GFW’s Long Sleeve Button-Down is a Good, Solid Shirt (With a Surprise Secret Button)

This post was sponsored by GFW

Hello, it’s me, one of Autostraddle’s resident reviewers for Masculine-of-Center clothing and accessories. This lovely company called GFW (gender free world) sent me a button down shirt. I was really excited to receive the button down shirt, as I spend most of my life in a button down shirt. Androgyny is the name of GFW’s game—their shirts are designed for a neutral look that doesn’t form fit like most button down shirts made for bodies with boobs.

GFW Clothing offers three styles of shirt—The Alex, for those with some hips on them; the Billie, for the tata-top-heavy; and the Charlie, for those whose hips and bust are about equal. I started by deciding what sort of size and style I’d be, which is very easy with their size guide. I measured myself with a tape measure and was shocked to discover I wasn’t a Billie, but a Charlie. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so shocked; I do bind. It struck me that this is what we get when things are sized realistically, which clothing made for women with breasts often isn’t. And y’all, these shirts are made explicitly for bodies with breasts. Each and every style has a backward-facing secret button to keep the ubiquitous button-down-boob-gap from making an appearance.

When I got my shirt in the mail, I was struck by how high quality the fabric on it felt—a little thicker than my Gap Oxfords, even, but similar in softness and in style. I was excited because I selected a blue shirt with checks at the cuffs, which I thought would look pretty awesome when I rolled up my sleeves (as I am wont to do). It also came out of the package not wrinkled, which made me wonder if it would come out of the dryer not wrinkled. My hopes were high.

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I’m gonna start with the negative and end with the positive, because I want you to remember the positive more than the negative, because this is a good solid shirt. First, the sleeves are too short for me to wear not rolled up. This is normal for me, because I’m like one of those stretchy Gumby toys from the ’90s. My arms are way out of proportion. So it’s not exactly a strike against the shirt, that’s just the way my body is. But! When I roll my sleeves up, I fold them more than once to keep them from looking like they’re too short. More than one roll—say up to my elbows—makes the roll look really intentional. That means those cool checks on the cuffs all but disappear, and I have to roll them a little sloppily to get that casual, too-cool effect. As such, I wish the cuff lining went up a little bit farther. The sleeves themselves are a little slim fit, so I wouldn’t want to, say, move boxes in the shirt. But they are not so tight that they’re uncomfortable.

The other thing is that secret button—I was convinced that everyone could see my secret button, but my fiancée said only I can see my secret button because no one else is looking for my secret button. However, as I put the shirt on this morning, I noticed the threads that hold the secret button in place were positively screaming with effort. This surprised me as this shirt isn’t tight across my chest—I have a feeling I will be re-sewing the secret button back on. I do not necessarily have a problem with this; buttons come off of clothing. It happens. But once I bought a J-Crew coat and all the buttons fell off in the first three weeks of owning it, so I pay special attention to such things now. If all the buttons were falling off, this might be more of a negative to me. But as it stands now, I think it’s just the price we pay for a secret button.

Now for the last negative, which actually turns into a positive: this shirt is too short to tuck in. I have a short torso to begin with, so I was surprised when I tried to tuck in the shirt and it kept rambunctiously ignoring my request. But then I realized something—I wear my shirts tucked in because I have to. Because men’s wear shirts usually are not made for hips, so they pull across my belly and butt and make me look medium-terrible if the last button isn’t concealed beneath the friendly and forgiving waistband. While I do enjoy that a tucked-in shirt gives the world the mistaken impression that I have my shit together, it does make me look tightly-wound to appear like this literally all the time. As soon as I realized this wasn’t a shirt to be contained, I wore it un-tucked and the experience was freeing. I look like a normal human while walking through Central Park. This remains the only button-down shirt I have in my closet that I can wear without tucking it in. Worth it, by itself.

