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The Last Word

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Shirts – specifically the button-down variety – are deeply ingrained into Ben Sherman’s DNA. Ever since our founder Ben Sherman ventured back from his time in the USA, with dreams of bringing Britain’s shirts kicking and screaming into the swinging 60s, our brand has been built on high-quality shirting.

The button-down shirt was Ben Sherman’s favourite and soon became the go-to shirt for Mods up and down the country. But where did the button-down shirt come from? And what caused its rise to prominence? The Last Word investigates.

Origins

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In 1896, an American fashion designer was visiting the UK and during his trip was invited to watch a polo game. As the match wore on, he became aware of a very practical alteration to the players’ shirts. The collars had been buttoned down in a successful attempt to prevent them from flapping up due to the speed of travel of the horses or gusts of wind.

While the purpose of the buttons was far from sartorial, he loved the arch created in the collar, and upon returning to the USA set about mass production of formal dress shirts with the addition of a button-down collar. By the 1930s the button down had become a huge hit and was widely used across both formal and casual shirting throughout the USA.

The button-down shirt and Ben Sherman

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Ben Sherman was working in textiles in the USA during the 1950s, and when frequenting the jazz clubs of the local area became rather enamoured with the shirts worn by musicians such as Ray Charles. When Ben Sherman moved back to the UK he went hunting for the shirting he’d experienced in the US, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Rather than go without Ben Sherman decided to bring the shirts, including the button-down he fell in love with, to the UK market and the rest is history.

Influence on youth subculture

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The button-down shirt soon became part of the uniform for young trendsetters across the country, from the Mods to Ska and 90s Britpop. Its versatility and casual cool made it an essential part of the uniform for the great and good too, including Hollywood A-listers Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, and former president John F. Kennedy.

If you haven’t got your own button-down shirt, now is the time to put that right.

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