How A Men’s Button-Down Became My Quarantine Wardrobe Hero Piece

Eliza Huber

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 realized 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 favorite 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 color-block styles courtesy of jewelry 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. 

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

Venus Williams Loves The Tennis Fashion Trend

Mask Accessories Are Taking Over Instagram

Neon & Pastels Are Out, Primary Colors Are In

More From

  • It’s Time To Take Cole Haan Out Of The Shoe Friend Zone

    It’s true — Cole Haan has been in the shoe friend zone for too long. We’ve associated the 100-year-old footwear company with support, comfort, and reliability instead of alluring sales, disarmingly chic styles, and an impassioned fanbase — that is, until now. After stumbling into its up-to-80%-off event, we unearthed not only a plethora of shockingly stylish shoes but also hundreds of reviews and near-unanimous 5-star ratings. So, we threw one of many attractive sale pairs (the block-heeled Josie Sandal) into a shopping roundup on-site and watched in awe as readers carted it up by the hundreds. On the heels of our realization that Cole Haan is, well, kind of a big deal, we polled fans for some IRL feedback on the brand. As it turns out, we were more than late to this shoe party. Aside from its devoted online following, we found a number of vocal Haan-Heads among our very own ranks here at R29. Experiential Design Director, Monica Herman, got hooked on the classic footwear company as a 23-year-old working at a SoHo gallery: “One of the textile dealers we worked with was very chic and practical…she wore Cole Haan oxfords and I thought that was very cool.” Deputy Beauty Director, Rachel Krause, was drawn to Haan through her mother: “She’s extolled the virtues of Cole Haan pretty much my entire life, which meant nothing to me when I was 16 and wanted to wear nothing but Docs. I wish I’d listened to her sooner.” Krause appreciates that “there’s no obvious branding, the quality is GREAT, especially for the price point, and the sales are even better.” And she’s right, Cole Haan is replete with serious markdowns throughout the seasons — like the current up-to-80%-off summer blowout that first drew us to it. Taking these hot tips from our fellow R29ers along with rave reviews from its online fanbase, we created a guide to the brand’s top ten bestselling styles. It’s clear that Cole Haan has been here all along, so it’s time we take our friendship to the next level. Scroll on to get acquainted with what may possibly be your new dream shoe and join us among the ranks of Haan-Heads for life. DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan GrandPrø Rally Court Sneaker, $130Looking for a street sneaker that costs a little less than the standard $400+ price tag of the minimal European brands? You’ve come to the right place. “I wanted a cute sneaker to wear with jeans and dresses. I don’t think I’m hip enough for the Golden Goose sneaks and also didn’t want to spend that much money,” wrote Erin H. “These are perfect! Super cute and very comfortable. I get a lot of compliments on them.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan ZERØGRAND Criss Cross Sandal, ~~$150~~ $29.97R29’s Video Editor, Rissa Papillion, relies on the ZEROGRAND Criss-Cross Sandals in a chic matte-black sheen — they’re a streamlined flatform with a grippy sole and just enough height to be sophisticated. Reader, let me tell you, we absolutely combed the internet for the aforementioned classic colorway and came up short — but a lovely late-summer metallic remains on deck for your buying pleasure. “Not the trendiest shoes,” Papillion admitted, “but they feel like Doc Martens for the workplace.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan Mckenna Penny Loafer, $170Papillion also keeps the brand’s Pinch loafers in heavy rotation. “My mom considers them to be a fashion staple, and always has a pair of black and brown Cole Haan loafers in her closet.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan GrandPrø Tennis Sneaker, $130“I was researching comfortable/cute sneakers for my honeymoon, knowing I would be walking a lot and landed on Cole Haan sneakers, which have crazy good reviews,” said our Beauty Director, Cat Quinn. “Now, my GrandPro sneakers have been through Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. I always travel in them.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan Josie Block Heel Sandal, ~~$150~~ $29.97102 reviewers gave this perfect block-heeled sandal 4.8 stars. “I am buying two other colors,” wrote customer Bamidele A. “This is my 7th shoe from Cole Haan.” June L. confessed that the heels “are so comfortable — I honestly wore them walking around San Francisco the whole day. ADORABLE TOO!!” she added. “I like this sandal, but nowhere to go yet,” admitted Sabine A. “I’ll be ready when everything reopens.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan Anica Thong Sandal, ~~$130~~ $39.97These searing pink sandals led customer Yvette T. to caution would-be purchases to “wear [their] sunglasses.” Don’t have to ask us twice! We’re jumping at the chance to wear high-wattage hues these days, and it sounds like we’re not alone. “All I can say is WOW,” said Robin M. “I ordered the hot pink and loved them.” She was one of 211 customers psyched on this style, helping it rack up a total of 4.7 stars.DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan Grand Crosscourt Sneaker, ~~$130~~ $69.95R29’s Beauty Director, Krause, claims that she “gets shin splints just thinking about putting on another pair of heeled boots, so I bought the Crosscourt sneakers and they quickly became a go-to. They’re comfortable enough to stroll around in for hours and go with everything from long dresses to ripped jeans.”“My Cole Haan Crosscourt sneakers are my everything,” Money Diaries Associate Editor, Hannah Rimm, told us. “I’ve had them for years. They’re like a fancy version of Keds and they are very important to me.” Even better, she told us, “they’re a literal godsend for the office. I also don’t really like ‘women’s’ shoes when it comes to formal wear, so I honestly also wear these to parties with a blazer and pants when I have to dress up. They’re comfy, but I also feel fancy when I wear them and they are ridiculously good quality.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan Grand Ambition Wedge, ~~$180~~ $39.97This is a supremely comfortable shoe,” reviewer Claudia W. says of the Grand Ambition wedge, which racked up a total of 4.8 stars across 68 reviews. “I prefer all-leather shoes; they’re getting harder to find, but these come close. These wedge pumps are sleek, with a wide enough heel base that makes them sturdy, as well. The 2-inch heel is a perfect height, allowing the heel to rest comfortably without the foot sliding forward into the shoe. The cushioning in the insole extends the entire length of the shoe and is divine.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan Avani City Sandal, ~~$150~~ $39.97“My 1 go-to style is the Avani City Sandal,” said Monica Herman, R29’s Design Director. “I love heels, but I don’t wear them because I can’t stand the discomfort. But I wear these. And I can wear them all day. Like, morning to night, taking the subway, the whole thing. I think I have four pairs.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan ZERØGRAND Global Double Band Sandal, ~~$130~~ $29.97“I also get a pair of ZeroGrand sandals every two years and wear them as my day-to-day sandal until they fall apart,” devoted Haan-Head Herman added. “They’re absolute gold.”DashDividers_1_500x100At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

