The harder something is to find, the more mythical it becomes: crunchy grapes. The Holy Grail. Adult friends. A rodent-free New York apartment. The perfect white button down. When I walked into Everlane’s Williamsburg store last week, I had no idea I would be walking away with the latter, or rather, the most perfect white button down of all time. I can recall the discovery in vivid detail–the slits on either side of it were the first thing I noticed, attention-grabbing enough to beckon me away from another rack. Then I felt the material, realizing with satisfaction that it was thick enough to maintain its shape and even wear braless. I was sold before I even tried it on.
A week after acquiring the shirt, I wore it to the office with a pair of black stirrup leggings. It wasn’t a particularly noteworthy outfit, especially relative to the circuses I usually concoct, but my colleagues couldn’t stop commenting on the shirt. First Haley asked me about it. Then Amalie, followed by Jasmin. I joked that I should probably just make a team-wide announcement, but in all seriousness was reveling in the confirmation that I’d finally found the platonic white button down ideal.
When I quizzed my admirers about why they, too, were so drawn to it, Amalie said she liked its nice, thick cotton, but most of all its boxy, cropped silhouette. She added that she typically finds white button downs to be massive, too long, cut “for women’s shapes,” or not made with 100% cotton. Jasmin commented on the cut, noting that it was boxy but still had a swing to it, which meant you didn’t necessarily have to (or even want to) tuck it in. Haley said she loves an oversized white oxford because they hold up and hang much better than flimsier white button downs, however has had trouble with tucking them properly due to their heft. She said the one I was wearing looked like an exception due to the unique, cropped silhouette: “It’s scratching the oxford itch without inviting the trouble of one.”
Armed with their input and my own feelings about what makes a perfect white button down “perfect,” I’ve outlined some criteria to aid you in your button down shopping endeavors for all of posterity:
The ideal button down should flare out ever so slightly at the bottom, thus cultivating an oversized effect without looking schleppy.
In terms of material, I like it to sit somewhere between the heaviness of a traditional oxford shirt and the flimsiness of a cotton dress shirt. This middle ground will help the shirt maintain its structure without feeling like cardboard. (For what it’s worth, though, my shirt also comes in a lighter poplin material, if that’s what you’re in the market for).
It’s really hard to find a great shirt that looks good both untucked and tucked. The slits on this one allow the front and back to separate, which means the shirt can be tucked in the front while hanging loose in the back. Best of both worlds, baby.
Some white shirts have a yellow or blue undertone, or are blindingly white. The ideal white button down shirt should be a soft white that looks a bit worn-in. You know, like a stale marshmallow.
Machine washable-ness is key when it comes to white button downs that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also practical and wearable. You’ll want to wear your perfect white button down a lot, and white button downs (even perfect ones) are wont to attract a ketchup splatter or two.
What do you look for in a white button down? Have you stumbled upon your own version of white button down perfection? Let me know in the comments.