dress shirt with the uppermost button undone and no tie. Most of the time this leads to a truly sloppy look, as the points of the collar rise up very far from the chest (or shoulders, if it's a spread collar) and flap around out of control. In my case, broader shoulders, a muscular chest, and developed traps (come at me, bro) accentuate this problem even further. If I am not wearing a tie, I will only wear a button-down collar. If I am wearing a tie, I will wear a spread collar.

Today, 'sport shirt' typically refers to pattern alone. Since people don't know their history, the concept of sport vs. dress has nothing to do with design and everything to do with fabric pattern. Historically, it was a matter of function. A sport shirt was one in which you engaged in sport: hunting, fishing, shooting, riding, etc. (and therefore probably had breast pockets, a sturdier fabric, or perhaps even epaulettes). A dress shirt was one in which you conducted matters of business or society. Today, the difference in two seems to be solely one of gaudiness.

Jun 10, 2013

You can get those magnetic collar stays from nordstroms I think, so you can avoid the button down collars.

Jun 10, 2013

Dress shirts = spread or widespread collar, higher-end fabrics, *looks* more expensive, could have french cuffs (don't necessarily have to be), usually more traditional colors and patterns

Casual shirts = button-down collar, rougher/stiffer oxford-type clothes (don't necessarily have to be), more patterns (checks, stripes, etc), more variation of colors available. Google Brooks Brothers "sport shirt" and you'll see what I mean.

Jun 10, 2013

Generally, dress shirts don't have button-down collars and have collar stays (obviously, there are some exceptions as shown above, but for the most part, this holds true).

Jun 10, 2013

Button down collars are very popular in the south.. my two cents.

Jun 11, 2013

Just skip button-down collars altogether.

You never know when you have throw on a tie, so stick with spread/wide spread.

Jun 16, 2013
Gulf Coast Finance:

Button down collars are very popular in the south.. my two cents.

This is true I'm working in a major southern city and many people wear them..along with short sleeve dress shirts

The answer to your question is 1) network 2) get involved 3) beef up your resume 4) repeat -happypantsmcgee

WSO is not your personal search function.

Jul 7, 2013
bfin:
Gulf Coast Finance:

Button down collars are very popular in the south.. my two cents.

This is true I'm working in a major southern city and many people wear them..along with short sleeve dress shirts

That's just for practical reasons, it's **** hot. Hell my VP here in Chicago wears a short sleeve dress shirt when it gets over 80.

Jul 8, 2013
meekrab:
bfin:
Gulf Coast Finance:

Button down collars are very popular in the south.. my two cents.

This is true I'm working in a major southern city and many people wear them..along with short sleeve dress shirts

That's just for practical reasons, it's **** hot. Hell my VP here in Chicago wears a short sleeve dress shirt when it gets over 80.

Completely agree. Golf shirts are acceptable, even common, in AZ in the summer in most offices. Still like to get the dress shirts out for meetings with clients.

Jul 8, 2013

I don't see any real problem with button down collars, even when wearing a tie, I think they work fine.

The main issue I'd have with the shirts listed by Rapto.45 isn't so much the style of collar, but the stupidly flamboyant colors and designs.

Jul 8, 2013

Dress shirts are usually made of thinner fabric than your typical sport shirt. Sport shirts often have logos embroidered on the chest.

Also, just because a shirt has button-downs doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't a dress shirt. I have several dress shirts with button-downs that I wear with my suits, and they are perfectly acceptable. Then again, I'm from the South, so my opionion might be biased.

Jul 8, 2013
OU812:

Dress shirts are usually made of thinner fabric than your typical sport shirt. Sport shirts often have logos embroidered on the chest.

Also, just because a shirt has button-downs doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't a dress shirt. I have several dress shirts with button-downs that I wear with my suits, and they are perfectly acceptable. Then again, I'm from the South, so my opionion might be biased.

I have no idea how button-down dress collars still exist. Didn't those die out during the 80s-90s?

Jul 8, 2013

Wearing a button down with a tie makes you look stupid. It's similar to someone with a navy blue suit and brown shoes deciding to wear brown socks.

