With summer in full swing, it’s time to break out the fun prints and breezy fabrics. Two popular warm weather style staples are Hawaiian shirts and button downs, but which is best for you? Read on as we explore the key differences between these classic menswear pieces.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Hawaiian shirts and button downs both have their place in a summer wardrobe. Hawaiian shirts are more casual and playful, while button downs are more versatile and can be dressed up or down.

History and Origins

Hawaiian Shirt History

The history of the Hawaiian shirt, also known as the Aloha shirt, dates back to the 1920s. These vibrant and colorful shirts were originally created by a Japanese immigrant named Ellery Chun, who opened a store in Honolulu called King-Smith Clothiers and Dry Goods. The shirts were inspired by the traditional Japanese kimono and featured bold floral prints. They quickly gained popularity among locals and tourists, becoming a symbol of the laid-back Hawaiian lifestyle.

Over the years, the Hawaiian shirt has evolved and become an iconic fashion statement. It has been worn by celebrities, surfers, and even presidents. The popularity of the shirt peaked in the 1950s and 1960s, with Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra often seen sporting them. Today, the Hawaiian shirt continues to be a beloved fashion choice, representing the spirit of aloha and the tropical paradise of Hawaii.

Button Down Shirt History

The button-down shirt, also known as the dress shirt or oxford shirt, has a more formal and traditional history compared to the Hawaiian shirt. It originated in England in the 19th century and was primarily worn by polo players. The button-down collar was specifically designed to keep the collars in place during matches, preventing them from flapping in the wind.

The popularity of the button-down shirt spread to the United States in the early 20th century, thanks to the Ivy League style. It became a staple in men’s fashion, representing sophistication and class. Today, the button-down shirt is still considered a timeless and versatile piece, suitable for both formal and casual occasions.

It’s interesting to note the cultural and historical significance behind both the Hawaiian shirt and the button-down shirt. While the Hawaiian shirt embodies the laid-back and colorful spirit of Hawaii, the button-down shirt represents the classic and refined style of the Ivy League.

Fabrics and Construction

Hawaiian Shirt Fabrics

Hawaiian shirts are known for their vibrant and eye-catching prints, but the fabric they are made of is equally important. These shirts are typically made from lightweight and breathable materials such as cotton, rayon, or a blend of the two. Cotton is a natural fabric that is soft, comfortable, and allows air to circulate, making it perfect for warm weather. Rayon, on the other hand, is a synthetic fabric made from cellulose fibers. It has a similar feel to cotton but offers greater drape and wrinkle resistance.

When it comes to construction, Hawaiian shirts usually have a relaxed fit with short sleeves and a camp collar. They are often designed with a straight hemline that can be worn untucked for a casual look. The buttons on Hawaiian shirts are typically made of plastic or coconut shell, adding to the tropical vibe.

Button Down Shirt Fabrics

Button down shirts, also known as dress shirts or oxford shirts, are more formal and versatile compared to Hawaiian shirts. They are typically made from cotton or a cotton blend. Cotton is a popular choice for button down shirts due to its breathability and ability to retain its shape throughout the day. Cotton blends, which incorporate synthetic fibers like polyester, can offer added durability and wrinkle resistance.

Button down shirts are constructed with a more tailored fit and longer sleeves compared to Hawaiian shirts. They often feature a button-down collar, which keeps the collar points in place, giving a polished look. The buttons on button down shirts are usually made of plastic or mother-of-pearl for a more refined appearance.

Both Hawaiian shirts and button down shirts come in a variety of fabrics, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your style and comfort preferences. Whether you’re going for a casual and relaxed look or a more formal and polished appearance, there is a fabric and construction style to match your needs.

Style and Design

Hawaiian Shirt Style

The Hawaiian shirt is known for its vibrant and eye-catching patterns. These shirts often feature bold floral prints, tropical motifs, or scenic landscapes that instantly transport you to a beach paradise. The loose and relaxed fit of the Hawaiian shirt makes it ideal for casual occasions and hot weather. It exudes a laid-back and carefree vibe, perfect for summer parties or vacation getaways. The variety of colors and designs available in Hawaiian shirts allows you to express your individual style and personality.

Button Down Shirt Style

The button-down shirt, on the other hand, is a classic and timeless wardrobe staple. It is characterized by its collared neckline and buttons down the front. Button-down shirts come in a wide range of fabrics, patterns, and colors, making them versatile and suitable for various occasions. Whether you opt for a crisp white button-down for a formal event or a patterned one for a more casual look, this shirt exudes a polished and put-together appearance. It can be easily dressed up or down, making it a versatile piece in any wardrobe.

When it comes to style and design, both the Hawaiian shirt and the button-down shirt offer unique qualities that cater to different tastes and occasions. The Hawaiian shirt adds a fun and playful touch to your outfit, perfect for a summer BBQ or a day at the beach. On the other hand, the button-down shirt is a classic and versatile option that can be worn for both formal and casual occasions.

