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Buttoning one's jacket - the whys & the wherefores?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Belfaborac, Jun 13, 2011.

  1. Belfaborac

    Belfaborac Member

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    First post - yay, hoorah, yikes, booh, etc.


    So anyway - I've always wondered where the strange, but common convention of only doing up one button on a suit jacket/sport coat/blazer comes from. Does anyone know for sure (assumptions I can manufacture easily enough myself)?

    It has always seemed like a particularly pointless convention to me and one which I make a point of disregarding, but I'm curious as to its inception.
     
  2. GBR

    GBR Well-Known Member

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    A well covered subject - suggest use the 'search' function rather than another new post repeating the ground.

    Convention often has no definable origin and appearance is as relevant: There is little worse than seeing a coat fully buttoned.
     
  3. Belfaborac

    Belfaborac Member

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    Ah yes, the obligatory "use the search function, n00b!" introductory reply. Most original.

    As for "there is little worse than seeing a coat fully buttoned", that is obviously a study in pure subjectivity and as such relevant (and of any interest) only to the holder of that particular opinion. Not to mention that it is entirely dependent on the shape of the wearer of said jacket and the tailoring, or lack of such, of the garment.

    I'm aware that there may be no definable origin to be found here, but then again there might be, which is why I asked.
     
  4. tennisguru

    tennisguru Well-Known Member

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    I seem to remember hearing Edward Sexton say that the convention for leaving the bottom button undone of a coat came from the trousers being properly fitted, high waisted and being worn with braces. Leaving the bottom button undone wouldn't reveal waistband or shirt material as the trousers fit well and is a sign of good tailoring. Badly tailored or fitted trousers would show some waistband or shirt if the bottom button was left open, so opening the bottom button was a sign of a well tailored suit - like a badge of honour maybe!

    Of course that could all be horsesh*t!!!

    Cheers
     
  5. Mac

    Mac Well-Known Member

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    King Edward VII was too fat to button his bottom button so he left it open. All his followers then started doing it too.

    Buttoning the bottom button is the height of incompetence.
     
  6. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Well-Known Member

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    These are all theories as to how it came about. These days most jackets are cut in such a manner that if all of the buttons were done the jacket would scruntch and pull. They just are not meant to be all buttoned if fitted properly. Also, my tailor told me that if somebody has awkward proportions by having a second, or a third button balances the person's torso better as to not make him appear too long or too short torsoed. Makes sense to me.
     
  7. Belfaborac

    Belfaborac Member

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    I seem to remember hearing Edward Sexton say that the convention for leaving the bottom button undone of a coat came from the trousers being properly fitted, high waisted and being worn with braces. Leaving the bottom button undone wouldn't reveal waistband or shirt material as the trousers fit well and is a sign of good tailoring. Badly tailored or fitted trousers would show some waistband or shirt if the bottom button was left open, so opening the bottom button was a sign of a well tailored suit - like a badge of honour maybe!

    Of course that could all be horsesh*t!!!

    Cheers


    Thanks a lot, that's the kind of thing I was looking for. Sounds very plausible too, I must say.


    King Edward VII was too fat to button his bottom button so he left it open. All his followers then started doing it too.

    Buttoning the bottom button is the height of incompetence.


    That particular explanation deals with waistcoats, not jackets, and it appears to be one that "everyone" agrees on. However, rather than betraying sartorial incompetence, I feel it betrays an unthinking adherence to pointless convention. After all, the cause of the convention was the unwillingness of a bunch of sycophants to risk the ire of their morbidly obese monarch. Hardly an example to aspire to.
     
  8. Mac

    Mac Well-Known Member

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    You can argue about it all day, but the people who wear suits and understand the most basic of "rules", know not to button the bottom button.

    And for the record, I would guess that more people agree to leaving the bottom button of a jacket open, rather than that of a waistcoat. However, I would leave both undone.
     
  9. razl

    razl Well-Known Member

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    First post - yay, hoorah, yikes, booh, etc.
    Welcome to the fray!

    It has always seemed like a particularly pointless convention to me and one which I make a point of disregarding, but I'm curious as to its inception.
    You got it backwards: be curious first, seek out the reason/rationale, then disregard if you feel like it. In short, lurk moar to make informed decisions [​IMG]
     
  10. Belfaborac

    Belfaborac Member

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    I wouldn't dream of arguing anything on the internet; doing so tends to be a particularly fruitless pursuit. I'm simply stating opinion, amongst which are that I dislike rules which exist only for show and have little regard for those who unthinkingly regard such as holy writ.
     