Jul 8, 2013

Saying that it makes you look "stupid" might be a bit of a stretch. I think this article sums it up pretty well:

http://putthison.com/post/13457199793/q-and-answer...

Jul 8, 2013
OU812:

Saying that it makes you look "stupid" might be a bit of a stretch. I think this article sums it up pretty well:

http://putthison.com/post/13457199793/q-and-answer...

ok, does this make you feel better, "It makes you look like someone who doesn't know how to dress himself."

Jul 9, 2013

If it's OK for JFK, H.W. Bush, and Cary Grant, then it's OK for me.

Jul 10, 2013
APAE:

Button-down collars are inherently less formal than a point or spread collar. They originated in England when the aristocracy grew tired of their shirt collars flapping up into their face as they enjoyed their matches of polo. As you can imagine, jouncing around on horseback isn't very conducive to keeping your collar flat against your neck. The original 'polo' shirt was coined when some practical soul first had the genius idea to affix buttons to keep the collar in place.

Sartorialists will tell you that the button-down collar therefore has no place in gentlemanly settings, as a gentleman in any kind of formal environment would be engaging in no activity so strenuous as to necessitate his collar being kept down with the aid of buttons. Today, it has become (unfortunately) acceptable, even common, to see men heading into and out of offices with button-down collars and ties. I think it's become the quintessentially professorial look, actually; think of every prep school or collegiate teacher you've seen in film or in person. Chances are, they wore an oxford with buttoned collar and bow tie or repp stripe.

Personally, I absolutely loathe the 'business casual' look most men today espouse; a dress shirt with the uppermost button undone and no tie. Most of the time this leads to a truly sloppy look, as the points of the collar rise up very far from the chest (or shoulders, if it's a spread collar) and flap around out of control. In my case, broader shoulders, a muscular chest, and developed traps (come at me, bro) accentuate this problem even further. If I am not wearing a tie, I will only wear a button-down collar. If I am wearing a tie, I will wear a spread collar.

Today, 'sport shirt' typically refers to pattern alone. Since people don't know their history, the concept of sport vs. dress has nothing to do with design and everything to do with fabric pattern. Historically, it was a matter of function. A sport shirt was one in which you engaged in sport: hunting, fishing, shooting, riding, etc. (and therefore probably had breast pockets, a sturdier fabric, or perhaps even epaulettes). A dress shirt was one in which you conducted matters of business or society. Today, the difference in two seems to be solely one of gaudiness.

Jul 10, 2013
APAE:

In my case, broader shoulders, a muscular chest, and developed traps (come at me, bro) accentuate this problem even further.

mirin

Jul 15, 2013

Dress shirts is a button-up shirt with a collar that why it is used to were in business meeting and all kind of formal meetings and for office wear.

Jul 15, 2013

Grain of salt: I've got no experience, though I will be a SA (officially) in 8 days. I also don't know from what background you ask the question.

Maybe on the weekend if you want to look semi-sharp, but I'm pretty sure Wall St. business casual means suit without the jacket. That's what I'm taking it to mean - you can always take off the tie, but you can't run home and change if you feel underdressed.

And, regardless of whether that's a bunch of BS or not (I'm sure I'll be told) it's always smart to dress up better than you need to be while testing the water; if it's bus. cas., go in a suit your first day. Then you can reevaluate and dress accordingly thereafter. If not having the gear is the problem, then commit the (apparently, from reading this board) faux pas of going to Macy's and picking up a white shirt or two. Better to be cheap but appropriately-attired than to stick out like a sore thumb.

Jul 15, 2013

To play it safe I would to I would go with dress pants, shoes & shirt.

Jul 15, 2013

I've only been an SA for 2 weeks now, but at my business-casual bank about half the people wear ties and half don't--no one ever wears a polo or khakis.

That being said, on the weekends it's much more lax and a polo and khakis would actually be close to overdressed.

Jul 15, 2013

B. casual to me means long sleeve dress shirt, possibly tie, but no jacket

Jul 15, 2013

long sleeve dress shirt, no tie, no jacket.

