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The Case for & against Three-Button Coats

J. Cogburn

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Yesterday at "Die, Workwear!", this caught my eye:

"Rubinacci only makes coats with one or three  buttons. Mariano, the current proprietor of the house, is adamantly against two-button designs. To him, a three-button achieves a closer fit and looks more elegant, and single button is just practical. But a two-button? It does neither. You’ll never find a two-button Rubinacci jacket because he refuses to make them".

This reminded me of a similar riff by Hardy Amies in "The Englishman's Suit":

"I don't know where the two-button jacket came from ... The trade loved the front coat with its deep V opening to the waist. There was room for the fat man."

And later:

" This [the three-button coat], my dear friends, is the classic English gentleman's single- breasted coat. Many gentlemen have never given it up. It has immense style because you never do the top button up; you leave it open to match that below the waist - which you can't do up for reasons outlined above. The art of dressing is knowing just how nonchalant you can be: you want to leave as many buttons undone on your coat (those on your trousers are another matter) as you can before untidiness sets in. With the centre button fastened, your whole body is in proportion - you are giving the maximum amount if length you can to your torso and legs."

That point was picked-up in Paul Fussell's excellent book titled "Class: A Guide Through the American Status System":

"The general principle here is that the two-button suit is more prole than the three-button Eastern-establishment model. Most presidents have worn the two-button kind before, and when they assume the leadership of the Free World, they feel obliged to change, now affecting the three-button suits and resembling the Chairman of the Board of Chase Manhattan Bank."

Of course, Fussell's wrote that in the early 80s, so let's put aside the fact that his observation regarding American presidents is likely outdated.

There's also the point that - for those who occasionally wear bow ties - less shirt at the torso allows the bow to look better. Not relevant, of course, for those of you who don't wear bow ties.

So what are the arguments against the three-button coat? Our own Manton argued recently (although I can't quite remember where) that the three-button simply wraps a man in too much cloth at the torso and makes him look shapeless (or something to that affect). I remember that striking me as odd; couldn't one say the same thing about a double-breasted coat?

I will concede that the two-button coat's deep V likely enhances the illusion of height and slenderness. It would, after all, stand to reason. But if you're already slender and "not short", then you probably don't need this visual assistance.

I have a few Ralph Lauran Black Labels which are, of course, two-button coats, but the five single-breasted suit commissions I've made have all been three-button save for one one-button. Same for the two navy blazers I have had made.

So what are your arguments for - and against - the three-button?
 
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Blackhood

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Personally I apply a 6 Foot rule. those taller than 6ft can wear a 3 button coat without looking swamped, but under 6ft a 2 button looks better. That of course assumes "normal" proportions. Someone with an extremely long or short torso would need to alter their rule a little.

As far as it goes, I like the Amies thought, the balanced impact of a top and bottom button open, but that assumes nonchalance as an aim. A sleek look wouldn't permit 2/3s of the buttons to be open.
 

J. Cogburn

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Perhaps. I'm 6' ft tall - right at your line of demarcation - with long limbs and am reasonably slender.
 

F. Corbera

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Your interpretation of what you've read is confused.

A classic English three button jacket is a three button one. The lapel rolls through the top button, by and large.

A classic Ivy or Neapolitan three button jacket is a three button two. The lapel rolls through the second button, by and large. So, there is little difference between such jackets in how much shirt shows and in a comparable two-button or one-button jacket.

So, what Amies is talking about on one hand, and what Rubinacci is talking about on the other, are two completely different things.

The Ivy/Neapolitan three button two has its origination in a more dégagé affect in the wearing of clothes compared to the prim and proper tradition to which Amies refers.

What all three have in common is the aversion to the two button jacket specifically and precisely because its popularity arose from, well, popularity.
 
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F. Corbera

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What Amies is talking about is this:


i-tFmLDwr.jpg



The lapel rolls to one, allowing the top and middle buttons to be buttoned if one prefers. Amies makes the case to only button the middle, and who's to argue with him?

