Delightful Fashion Design

The biggest delights are sometimes the easiest things to miss.


I am absolutely enthralled by great engineering in the world, mostly when I see it built into products. Clever design is one of my favorite things and I could point to thousands of examples where I have been delighted but I just bought two shirts that really set the bar on fashion design around buttons for me.

How many shirts do anything new, special, or different with buttons? I mean, really game-changing. Buttons are almost always flat, round, attached with thread loosely wound through 4 little holes. The engineering of a button is fairly straightforward, you would think, until you see someone truly show the potential of such a simple, ubiquitous, and traditionally designed item.

Enter 2 new shirts I bought from a company that specializes in higher-end travel wear, Royal Robbins. I have zero affiliation with the company but I have found its origin to be pretty interesting (“Royal Robbins” was an actual person, an adventurer of sorts) and its clothing line is pretty top-notch, with a couple notable stand-outs.

Check out this button design on what has become one of my favorite shirts:


Royal Robbins red shirt collar

When I put this shirt on, I was immediately impressed with the buttons.

It seems silly, but take a close look at them.

Whoever designed them really did a great job.

Obviously and foremost, they are attractive.

But they are also brilliantly designed.

The Royal Robbins people chose metal over traditional plastic.

Even better, the metal is curved slightly forward (away from the shirt), which does not seem like a big deal  until you try it on.

The curvature makes the buttons easier to grasp while allowing the thread to be wound much tighter, holding them secure.

Finally, notice the eyelet under the collar. How has no one else thought of this already?

Having the eyelet there allows you to hold the collar down with the appearance of a rigid collar stay but with the flexibility of a casual-looking collar. Kind of genius.


Royal Robbins gray shirt

Or check out this example… hopefully the picture does it justice. Notice there is no traditional threading through the four button holes.

Instead, all the buttons are set in to one tough strip of vinyl cord. As you can see, they still use the rounded metal grommets for buttons, this time

with a single pass-through instead of the traditional button holes. Again, easy to button with some give, but rock-solid attachment.

The cord the buttons are on runs the length of the shirt and each button has plenty of space to adjust for a comfortable fit (for your “fat” days).

Each button can slide up or down or away from the shirt as needed for fit, but also notice the stitching above and below the grommet to keep it from sliding too far away to reach the eyelet.

A well-made shirt can be tough to find and these two from Royal Robbins fit the bill (but they will cost a bill or two–they might be the two most expensive shirts I own). I should point out how delighted I was by the buttons but the rest of these shirts are great, too. They are durable and soft, wrinkle-free and built to look great in the office and feel great while climbing a mountain (I do not climb mountains). I did not intend for this post to be a product review, but it appears it went that way.

I have other great shirts by other brands that consistently knock it out of the park (PrAna is probably my all around favorite go-to brand) but I could not help but share my delight for the engineering of these two shirts. I marvel at clever design and engineering everywhere, though. I notice the functionality and user-friendliness of things like soy milk cartons, microphone placement on cell phones, cat trees, shoe laces, and just about anything else.


Today’s lesson: Notice the little things that delight you, Consider that somebody probably designed it that way with that intention. Also notice the things just begging for better design and think of ways you might do it better, even if you never do. It might seem lofty, but the joy of Marketing and Design is in seeing, and appreciating, a better world.