So now the positives, other than that. The secret button really does work, even if it might need a thread-rescue some day soon. No gaping holes, straining fabric or surprise binder shows. It also didn’t change sizes on me at all when I washed it, and I washed it with all my other button downs in cold water with no special treatment. While it did come out of the dryer just as wrinkled as the rest of everything I own, it does seem to steam easier than a lot of my other shirts, and I don’t need to spend as much time fussing the wrinkles out of it. It’s from a woman-owned and operated company with an eye to queer people, so that in itself is pretty fucking cool.

Oh, and all the shirts are designed and made in the UK. And I look good in it, which is pretty much the biggest positive of all. I look so good in it that right now I am wearing the shirt, as I fly to A-Camp and write this review on the plane because I plan my time wisely. Anyone who knows me well knows I only fly in clothes that make me look good and won’t piss me off on the plane (I get made fun of for dressing up to fly a lot). It’s literally the highest praise I could give a shirt.

Get your own Alex, Billie or Charlie from GFW Clothing at their website—all long sleeved shirts are normally between £46-49, but they’ve got a sale going on right now on the white shirt for £35. I want to point out that one of the color selections on their shirts is “penguin,” which is exactly what you’re hoping it is.

Staff Writer for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

A.E. has written 540 articles for us.

25 Comments

  1. This shirt sounds exciting! You might want to change the ‘where’ in this sentence, “First, the sleeves are too short for me to where not rolled up” to ‘wear’.

  2. I was excited for a secret button……….. I kept looking at the picture to see if I could find it. We need more shirts with secret buttons. I want to read a piece on vests, preferably with secret buttons too.

  3. I totally checked these guys out about April time!

    And then realised that even £35 for one shirt is still super out of my price range. But what I took from their website was that the super secret button is the best. Since then I have used the spare button that shirts come with to make my own super secret button. It takes less than five minutes. And while I’m still buying from terrible companies and my shirts are too long to even comtemplate long sleeves (short sleeves ftw) the chest now fits great and I don’t worry about gaping and I feel great!

    One day, I might treat myself to one of their shirts for Christmas or something. But for now, I’m looking cool as a cucumber without.

  4. Would super appreciate it if y’all would include the size range of clothing companies you review. Disappointing to regularly click through to find that e.g. these clothes are not actually made for bodies with boobs, but thin/small fat bodies w boobs.

    • If you’re in the States, you could try Ratio. They make men’s shirts, but if you e-mail them, they’ll take your measurements and make a shirt to fit- most of my button downs are from them. They’re not cheap, since they’re made to measure and manufacture in the US, but the quality is really great.

      • Thank you for clarifying the upper end of the sizing, Alex. Like queer girl below, I saw the 16 for the one shirt, but I’m still not stoked on stopping at an 18? I think size 16s/18s can definitely be fat, but probably as I mentioned (though not necessarily) small fat? The lines are hard to draw and inconsistent/arbitrary sizing numbers don’t help with “knowing.” I’m sorry if you are also fat and I invalidated your experiences at all <3

        Regardless, the wish for AS to mention sizing in reviews still holds. This isn't an infrequent experience.

    • Hi SazzyB, Lisa from GFW Clothing here.

      Our Charlie range is made for bodies with bigger boobs and bigger waists!

      Regarding larger sizing – we go up to a size 22UK / 18 USA which is more than most high street retailers, and we would love to extend the range – but at the moment we have 7 sizes and 3 body shape templates which makes 21 variants per shirt. So many variants make the shirts expensive to produce. So what’s the answer? We are a start up and cannot do it all in one go, the more we sell, the more we can prove demand, the more possibility we can cater for everybody, so…spread the word and help us out. Cheers

  5. Hi GFW! Little tip: it still feels like a total bummer, and a little bit of an insult, honestly, to read a sponsored article like this one, get excited, then realize that the garment maker isn’t doing extended sizing.

