It's time for another session of Suit School

Today's topic is quick, easy, and inoffensive: Suit Buttons.

Traditionally, mens' suits had no real formal rules to buttoning. Looking to catalogs from the early 1900s, one notices men with 2-5 button jackets, all buttoned in various manners that suited their personality or the cut of the garment.

Legend has it that in the earth 20th Century, King Edward VII started the trend of leaving the bottom button of a suit undone.

Apparently, he grew so rotund that he was unable to fasten the bottom button of his waistcoat and jacket. To not offend the king, those associated with him started doing the same. The custom then gradually spread the world round.

Today's suits are constructed in a manner where to ensure the proper drape of the jacket, one must generally leave the bottom open while fastening the rest.

A suit should remain buttoned until one sits, when it usually becomes necessary to unfasten the jacket. Once one stands again, the jacket should be refastened.

As any sartorially inclined gentleman knows, there are exceptions to every rule. Suiting is no different.

Here's a cheat sheet broken down by button styles.

Single Breasted Suits:
One Button Suits - One button suits are the easiest to remember. The button should always be buttoned when standing, and unfastened when one sits down.

Two Button Suits
- Two Button suits are also simple. The top button should remain buttoned, while the bottom button be left undone. If you button both and look in a mirror, you'll immediately notice that something looks strange. The bottom button also significantly restricts your movement.

Three Button Suits - With three buttons, you have an option. You can either 1) button the top two and leave the bottom unfastened, or 2) simply button the center button. On suits with a lapel that is flat, it generally looks better to button the top two. If the lapel has a soft roll to it that extends past the first button, then it's advisable to button only the center button.

Above is a 3/roll 2 lapel. You can see a button hole for the top button, but the button itself is hidden from view by the lapel. This jacket should should only be buttoned in the center.
Nowadays, one doesn't see as many rolled lapels. So unless your suit has a rolled lapel, it's better to leave the top two fastened.

Four or More Button Suits
- I do not advise that one ever wears more than three buttons on a business suit. While they used to be common, nowadays they are more often seen on celebrities and those who want to make a brash fashion statement. But if you feel so inclined, just leave the bottom button undone.

Double Breasted Suits:

Double breasted suits are pretty easy. Generally, fasten every button except the bottom. Then, leave the suit buttoned until you take the jacket off - whether you're sitting or standing. The military style behind the double breasted suit requires that it remain fastened, otherwise the extra fabric at the front of the coat looks sloppy.

Above is a 6 x 2 Double breasted jacket, so named because it has 6 buttons, only two of which are fastened. If you notice, the bottom-most button is undone. This improves suit drape and give a nice masculine figure to the jacket.

Enjoy for now, fellow gentlemen. More suit school to follow!

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Tags: School, Suit


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Comment by Kodanshi Helcarver on September 24, 2011 at 7:15pm
An extremely informative article …and good to know I have learnt the correct manner of button–fastening from my father and followed it instinctively thereafter.
Comment by Wayne W. on December 27, 2010 at 12:07am
Wow!  informative.  Thanks you.
Comment by Kyle Hall on August 16, 2010 at 10:50pm
This is good advice, Leo. Quite a few customers of mine attempt to fasten all of the buttons on their jacket—even men who are much older than me. I correct them every time I see it, and explain the reasoning behind it, but today I had someone who insisted that it looked better that way. I'm thought, "If you think that bunched-up fabric looks better, I can't stop you." Though I do wonder why designers bother putting on the extra buttons if they're not meant to be used.

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