It's easy to forget the simple rules of suit buttons. This simple guide will help you get it right.
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Knowing how to button your suit the right way not only ensures your suit drapes properly, it also gives the impression you know your stuff.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of men who don’t know when to button and unbutton their jackets, leaving them looking both awkward and incompetent.
This guide will cut through the confusion. We’ll teach you how jackets, vests, dress shirts, and shirt cuffs should be buttoned, and we’ll even provide a brief yet fascinating history lesson on the reason you should never button your bottom suit jacket button.
Before reading the rest of the article, understand what you have in your closet. Suit button rules change depending on both the style of jacket, as well as the number of buttons on the jacket.
There are two types of suit jackets – single-breasted and double-breasted, and it’s pretty easy to discern which is which. Single-breasted jackets have between one and three buttons aligned in a row, while double-breasted jackets typically have two rows of buttons, with two or three buttons in each row.
Single-breasted jackets should always be buttoned to some degree, while standing and always completely unbuttoned when sitting.
While wearing one-button jackets, simply button up when standing and unbutton when sitting. By buttoning up when standing, you avoid looking sloppy, and by unbuttoning when sitting, you prevent unflattering bunching, wrinkles, and creases.
For two-button jackets, the top button should be treated like the button on a one-button jacket – buttoned when standing, unbuttoned when sitting.
The bottom button should never be buttoned, ever. Modern suits are designed assuming the bottom will remain unfastened, so buttoning it up will look inelegant, to say the least.
While wearing a three-button suit jacket, the buttoning rule, from top to bottom, is: Sometimes. Always. Never.
That is, sometimes button the top button, always button the middle button, and never button the last button.
Let’s expand on this.
Compared to the single-breasted jacket, double-breasted suit button rules are relatively uncomplicated. Simply button every button with working buttonholes. The bottom right button, however, is optional.
Even when sitting, all buttons (except the optional bottom) should be buttoned on double-breasted jackets. Double-breasted suit jackets are cut to be buttoned at all times, so they look awkward when not buttoned.
A double-breasted jacket is described by how many buttons it has and where they are placed. The total number of buttons is mentioned initially, followed by the number of buttons that can be used, i.e., working buttons that have a buttonhole.
For example, a 2×1 is a double-breasted suit jacket where there are two buttons, but only one of them is a working button. Meanwhile, a 4×2 double-breasted jacket will have four buttons but only two working buttons.
There’s a lot of lore surrounding the reasons for keeping the bottom button undone on a suit jacket, which suggests that the rules might not exist solely due to suit cuts, draping, and avoiding wrinkles.
In fact, the tradition of keeping the bottom button undone could go all the way back to the British Royal family and to a rather rotund English monarch, King Edward VII.
Back when the future king was the Prince of Wales, suits were fast gaining in popularity. However, the overweight heir to the throne got so fat that there came a time when he simply had to cease with fastening the last button on his waistcoat.
The prince was quickly followed by members of the Royal court, who, out of apparent sympathy, kept their bottom button undone also. The trend of keeping the bottom button undone soon became standard in England and took hold throughout the rest of Great Britain.
Button etiquette doesn’t stop with single or double-breasted suits. There are rules to be followed when it comes to dress shirts, vests, and cuffs, too.
Becoming familiar with suit button rules and etiquette will give you the confidence boost that comes with looking and feeling like you know your stuff.
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