    I would buy your shirts. So would a bunch of other hot-as-fuck Autostraddle readers. Please consider selling extended sizes!

    • Hi Queer girl, Lisa from GFW Clothing here.

      I understand your frustration about larger sizing – we go up to a size 22UK / 18 USA which is more than most high street retailers, and we would love to extend the range – but at the moment we have 7 sizes and 3 body shape templates which makes 21 variants per shirt. So many variants make the shirts expensive to produce. So what’s the answer? We are a start up and cannot do it all in one go, the more we sell, the more we can prove demand, the more possibility we can cater for everybody, so…spread the word and help us out. Cheers

      • Hi Lisa! Thanks for answering 😀

        I definitely hear you! I vary between a US 18-20 and it occurs to me that the main reason I have to buy bigger are my boobs, so it’s possible an 18 of the right cut would be absolutely fine. I’ll check it out more on your website!

        I did write my comment after looking at your white shirt, which was only listed up to a US 16, and I thought that was your largest – apologies for that! That being said, I’m glad you’re looking towards a future with even more extended sizing available. Life is SO much more fun when we all get to buy the clothes that make us feel good! 😀 <3 Best of luck to GFW!

    • I understand that it totally sucks to think that something has been made with you in mind only to find that they don’t do your size. But I wanted to look into it a bit, to see how reasonable going up to a size 22 is.

      Basically, I was wondering what proportion of the ‘female’ persuaded population they are disregarding by not offering larger sizes.
      I assumed that a size 22 is a waist measurement of 41 in/104 cm (from the asos measurement guide, the first that came up, gfw not specifying sizes in cm/in), that the waist measurements of the UK population are normally distributed and that the mean waist size is 85.2cm (sd=12.6), figures I got from an article by the Epidemiology dept of UCL.

      This suggests that 93% of the UK female identified population would find that the shirts are provided in a large enough size (I didn’t want to consider them being too big). So there are 7% of their target audience they are not catering for.

      I personally think this is reasonable for a small start up, although I’m sure you will have your own opinions.

      • hi @thecirrhosismachine! as you can see above, i looked at the white sale shirt and mistakenly thought the range went to us size 16. turns out it goes to us 18, which is lovely, although it will be great if they can offer a wider range in the future!

        Also, I totally get what your comment is saying from a practical standpoint, but now I honestly kind of feel like I’d be a freak in England. What you’re saying is not untrue, but it doesn’t feel super kind or really necessary.

        I’m new to talking about size and body stuff online at all, so feeling pretty vulnerable. sorry if i was too easily triggered.

      • OrangeCaitlin,I do understand that companies can’t always cater to everyone and especially with start-ups they have to start somewhere. I also am taking into account that GFW has already expressed a desire to include more sizes once they have the means. But I’m still having trouble reading your comment as something other than telling a minority group, “well that’s what you get for being a minority”. Isn’t part of the problem with getting clothing when you’re a larger person that companies are more likely to make the choice not to cater to you since you’re such a small population anyway? That makes something like this sting even more, when it’s in that intersectional area of wanting to wear masculine-of-center clothing AND being “too large” for a lot of clothing companies, doesn’t it?

        And tbh 7% still seems huge to me considering that that is still over 2 million women in the UK alone.

        • Hey guys, simply put I’m sorry.

          What I was trying to do was consider what evidence a small well meaning company would use to make a hard decision regarding making their clothes available to the broadest range of customer whilst on a restricted budget.

          What I should have done was considered how that would make other commenters feel. And I didn’t.

          That was wrong. This is not the place for people to feel othered and I’m sorry that I did that.

  6. I’m really excited to see this exist! It feels like the market for more gender neutral clothing in the UK is pretty much non-existent, and I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere that does different clothing templates, like, ever. I am excite. Me and my sad wardrobe full of button gape-y shirts will be looking longingly at the penguin shirt until I’m a little freer on disposable income, but again, excite! I hope this company goes on to do really well!

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