Don't wear a suit the first day. Seriously, don't be that guy.

I know its a little different, but imagine someone walking in with a suit on the first day of class.

Jul 15, 2013

where I work its business casual. No polos, no short sleeve button ups are allowed.You can wear Chino (khakis) or trousers pants. No one wears a tie, no one wears a sports jacket.

During orientation they should tell you the specifics, generally dress up the first day just in case, or email HR

Jul 15, 2013

polos are more prevalent on the west coast...in nyc, business casual is more like dress shirts, slacks and dress shoes - i guess some get away with khakis

Jul 15, 2013

polos are more prevalent on the west coast...in nyc, business casual is more like dress shirts, slacks and dress shoes - i guess some get away with khakis

Jul 15, 2013

i understand what business casual means - what i'd like to know is if the definition of "business casual" loosens up in the summer

Jul 15, 2013

if you're an intern, i think they expect you to dress in slacks and a dress shirt

Jul 15, 2013

No, it does not. Have not seen anyone at my bank wear polos to work.

Jul 15, 2013

Agreed, no Polos at work, even in the summer. I would stick to slacks and a nice shirt and wear a suit the first day.

Jul 15, 2013

Casual shirts, trousers for the guys.

Short skirts for the girls.

Ufortunately even though its summer I haven't seen to many short skirts yet. There is this one chic but she has the legs to pull it off.

Jul 15, 2013

Just wear what you would wear on a Wednesday.

Jul 15, 2013

Is it true that in business casual attire, you would wear a button-down collar, and if you are in business formal (i.e. coat and tie) you would have a pinpoint collar? I have a business casual internship this summer, and I want to get the right kind of shirts. I always feel weird wearing slacks with a dress shirt that doesn't have a button-down collar.

Jul 15, 2013

i don't think so that it depends on seasons, you always need to be properly and decently dressed when going to your office, better stick to dress shirt, dress pants!

Jul 15, 2013

Other companies may feel differently, but banks is just dress shirt and slacks. (just to echo the above)

Jul 15, 2013

We are biz casual...dress pants and a button down (standard dress shoes or loafers) No one wears kahkis at my shop.

Suits are mandatory during fund raising but we dont always get dressed up beyond biz casual when visiting our bankers.

business casual banks are dress/ shoes,pants, shirt (no tie) from my experience

Jul 15, 2013

you end up spending more money on work clothes b/c of business casual.
business casual = business professional - jacket - tie

are you coming from lehman?

Jul 15, 2013

wow - are we really having this post again?

Jul 15, 2013

Dress pants, a button-down shirt, and dress shoes. Keep your suit jacket and couple of ties at your office in case you have meetings with clients.

Best,
SoulSearching

Best,
SoulSearching

Jul 15, 2013

BC at my bank means everybody wears their jacket to work but leaves it on the chair the whole day. No ties.

Jul 15, 2013

Same as Brisbane. We keep ties in our desks just in case a random management presentation / diligence / org meeting pops up.

Jul 15, 2013

Just take one of your suits, subtract the jacket and tie and BAM, you have business casual. Wearing the khakis is more of a Friday business casual setup, not everyday attire. Keep the jacket at the office in case you have an impromptu meeting.

Good day.

Jul 15, 2013

for the advice guys!

Jul 15, 2013

for a business formal bank, how many suits should one have?

Jul 15, 2013
Jul 15, 2013

Honestly, I have tried all of the ones you mentioned and I constantly go back to BB. I have a few VVs as well but BB is pretty much the gold standard for Bcash

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Jul 15, 2013

I really like the slim fit shirts by Thomas Pink- especially the heavy twill. After getting a few of these I don't see how I could go back to BB. Though Thomas Pink is pretty expensive- I think they are well worth it.

The Thomas Pink ties on the other hand have great patterns but I just don't like the material and how they tie. I really like Brioni ties, but once again pretty expensive- I find alot of them on sale at Off Saks for under $100 though.

My $0.02

Jul 15, 2013
Comment

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Jul 15, 2013
Jul 15, 2013