Tuesday, 6 July 2010
The Importance of Shirt Buttons
Aww - I love this photo. I have it as my desktop wallpaper on my work computer and my laptop. It captures a beautiful moment on the happiest day of my life. But - oh my gosh it irritates me, too. Drives me mad. Just -just look at it...
I have known my utterly wonderful husband for about four and a half years. During this time, I have explained, demonstrated and cajoled, but still he insists on unbuttoning one, but not two of his shirt buttons - I've more or less given up with him, but it just looks odd. And yet, as I look around at the gentlemen of Britain, this one-button-madness seems to be rife. The problem is one of connotation. Two open buttons give an impression of comfort and relaxation. One button open is, well, more buttoned-up.
The king of 'Only Opening One Button Land' is actor / writer / presenter / comedian and all-round likeable chap David Mitchell. But it works for him. Mitchell's media persona is one of slight diffidence and discomfort, a man who finds himself ill at ease with things like relaxation, fun and the modern world. As such, the single button open at the neck says "I didn't want to wear a tie, but actually, I'm not quite sure what to do if I don't have a tie on. I know that leaving all my buttons done up looks weird, so -there - look, I've undone one. It's more comfortable and I don't look like I've just taken off my tie. Even though I probably have." And while that works for him, it's not the kind of image many men want to project. It's also true that, having two buttons open makes you look leaner both in the face and neck; and in the body. It's the same optical rules that make V necks so flattering for women.
When I was at the pub on Saturday, I got some of the gentlemen to pose for us, with one and two buttons undone. Ignore the odd orange glasses - and instead, notice how - when Adrian has more buttons done up - he looks a bit geeky.
It's even more pronounced here, on Harry - perhaps because of the long sleeves - that with only one button undone the wearer looks uncomfortable and uptight. It's important to notice that if you undo two buttons you're not normally going to expose great acres of chest-flesh: you just give the impression of a longer neck.
Undoing two buttons is flattering, and it also marks a clear distinction between work and play. On the left, Pete would be smart enough for many workplaces... but who (except barstaff) wants to look like they could be at work on a Saturday in the pub? On the left, Pete looks laid back and casual. It's so simple.
There's always one. It's funny, though - a few men have pulled their shirt open in a similar way when I've brought this subject up. Assuming it's not a crazy desire to show me their manly chests, it sometimes seems to be a way of jokingly dealing with insecurities related to showing off more of their bodies. Or perhaps it's not feeling it's ok for everyone, even very 'blokey' blokes, to look stylish and be aware of what suits them. As I said above, most shirts won't show much more flesh if you open two buttons than one, but actually, very soft, unstructured shirts like Steve's will tend to fall open in a wider V shape.
I think the more open neck here looks great - very relaxed and summery, but you can go too far with a good thing. It takes a certain type of person to pull off more than two buttons open, and on others, it can look a little odd...
In the unlikely event that you are Mr David Mitchell and you are reading this blog, please accept my apologies. I think you know that you've a look and persona that work for you - but should you ever want to change all that, I think you should start with the hair. Seriously...