Button Up...All The Way

If you haven’t noticed, it may be because it’s been too hot, or perhaps you’ve been doing sleep research for NASA. But now that the weather’s temperate again, you’re bound to notice that men are buttoning their shirts all the way up. While ubiquitous on runways and fashion pages, buttoned top buttons are becoming more visible in the real world as well. It’s a look that’s a bit formal, a bit dandyish, a little nerdy and a little rock ‘n’ roll. Who would think that such a small, simple gesture could make such a big style statement?    

 

 

If you haven’t noticed, it may be because it’s been too hot, or perhaps you’ve been doing sleep research for NASA. But now that the weather’s temperate again, you’re bound to notice that men are buttoning their shirts all the way up. While ubiquitous on runways and fashion pages, buttoned top buttons are becoming more visible in the real world as well. It’s a look that’s a bit formal, a bit dandyish, a little nerdy and a little rock ‘n’ roll. Who would think that such a small, simple gesture could make such a big style statement?    

 

 

Soon rebellious schoolboys all across the UK were doing it. It wasn’t simply a style gesture, but a subversive reaction to the uniform tie. Pet Shop Boy’s Neil Tennent converted for life, despite his mother’s reprimands that he looked "too buttoned-up." And when film director David Lynch made the trend into his signature look, artist-types and flaneurs everywhere took note. Among fashion cognoscenti, the look became not unaffectionately known as “the air tie.”

 

 

Predictably ahead of the curve, The Rolling Stones were buttoning up their penny collars in the 1960s, a look that helped establish them as first dandies of rock ‘n’ roll. Now the Brits have given us Peaky Blinders, a television crime drama set in Birmingham after World War I, starring Cillian Murphy as ringleader of some stylishly shady, buttoned-up gangsters. If the costuming is historically accurate, then the likes of these guys were way ahead of The Stones.

 

 

Meanwhile in East LA, young Chicanos cultivated their own version of the look back in the 1940s when zoot suits were the rage. In more recent times, the “cholos” adapted the look to Pendleton shirts, often worn outside the pants and with only the top button closed – a most singular statement.

 

 

The chronology and lines of influence behind top-buttoning or “air tie” style could be argued, and Fantastic Man Magazine editors Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom in their new book, Buttoned Up, examine it from their own wryly astute perspective. Tracing it via music subculture, they focus on London’s East End, where men button-up so pervasively that it transcends mere fashion statement. Along with pertinent fashion theory, the 112-page pocketbook contains essays, reportage, photographs, and even an interview with buttoned-up icon Neil Tennent. You can pick it up in London - ideally East London.

 

 

Meanwhile, wherever you are, or however many shirts you own, there is no more economic, less time-consuming style gesture you can make without getting a new wardrobe. On route to the office or the dance club, all you have to do is...well, you already know.