Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by demeis, Mar 18, 2005.
I was wondering how to tell the difference between MOP, Horn and plastic buttons
Touch it to your forehead. If it feels cold, it's probably MOP. They also have a rainbow-like iridescent appearance. Horn isn't usually white. I'm not the resident expert, by any stretch, but that's one little trick that usually works.
I'm pretty sure you're talking about suit buttons rather than shirt buttons, but in the event you are talking about shirt buttons....
Thinner shell buttons on shirts will be opalescent on the front, but on the back they will be white with flecks of red and green.
Higher-quality MOP buttons (Borrelli, Brioni, Lorenzini) will probably not have the flecking on the back - they will be thick and very pearlescent. Mesmerizing, actually.
If you need to resort to a test, try lightly tapping the button against your front tooth. If it has a more brittle feel like glass or ceramic, then it's natural. If it has a softer feel to it, most likely it's plastic.
A more subtle way is to knock two buttons togeather and listen. It is very easy to tell plastic on plastic from shell on shell. The plastic sounds dull whereas the shells will sound sharper. This will attract less attention from vigilant salespersonell than the method above.
Regarding hornbuttons, you are supposed to be able to see the circles from the yearly growth patterns if you look closely.
I also hold the view that if it's very hard to tell the 'real thing' from a synthetic, then one should question if it really makes a difference anyway.
But this can be faked, sometimes reasonably well.
Feel the edge of the button with your finger and fingernail all the way around the circumference. If you feel a very narrow (mircons-thin) ridge or seam, it is plastic.
Which some of the better(?) bespoke makers have been known to remove with very fine sandpaper. Or so I have heard.
Do you gents have any views for public consumption on my third comment? B
Plastic is a remarkable deriviative of petroleum. Without it we wouldn't have computers, modern cars, or be able to land on the Moon, to name just a few inconsequential matters. It also makes some really great buttons.
However, when it comes to traditions and truth-in-advertising, I don't care if horn and pearl buttons make sh** of a difference to the wearer. As the maker I need to sleep at night and shall continue to slay those oxen as necessary. In my spare time, I also tilt at windmills.
Alex is definitely the expert on this one, having handled several hundred thousands-o-buttons in his day. But FWIW, those who have their dress-shirts professionally laundered, claim that their plastic buttons are oftimes melted by the industrial presses. I've yet to see a MOP button melt, although, they will occasionally chip.
Re: suit buttons, it probably doesn't make as much difference. BUT, I do like the way natural materials "age" over time, as compared to their sythetic counterparts.
How to tell MoP from other shells? Both kinds are mineral and therefore "cold" and will produce a similar sound.
Very, very difficult without lotsa practice. Pearl is whiter and more "rainbowingly" irridescent. All other commonly used shells are slightly more yellow.
What are the difference in use? Is one better?
Many members do not agree about which is better. But the Mother-of-Pearl is surely prettier.
The unpleasant aspect behind a consumer having to distinguish button materials is the way sleezy makers and salesmen take advantage of common, but inexact, knowledge of mother-of-pearl and bone buttons. Most people have heard enough to know that mop and bone buttons are generally desirable. So, makers (of buttons or shirts) find ways of cutting mop or shell ever thinner (and cheaper) so they can still advertise that their products have "genuine mother-of-pearl buttons."
The degraded "horn" or "bone" buttons are even more insideous. The button makers compound the dust from cutting the natural material with epoxy. The resulting button is molder plastic with horn or bone "content." Even good suit makers (I have in mind Samuelsohn) use the reconstituted bone buttons and charge a premium ($15 in Samuelsohn's case) for natural bone buttons.
I hold the opposite view. Or half-way opposite at least. It should matter foremost to yourself that you are supporting an elevated way of making clothing and tradition itself. So it's rather immaterial whether someone else (or even the wearer) whether the buttons are natural or synthetic.
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