The best button-up shirts for men take all the guesswork out of getting dressed. We know this. You know this. Every extremely-online menswear enthusiast hawking a surefire fix for yellowing collars knows this. But if it’s been a minute (read: approximately three years) since your torso has felt the soft touch of Oxford cloth or the cooling embrace of crisp poplin, a button-up refresher is probably in order. So we compiled a handy guide to all the button-up shirts for men worth knowing about in 2022, from plain-Jane long-sleeve button-ups to downright trippy short-sleeve button-ups—and all the wild-style permutations in between . (Just trying to find a dependable flannel to layer over your finest bodega-run fare? That’s cool, too.) The next time you’re standing in front of your closet panic-picking a halfway presentable fit, take a deep breath, pull Up this tab, and exhale slowly: everything you need to nail that jitters-provoking presentation/job interview/meeting with the in-laws is right here.
If four whole quarters have come and gone since you last considered buttoning-up a dress shirt, you’re forgiven for letting your rotation get a little dusty. But a reliable dress shirt will always have a place in your wardrobe, whether you’re looking for a soft poplin joint to layer under a sweater on weekends or a crisp gingham number you can rock with a blazer to your niece’s bat-mitzvah. (We’ve been known to champion the occasional $600 option fashioned in a centuries-old Parisian atelier, but we’re also fans of the standby, everyday versions that help you smarten up without breaking the bank.) And FYI: they don’ t need the full French cuff treatment to make you feel like you’re ready to conquer whatever hellish challenges the work day throws at you—in person or on Zoom.
These days, you can find an Oxford shirt—named for the sturdy Scottish cloth popularized stateside by Brooks Brothers—with a point or spread collar, but its Platonic form remains the OCBD (or Oxford-cloth button-down). Long prized for its lived-in feel and distinct collar roll, the quintessential button-down shirt is a well-documented favorite of notable prepsters like JFK and Miles Davis—along with countless blue-blooded strivers looking to approximate their timeless cool. At GQ, we’re partial to a slightly oversized cut (a silhouette immortalized by Ralph Lauren’s early-’90s Big Oxford) but if you wear by a slim fit you won’t have to look far. Pair yours with high-waisted chinos, wide-wale corduroys, or relaxed trousers to harness the aesthetic power of an ’80s wall streeter hightailing it home after a grueling day on the trading floor.
There’s a reason flannel shirts never really leave the fashion conversation—or your laundry cycle between September and March. For going on two centuries now, they’ve been adopted and reinterpreted by just about every demographic and subculture imaginable: frontier loggers, WWII sailors, greasers, surfers, punks, skaters, west coast rappers, grunge kids, rock climbers, contractors, mustachioed Williamsburg hipsters, hipbeasts, yoga moms, tech bros, present-day NBA tunnel style kings. That universality is a testament to the fabric itself: resilient enough to take a beating on a jobsite, comfortable enough to swaddle up on weekends, and somehow still respectable enough to wear on a date or out to brunch with your folks.
Denim shirts are useful. Like, having-a-sibling-who’s-a-contractor useful. They’re an American classic and a menswear staple that deserves a space (or two) in your closet. The right denim shirt won’t just make you look rugged and handsome and all kinds of confident—it’ll also virtually solve any wardrobe-related dilemma that comes your way. Copped some wild patterned pants on a whim and now concerned you can’t pull them off? A classically handsome denim shirt will lock ’em down and balance out the swerviness. Want to look good on the weekend but too damn lazy to really think about it? Denim shirt, white T-shirt, black jeans, can’t lose.
The short-sleeve shirt used to be button-up non grata, the exclusive domain of sweaty tax code experts. No longer. Thanks to a cohort of achingly hip designers, the style is firmly back on the fashion map—and making a strong case for its standing as the flyest casual button-down shirt of all. Don’t let their sleeve length deceive you: the best of the bunch pack all the visual oomph of their longer counterparts, and if you snag one in a fabric like silk or rayon (bonus points if its got a big, statement-making collar ) we promise you won’t look like a pointdexter. Cropped and a little boxy, they’re the only button-ups you should reach for when a polo shirt feels a touch too wine mixer-y and a tee a tad too informal.
If you were to power-rank clothes by their DGAF-ness, the camp shirt would land near the very top. Partly, that’s because they’ve been donned by a certain type of nonconformist poster boy for going on 60 years now: Hunter S. Thompson, Elvis, Russell Westbrook, Ethan Hawke in Reality Bites, to name just a few. But mostly, it’s because that’s exactly how these camp shirts were designed to look. The two-tiered camp collar (hence the name) is meant to lay flat and open at the neck—no ties allowed. Right-now versions trade a muumuu’s airiness for a more boxy silhouette, delivering a shirt that’s inherently nonchalant, and all kinds of cool.