First of all, I would like to state that I don’t have OCD. I mean, I have checked three or four hundred times and I definitely don’t have it. On the contrary, I would like to think that I am a fairly laid back sort of guy.
I have been known to swim straight after eating and one time I let my sister off when her foot crossed the line when I took her bowling for her 9th birthday (yes that’s right, I just let her off).
There is however, something that I just cannot ignore and it’s like that itch on your back, which every time you try to scratch it just gets, well… itchier! I am of course talking about suit button etiquette. This may seem a little silly but as someone who practically lives in a suit and specialises in suit accessories, the details of what AND HOW someone wears their formal attire is always of interest to me.
There are many suit rules for the modern gentleman but the sheer simplicity of ‘how you button up’ makes it my #1 rule to follow.
Where does the rule come from?
It is of course one of the oldest rules of formal dressing, which dictates that the bottom button of your waistcoat should always be left undone. Why I hear you ask in anticipation, are we suppose to discard the functionality of the bottom button, like an unwanted runt of a litter?
Well, the origins of this rule do vary but I personally like the theory that King Edward VII, who gorged himself like every king should, became so overweight that he could not fasten his lower button. So the rest of his court literally followed suit (excuse the pun) and in turn a fashion was born.
So what is the rule?
The easiest way to remember the rule is ‘Always - Never‘ or in the case of a three button jacket, ‘Sometimes - Always - Never‘. It is literally that easy.
If you are wearing a two buttoned jacket, you should only ever have the top button done up. The bottom button should never be done up and both should be unbuttoned when sitting to reduce the pull on the button thread and make the whole ‘sitting experience’ more comfortable.
If you are wearing a three-button jacket, you should always fasten the middle button. You also have the option to do up the top button if you desire, although this is more down to personal style/preference. However, like a two button jacket, the bottom button should never be done up and all three should be unbuttoned when sitting.
If you are wearing a single button jacket, then you are in luck. There are no rules you can break regarding the buttoning of a single button. Just remember as always, to unfasten your jacket when sitting.
Waistcoats – or vests to our transatlantic friends – are not exempt from this button etiquette rule either. It is true that there are a number of different styles and shapes, but the rule still remains to never fasten the bottom button. Recently, it has also become acceptable to leave the top button of your waistcoat undone. Again, this is more of a personal preference and for me, I like the way this allows for more of my tie to be on display.
Even if you don’t care about tradition, following this rule will give a better shape to the fit and intern, create that desired v shape, that has been known to make women go weak at the knees… whatever that means.
So next time you see someone breaking this rule, maybe you can have a quiet word and explain to them that for over a hundred years, gentlemen have left their bottom buttons undone and unlike fleeting fashion trends that change quicker than Katie Price changes husbands.
This is one trend that is as affiliated to suit etiquette as Ant is to Dec. 10 tips for getting the most out of your suit will also ensure no other fashion faux pars at the same time as helping to reduce my stress levels.
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