What Rubinacci and Fussell are talking about is this:


i-Cr67wXM.jpg



It's still a three button, but the lapel rolls to the middle.
 
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FlyingMonkey

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He's right of course, but I can't help LOLing at the way Vox - I am sure, purely unselfconsciously - associates himself with both Prince William and Cary Grant...
smile.gif
 

Despos

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If you want a Rubinacci suit but prefer 2 button, I don't mind making them. Will charge you their price as well if it makes you feel better and provides a better experience for you.

I get the 3 roll 2 concept and appreciation it but I still dislike how the top button interrupts the beautiful roll of the lapel.
 

Ianiceman

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I'm over six feet and grew up during the mod revival in England so have an attraction for the three button jacket, but in particular a hard three, of which many Americans, especially on this board, appear to be largely ignorant.
I tend to associate two button jackets with the 1970's, Saturday Night Fever, Richard Nixon, baggy, shapeless, square, corporate ...
I was happy in that period between the mid nineties to the mid noughties when three button jackets were back in fashion. In retrospect those ones were responsible for ruining the look as they were usually shapeless tubes as worn by Director Leon Vance on NCIS. A nicely shaped hard three is still my personal favourite and as Cogburn (Welcome back Sir) states, the three button jacket can be most flattering on anyone of six feet or taller. Not so much for shorties and tubbies.
 

oldog/oldtrix

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The two suits below--navy three button, brown two button--were MTM by the same source at the same time from the same weight woolen flannel from the same mill. I'm sure that this absolutely would settle the issue at hand, if only I could understand what the issue is.

XpsCc.jpg
O9Nmy.jpg
 

Quadcammer

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used to prefer 3, now like 2 better. still wear both, but never button the top button of the 3s
 

J. Cogburn

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Your interpretation of what you've read is confused.
A classic English three button jacket is a three button one. The lapel rolls through the top button, by and large.
A classic Ivy or Neapolitan three button jacket is a three button two. The lapel rolls through the second button, by and large. So, there is little difference between such jackets in how much shirt shows and in a comparable two-button or one-button jacket.
So, what Amies is talking about on one hand, and what Rubinacci is talking about on the other, are two completely different things.
The Ivy/Neapolitan three button two has its origination in a more dégagé affect in the wearing of clothes compared to the prim and proper tradition to which Amies refers.
What all three have in common is the aversion to the two button jacket specifically and precisely because its popularity arose from, well, popularity.


No, I understand the distinction. In fact, the aforementioned Die, Workwear! post specifically notes that Rubinacci likes the 3/2 roll and had a wrack of them waiting for customers for further work.

If you want a Rubinacci suit but prefer 2 button, I don't mind making them. Will charge you their price as well if it makes you feel better and provides a better experience for you.
I get the 3 roll 2 concept and appreciation it but I still dislike how the top button interrupts the beautiful roll of the lapel.


I agree with you Chris.

I'm over six feet and grew up during the mod revival in England so have an attraction for the three button jacket, but in particular a hard three, of which many Americans, especially on this board, appear to be largely ignorant.
I tend to associate two button jackets with the 1970's, Saturday Night Fever, Richard Nixon, baggy, shapeless, square, corporate ...
I was happy in that period between the mid nineties to the mid noughties when three button jackets were back in fashion. In retrospect those ones were responsible for ruining the look as they were usually shapeless tubes as worn by Director Leon Vance on NCIS. A nicely shaped hard three is still my personal favourite and as Cogburn (Welcome back Sir) states, the three button jacket can be most flattering on anyone of six feet or taller. Not so much for shorties and tubbies.


Agreed. The "hard three" is what I commission and what I wear.
 
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Tropicalist

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There is no particular advantage to 3 buttons (except for showing off canvassing of lapel roll) while 2 buttons lengthen torso. I personally prefer a single button for bespoke jackets and 2 buttons for store bought ones.
 

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