  11. Belfaborac

    Belfaborac Member

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    Welcome to the fray!


    You got it backwards: be curious first, seek out the reason/rationale, then disregard if you feel like it. In short, lurk moar to make informed decisions [​IMG]


    In general that's excellent advice. However, only fanatics are 100% consistent, so one should make sure to be backwards at least once in a while.

    Thank you kindly for the welcome!
     
  12. Quadcammer

    Quadcammer Well-Known Member

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    was the point of this thread just to state that you defy convention by buttoning the bottom button.

    You don't actually seem interested in how it came about.
     
  13. Belfaborac

    Belfaborac Member

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    That's likely because only one person has offered an explanation so far, for which I expressed my gratitude. If you have an alternative version I'd be equally grateful for that.
     
  14. Chris Waffles

    Chris Waffles Well-Known Member

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    Thanks a lot, that's the kind of thing I was looking for. Sounds very plausible too, I must say.




    That particular explanation deals with waistcoats, not jackets, and it appears to be one that "everyone" agrees on. However, rather than betraying sartorial incompetence, I feel it betrays an unthinking adherence to pointless convention. After all, the cause of the convention was the unwillingness of a bunch of sycophants to risk the ire of their morbidly obese monarch. Hardly an example to aspire to.


    If you "dislike rules that exist just for show," then how is the trouser tailoring explanation any better than the waistcoat explanation? It seems to me their respective origins are moot, as both rules exist "just for show" in contemporary style.
     
  15. Belfaborac

    Belfaborac Member

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    I believe I said I found it plausible, not better than anything else. As for their "mootness" - I just like to know things, moot/useless or not.
     
  16. GBR

    GBR Well-Known Member

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    Ah yes, the obligatory "use the search function, n00b!" introductory reply. Most original.

    As for "there is little worse than seeing a coat fully buttoned", that is obviously a study in pure subjectivity and as such relevant (and of any interest) only to the holder of that particular opinion. Not to mention that it is entirely dependent on the shape of the wearer of said jacket and the tailoring, or lack of such, of the garment.

    I'm aware that there may be no definable origin to be found here, but then again there might be, which is why I asked.


    'Search' is there to be used, is instructive and a courtesy to others but seems to be beneath the use of many who are new here these days. Still we must not waste their time.

    If you want to go into the psychology of buttoned coats as well as the aesthetic it does portray a wearer who wants to remain in hiding and apart from everyone around hi, whereas unfastened suggests and openness. Fastening one button if outside or whatever or walking a corridor or entering a room in formal surroundings ensures a tidy appearance without undue stress.

    The shape of the wearer has no bearing on fastening the jacket and if you are suggesting that it somehow helps a woeful piece of tailoring then that is also wrong. Indeed if the garment is that bad then buttoning all available buttons normally exaggerates the point.
     
  17. tgt465

    tgt465 Well-Known Member

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    I can't add anything to the suggestions as to the origin of the convention, but I would point out that some jackets are designed to have the bottom button buttoned. Both JFK and the Duke of Windsor were known to wear this style, at least on occasion. Such jackets usually have a high button stance, so that the bottom button lies at or above the waistline. I believe buttons have generally moved downwards in modern jackets, making this practice less relevant.

    Here are some AAAC threads discussing this, the pictures are enlightening. There is even a picture of the Duke with only the bottom button done (as a "2-roll-1"):
    http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/f...-button-jacket
    http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/f...ons-about-suit
     
  18. VelvetGreen

    VelvetGreen Well-Known Member

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    Ah yes, the obligatory "use the search function, n00b!" introductory reply. Most original.

    Don't begin by being a prick.

    Yours ever,

    VG.
     
  19. cptjeff

    cptjeff Well-Known Member

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    Cary Grant did it as well: [​IMG] [​IMG] 3 roll 1: [​IMG] Oh, and I wonder how one of those gaudy modern printed abortions of a zig zag patterned tie made it into #2? Unless photos are suggesting that loud and fun tie patterns were worn by some of the guys that inspire all the classic style bits, and that many classic outfits only look as sedate as they do because of B&W, which can't be right....
     
  20. MrDaniels

    MrDaniels Well-Known Member

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    Bottom button bottom-line: Whatever the "rule" or convention, 98% of the time it just looks bad, makes you look nerdy, and destroys the cut of the jacket and the line of the suit.
     

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