For more information on Hawaiian shirt styles and designs, you can visit www.hawaiianshirtstore.com/styles.html. To explore different button-down shirt options, you can check out www.menswearhouse.com/c/mens-shirts/button-down-shirts.

When to Wear Each

Best Occasions for Hawaiian Shirts

Hawaiian shirts, with their vibrant colors and bold patterns, are perfect for a variety of occasions. They are most commonly associated with tropical vacations and beach parties, but they can also be worn in other casual settings. Here are a few occasions where a Hawaiian shirt can be a great choice:

  1. Beach Parties: When you’re soaking up the sun and enjoying the sand between your toes, a Hawaiian shirt can add a fun and festive touch to your outfit. Pair it with some shorts and sandals, and you’re ready to party!
  2. Summer Barbecues: Whether you’re grilling burgers in your backyard or attending a neighborhood cookout, a Hawaiian shirt can help you embrace the laid-back summer vibes. It’s a great way to showcase your personality and stand out from the crowd.
  3. Casual Outings: If you’re going for a casual yet stylish look, a Hawaiian shirt can be a great option. It’s perfect for a day out with friends, a trip to the mall, or even a casual dinner. Just pair it with some jeans or chinos, and you’re good to go.

Remember, Hawaiian shirts are meant to be fun and relaxed, so don’t be afraid to express yourself and embrace the aloha spirit!

Best Occasions for Button Downs

Button-down shirts, with their crisp and polished appearance, are a versatile wardrobe staple. They can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Here are a few occasions where a button-down shirt can be a great choice:

  1. Formal Events: When attending a wedding, a business meeting, or any other formal event, a button-down shirt is a classic choice. Pair it with a suit or dress pants, and you’ll look sharp and put-together.
  2. Job Interviews: First impressions matter, especially during job interviews. A button-down shirt, preferably in a solid color or subtle pattern, can help you make a professional and polished impression. It shows that you take the opportunity seriously and pay attention to details.
  3. Office Settings: In most office environments, a button-down shirt is the go-to choice for a professional and sophisticated look. It exudes confidence and professionalism, while still allowing you to showcase your personal style.

Button-down shirts can also be worn in casual settings, such as a dinner date or a night out with friends. Just roll up the sleeves, leave a few buttons undone, and you’ll achieve a relaxed yet stylish look.

Remember, the versatility of button-down shirts makes them a wardrobe essential. Invest in a few well-fitting ones, and you’ll always have a reliable option for any occasion.

How to Wear Them

Styling Hawaiian Shirts

When it comes to styling Hawaiian shirts, the key is to embrace the laid-back and fun vibe they exude. Here are a few tips to help you rock that tropical look:

  1. Pair your Hawaiian shirt with a solid-colored bottom to create balance. Opt for a pair of shorts or chinos in a neutral color like beige, navy, or khaki.
  2. For a more casual look, leave the shirt untucked. This allows the vibrant print to take center stage and gives off a relaxed and carefree vibe.
  3. If you want to dress up your Hawaiian shirt, try tucking it into a pair of tailored trousers. Add a belt and some loafers to complete the polished yet playful ensemble.
  4. Don’t be afraid to layer your Hawaiian shirt. You can wear it unbuttoned over a plain white t-shirt for a cool and casual look.
  5. Accessorize with sunglasses, a straw hat, or even a lei if you’re feeling festive.

Remember, the key to pulling off a Hawaiian shirt is confidence. Wear it with a smile and embrace the relaxed and tropical vibe it brings to your outfit. You’re sure to turn heads and spread some positive vacation vibes wherever you go!

Styling Button Downs

Button-down shirts are a classic wardrobe staple that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Here are a few tips on how to style them:

  1. A button-down shirt is versatile and can be worn with various bottoms. For a more formal look, pair it with tailored trousers and dress shoes. For a casual vibe, go for jeans and sneakers.
  2. Experiment with different patterns and colors. While solid-colored button-downs are timeless, don’t be afraid to try out stripes, plaids, or even floral prints.
  3. Consider tucking in your button-down shirt for a more polished look. This works especially well for business or formal events.
  4. If you prefer a more relaxed style, leave the shirt untucked and roll up the sleeves. This creates a laid-back and effortless look.
  5. Accessorize with a belt, a watch, or a statement necklace to add a touch of personality to your outfit.

Button-down shirts are a versatile and timeless wardrobe staple that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Whether you’re going to the office, a dinner date, or a casual outing with friends, a well-fitted button-down shirt is a great choice.


Both Hawaiian shirts and button downs deserve a spot in your closet this summer. Hawaiian shirts bring a lively, vacation vibe perfect for backyard barbecues, beach days, and other casual events. Button downs have more versatility for work, dates, and dressier occasions thanks to their classic styling. Choose the shirt that fits the occasion and infuse your warm weather wardrobe with laidback flair or refined polish.

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