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What Is the Best Men’s Short-Sleeve Button-Down Shirt?

Photo-Illustration: retailers

Short-sleeve button-down shirts are admittedly a taboo garment. They were called “difficult” and “controversial” by multiple people we spoke to in reporting this story, with one even saying that short-sleeve button-downs are “cursed.” Henrik Sunde Wilberg, an assistant professor of German at the University of Minnesota, says to blame “Tan France and Bonobos” for convincing “too many guys that a bold shirt with slim short sleeves adds personality to their wardrobe.” (“It doesn’t,” he argues.) But according to folks who’ve found ways to wear them, a short-sleeve button-down shirt, while perhaps more casual, can be as versatile — if not more so — than its long-sleeve counterpart. While they’re typically considered a summer staple, social-media manager Zach Higgins notes that short-sleeve button-downs can be worn year-round as a layer that offers more ventilation beneath sweaters or jackets. “I don’t like having double long sleeves,” Higgins says. “A short sleeve-button down gives me the same look without the bulkiness.” (That said, because they are predominantly worn in summer, a lot of the short-sleeve button-downs on the list are starting to sell out — the upside to this is that many are now on sale.)

Many of the guys we spoke to say that when they’re not shopping for vintage short-sleeve button-downs — “If you don’t buy yours vintage, you’re kind of a chump,” says Strategist associate editor Daniel Varghese — they gravitate toward off-the-rack ones from designer brands like Jacquemus, Bode, No Man Walks Alone, and Aimé Leon Dore. But those brands don’t come cheap and often have limited stock, making them less reliable for anyone looking to stock up on a few (or just one) without breaking the bank. Those in the market for a short-sleeve button-down shirt will be happy to know that the 15 folks we talked to told us about lots more styles at various price points. For the most part, they come in two styles: short-sleeve versions of your traditional collared button-down and shirts with wider camp collars that tend to fit a bit looser and feel more vintage-inspired. We’ve separated the shirts by price, leading each section with any we heard about the most. If, after perusing the options, you decide you’d rather a classic Oxford or a simpler T-shirt, we’ve got you covered, too.

Best under-$50 men’s short-sleeve button-down shirts

Surprisingly, Abercrombie & Fitch came up more than most other brands we heard about — three guys mentioned it as their source for short-sleeve button-downs. As photographer and model Christopher Hart explains, it “recently revamped its style and direction and finally feels good to wear” again. Content creator and college student Cal Phillips agrees Abercrombie & Fitch is “making a comeback,” noting that “the price point is significantly easier to swallow than the likes of Jacquemus or Our Legacy.” This, he adds, makes the brand “a great option for building up those staples in your wardrobe.” Phillips recommends this camp-collar shirt made of lightweight cotton, telling us its pattern of cabana stripes is unique among the other short-sleeve button-downs he’s seen lately. The light-blue striped is shown here, but for a few bucks more, you can also get it in a pink stripe or a dark-floral print.

Two folks told us that Uniqlo is where they go for short-sleeve button-downs, because, as content creator Nehemiah Magsino puts it, the brand is another “more affordable option” for great basics. (Chazz Inniss, a marketing strategy manager for PopSugar, also cites Uniqlo as a go-to, telling us he’s purchased short-sleeve button-downs from the women’s and men’s sections: “Clothes are fabric and don’t have gender so wear what you want.”) This shirt that Magsino recommends has a subtle print, looser fit, and is made with extra-fine cotton that he calls a “great summer fabric” for “brunch outings and park dates.”

Another simpler-looking option is this “extremely oversized” short-sleeve button-down from ASOS that stylist Julian Davis pointed us to. He says its plain look is what makes it appealing because you can wear it with almost anything.

Grailed community specialist Nicolas Lazaro told us about this quite affordable linen button-down from Muji (that’s also available in a lighter blue, but stock is low in both colors). He says the brand “does a great job of retaining only the necessary details,” which makes the shirt “look more mature than other options and better integrate with classic menswear.” Lazaro adds that its prewashed linen feels soft to the touch on the very first wear and only “gets softer with every wear and wash.” Interested buyers might consider sizing down, though — he says “these fit a full size larger” in his experience.

Best under-$100 men’s short-sleeve button-down shirts

J.Crew also came up a few times as a solid source for short-sleeve button-downs. Inniss says most of his are from the brand and Higgins relies on it even more. “All of my short-sleeve button-downs are J.Crew,” he says. “They have great patterns, a variety of fabrics, and great prices when the sales are on.” Of all the styles you can choose from, Inniss recommends this one made of cotton for its many options: The shirt comes in lots of different prints that he says you can “mix and match” with other items in your wardrobe. It also comes in three fits — classic, slim, and tall — and sizes from XS to XXL (some of which, though, have now sold out in certain prints).

Oak + Fort Collared Shirt
$50
$50

Content creator Malcolm Walker-Hendricks calls this button-down “very versatile” because you can easily “throw it on and not have to think too much about the rest of your outfit.” While its relaxed fit and lightweight-cotton fabric err on the casual side, Walker-Hendricks appreciates how simple the shirt is. Available in white or black, its solid color makes it easy to pair with most anything. That’s not the only reason you’ll wear it a lot: Walker-Hendricks says it’s also comfortable to wear all day, even in hotter weather.