  • 12 Instagram Accounts To Follow For The Best Beauty Reels

    Just when we thought we might lose TikTok forever, Instagram rolled out a short-form video competitor that's already changing the way we use the app. With Reels, users can edit snappy, 15-second clips using filters and audio tracks, then share them with users that might not already be following them. With more creativity and discovery available than ever before, influencers are already jumping at the opportunity to share videos — and, according to Instagram, makeup transformations are leading the pack. But we won't leave you to find the breakout stars of the Reels beauty community. From pink hair makeovers to graphic eyes, we're sharing some of our favorite videos and accounts to follow for the best (and shortest) tips and tricks. You'd be surprised at what these beauty enthusiasts can fit into a few seconds. Check them all out, ahead. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

  • Found: The Comfiest Chairs To WFH In

    If your head, shoulders, lower back, and butt aren't currently killing you, then you're probably reading this from the comforts of a supportive seat — and following the uncrossed-legs, 90/90 rule like a posture pro. The transitional road to working remotely has had its bumps, and one that we're currently still navigating is physical body support. To help us win the battle against eventually throwing our backs out while WFH, we went on a virtual quest for the top-rated desk chairs stamped with reviewer-comfort seals of approval. Ahead, the bestselling ergonomic buys that are structured to rescue your tight hips and sore butt bones from their sad sunken-in couch cushions or questionably-old mattress fates. We found everything from the no-frills options that will make you feel like you're back in-office again (seems almost nice at this point, no?) to the fancier styles that will fit right in with your farmhouse decor — and even an insanely tricked out seating situation chosen by hardcore gamers. Welcome to Hype Machine, our hit-list of the top reviewed products across the web — according to a crowd of die-hard shoppers. Call this your 4-star & up only club, with entry granted by our devoted-to-the-goods shop editors. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. The product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?10 Ergonomic Goods That Will Support Your WFH BodyThe Best Eco-Friendly Bedding BrandsDo Posture Correctors Actually Work?

  • 14 Ultra-Comfy Bathrobes Every College Student Needs

    Usually, our back-to-school shopping list consists of statement dresses for that first-day 'fit, cute-but-functional flats for zipping around campus, and book bags big enough to actually fit our laptops. But now, with hundreds of colleges opting for online classes and students suddenly Working From Couch, comfort is king and cozy, everyday loungewear is our new M.O. — especially bathrobes. There's the simple cotton robe you can totally get away with wearing to your 8 a.m. Zoom seminar. There's the plush, pillow-soft option with Kindle-sized pockets for storing all your flashcards. And then there's the long, silky slip-on for the moment you change out of your daytime PJs into your nighttime PJs, of course. Whatever type of bathrobe you're looking to wrap yourself up in this semester, we've rounded up 13 of the best options out there to help you lounge like you mean it. Shop our favorites, ahead. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. The product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?