As I write this, the quarantine calendar hanging across from me reads 19 weeks and two days. And during those five months spent inside my Brooklyn apartment, my take on at-home style — along with about a dozen other things — has changed in more ways than I can count.
Back in April, I made a case for getting dressed, writing that putting on a pair of vintage Kenzo trousers and platform loafers provided me with a sense of control that had been missing since the pandemic forced New York City residents indoors in March. And I wasn’t wrong, putting together my outfit in the morning did give me the upper hand — or at least it did for a little while. Now, though, three months older and about a decade wiser, I’ve realised something: I don’t want to get dressed in my pre-COVID clothes. Instead, all I really want to wear these days is a men’s button-down shirt.
To preface, my affinity toward slightly oversized button-downs didn’t simply appear out of thin air. My closet, in fact, has been full of them for years, be it hand-me-downs from my dad, who has been wearing a white or light blue button-down five days a week for as long as I can remember; a cheap Goodwill bulk buy; or a sale-season find snagged from Barney’s, Net-A-Porter, or SSENSE in years past. Before quarantine, though, my button-down collection was saved for casual weekend occasions only: early morning coffee runs and beach trips in the summer, and Sundays spent lounging on my sofa in the winter while also in my favourite pair of Richer Poorer sweats. Now, I reach for the look every day, whether to go to a protest, join a Zoom meeting, while on a road trip, or at a socially distant picnic in the park.
Here's why: In some ways, every day feels like a weekend now, at least in the sense that grabbing a sandwich at the deli down the street and lounging on the couch is pretty much all I get up to. Work, too, but four months into working at the dining room table, the sofa started to look appealing.
The glory of a men’s button-down lies in its ease and versatility. For starters, buttons make shedding a layer at any given moment easy, like for instance, when the thermometer reads the same as Nick Lachey’s boy band in the ‘90s (you know, 98 Degrees). You can also wear it open for an even breezier feel, or opt for the one-button-only move, which I happen to be doing this very second. Rolling up the sleeves is another heat-induced styling trick that not only looks good but also keeps those French pesky cuffs from getting in the way of all that bread-making that’s been happening of late.
The inherent dressiness of button-down shirts — which are often referred to as dress shirts — only adds to my cause. When hopping on an impromptu Zoom call or heading out on a whim to track down vegan ice cream (or is that just me?), throwing a button-down over top of a Hanes white tank top and track shorts — or better yet, boxers — can give an outfit a look of intention, even if it really took no thought at all.
And with that, I’ve made it to the real hero outfit of my five-month-long quarantine: a button-down styled alongside a pair of track shorts, New Balance sneakers or loafers (with cropped crew socks, of course), and, depending on my current hair day, a baseball cap. Strange as it sounds, this tried-and-true uniform has proven capable of keeping me cool (both in body temperature and style), indoors and outside. I am not alone in loving this look.
One scroll through my Instagram feed and I’m greeted with a surplus of button-downs, from short-sleeved colour-block styles courtesy of jewellery brand Éliou’s newly launched merch line to logo-embossed striped alternatives designed by skateboarder, Berluti model, and fashion designer Blondey McCoy’s hype brand Thames. The former posted yesterday on Stories that the shirt, called the Sonny Button-Down, is now all sold out in size small. (McCoy’s P.G. button-downs notoriously sell out in mere seconds, but don’t worry, a restock is en route to thamesmmxx.com soon.)
Belfast-based style influencer Tanice Elizabeth recently adorned her simple white dress shirt with a gold chain à la Normal People’s Connell Waldron, while Sylvie Mus, another outfit curator out of Paris and Helinski, styled hers with ‘90s-era knee-high boots and a patent leather shoulder bag. In sunny Arizona, Sandra Sauceda paired her baby blue button-down with a white tank top and ribbed biker shorts. Meanwhile, Marie von Behrens, opted for neutrals, with nude Jacquemus ribbed shorts, a knit bra top, and a white button-down. Should I go on?
Of course, if you’ve already discovered your own quarantine hero piece hiding in the back of your closet, more power to you. But if getting dressed in the morning, despite having little to no plans of leaving the confines of your apartment, is still hard for you, maybe it’s time to think about the hand-me-down dress shirt you’d since forgotten about? Who knows? Maybe it too can be a hero in your COVID wardrobe, too.
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