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Second Button Placement

The placement of the second button on your button down is a topic of great debate and much interest. It may perhaps be more appropriate to say that it was a topic of great debate. Today, most of us have never lived in a world of common 6 button fronts (Mercer aside) so must of us have never experienced the second button placement of a 6 button front and it's comparison to a 7 button front. This topic, this discussion, was more pronounced during the period in which 6 button front and 7 button front shirts were both more commonly found. There is a part in a Seinfeld episode actually, where Jerry and George are talking about the problem of a second button that is placed too high. 6 button fronts were not terribly common in the 1990s, but the 1990s were closer to the 1960s and in the 1960s they were as common as Coca-Cola.

You may be saying "who cares?" "What is the big deal?" Well, first it is not the biggest deal, that must be said. We don't need to blow things out of proportion. But, it is something. It isn't nothing. The situation/claim/idea is simple. The problem is that on a 7 button front shirt, the second button is placed too high so that when wearing the shirt in a casual manner without a tie, the shirt is not open enough, it doesn't quite feel right. It isn't the right level of casual, it is still a bit too "buttoned up". Furthermore, if you decide to unbutton the second button then the shirt becomes "too open" and too revealing. There is no middle ground. The claim is that on the 6 button front, this second button is placed lower and so thusly it is in the perfect spot. It conveys the perfect level of casual nonchalance. Someone could say "well why is that perfect?" "Maybe you just think it is perfect because of you seeing images from the 1960s and you think that is what looks best, but it's just arbitrary." The answer is - "Yes."

It doesn't matter the reason, it doesn't matter if you can prove objectively by way of all these specific reasons why the amount of "openness" found on a 6 button front is in the perfect spot or if we only like this look because of association with a semi-establishment-origin of our style in the midcentury, the reality is that it simply does read perfectly nonchalant and casual. It reads to us as - "that is how a shirt is supposed to look when worn with no tie". It is this look, the look of this space found on the 6 button front that is in our aesthetic language whether we are aware of it or not. This is the space that is the quintessential casual (no tie) look.

So if 6 button fronts are basically impossible to find today, what do we do? Well, first you can buy a 6 button front shirt from Mercer and Sons. They make incredible shirts and because they are made with a 6 button front you will be able to get that perfect, vintage, iconic casual look that is perceptible to everyone even if they can't articulate it and clear to the connoisseur who can articulate it (as he knows what he is looking at). You can also order a shirt custom and ask that they lower the placement of the second button a bit. All three of the shirts you see in these photos were made custom. I had them lower the second button placement 1 inch. It may not seem noticeable at first, but you can feel it. If you see the depth of the opening and how it appears as it is open, you can tell it isn't open like a brand new Polo Ralph Lauren OCBD with the second button placed so high it is almost pressing against your neck. Yet, it isn't a deep opening, too revealing with 2 buttons unbuttoned. It is so hard to put your finger on, but it is there.

Not only can you feel the difference when you see the shirt. You can feel the difference when you wear the shirt. When you move your arms back, when you move one arm up and one down, when you are lifting something or contorting yourself in some way or turning around in some way. That little extra opening, that lowered button, lets you feel no friction around your neck. There is no constriction. Not too low, not too high. Just perfect. I know this seems like a most extreme, nuanced, small detail. It is. It really is. It isn't like an unlined collar (a must have). It is a bit more niche, it is a bit more deluxe and it is a bit more particular.

Yet, although it isn't a must have like an unlined collar, it is certainly noticeable like an unlined collar. Just like the unlined collar, it is noticeable to the aficionado clearly and perceptible to the novice even if they don't know it. Like the unlined collar, it helps push your shirt, your appearance, your presentation into the timeless arena in such a wispy and delicate way. People can't tell what it is, but there is something classic about it, there is something traditional about it, something familiar. They know something is different, there is something they like. It is something that reminds them of a time outside of our own. And maybe that reminder is very welcome, whether they are ready to admit it or not.

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