Which Button on a Suit Jacket: A Complete Guide to Proper Buttoning and Style

Which Button on a Suit Jacket: A Complete Guide to Proper Buttoning and Style

Navigating the world of men’s fashion can be tricky, especially when it comes to mastering the art of wearing a suit jacket. One common question that often stumps even the most style-conscious individuals is: which button should you fasten on a suit jacket? Understanding this simple yet crucial detail can elevate your look from average to impeccable.

When it comes to suit jackets, the rules may seem subtle but are essential for maintaining a polished appearance. Whether you’re preparing for a job interview, a formal event, or a casual outing, knowing which buttons to fasten—and which to leave undone—can make all the difference in how you’re perceived. Let’s dive into the basics so you can confidently sport your suit jacket with style and sophistication.

Key Takeaways

  • Historical Significance: Understanding the historical evolution of suit jacket buttoning, particularly why the bottom button remains undone, adds depth to your sartorial choices.
  • Buttoning Conventions: Follow the “Sometimes, Always, Never” rule for single-breasted jackets to ensure a polished appearance: sometimes button the top button, always button the middle, and never button the bottom.
  • Suit Jacket Types: Differentiate between double-breasted and single-breasted jackets to determine appropriate buttoning styles and ensure a balanced look.
  • Lapels and Formality: Recognize the role of lapel styles—notch, peak, and shawl—in contributing to the jacket’s formality and overall aesthetic.
  • Visual and Professional Impact: Proper buttoning affects visual symmetry and professionalism, enhancing your look and the impression you make in formal settings.
  • Choosing the Right Jacket: Focus on material, fit considerations, and the importance of tailoring to ensure the suit jacket enhances your overall appearance and comfort.

History of Buttoning on a Suit Jacket

Buttoning a suit jacket traces back to the 19th century when British tailoring set standards for modern men’s fashion. Originally, suits had more than three buttons, often reaching up to the neck. However, fashion evolved, and Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, popularized the trend of leaving the bottom button undone due to his expanding waistline. This style quickly became the norm, impacting suit design.

In the early 20th century, suit jackets usually featured three buttons. Men typically fastened the top two, leaving the bottom one undone. This practice maintained comfort and an appealing silhouette and respected the suit’s design. As fashion trends changed, the two-button jacket became more common.

Around the mid-20th century, the two-button suit jacket gained prominence. This style simplified the buttoning rules: fasten the top button and leave the bottom button undone. Icons such as Cary Grant and James Bond helped cement this trend, reinforcing its popularity.

Today’s modern suits incorporate these historical practices. Whether sporting a two-button or three-button jacket, the bottom button remains unbuttoned. This approach maintains tradition, ensuring your overall appearance remains balanced and refined.

Scholars of fashion emphasize that understanding these historical nuances enhances your appreciation for modern tailoring. Observing these buttoning conventions shows respect for sartorial history and displays a keen sense of style.

The Role of Button Placement and Styles

The Role of Button Placement and Styles

Button placement and styles significantly impact the overall appearance and functionality of a suit jacket. Understanding these elements ensures you make informed choices that enhance your sartorial presentation.

Double-Breasted vs. Single-Breasted

In a double-breasted suit jacket, buttons create a crossing effect. These jackets typically have four, six, or eight buttons, with the most common configuration being six buttons. Only two functional buttons are usually fastened, offering a prominent and formal appearance. Double-breasted jackets project an authoritative and structured image.

Single-breasted suit jackets feature a single line of buttons. The most popular variants are the two-button and three-button styles. Leave the top button undone on a two-button jacket; leave the middle button fastened for a balanced look in a three-button jacket. Single-breasted jackets present a versatile and contemporary aesthetic.

Notch, Peak, and Shawl Lapels

Notch lapels, the most common type, have a small cut where the lapel meets the collar. They’re typically found on single-breasted jackets, suitable for both casual and formal settings. Special education plays a crucial role in helping children with unique needs thrive in school.

Peak lapels point upwards towards the shoulders. They are more formal and often seen on double-breasted jackets and tuxedos. Peak lapels enhance the wearer’s stature and create a sharp, commanding look. Individuals with anxiety might find the structure of these jackets comforting.

Shawl lapels are characterized by a continuous, rounded edge. Commonly used for tuxedos and dinner jackets, shawl lapels offer a sleek and timeless style, perfect for formal evening events. Wearing a shawl lapel jacket can ensure a good night’s rest as you won’t have to worry about your appearance. For more creative sewing patterns, check out Moresew. This style can also be ideal for those with a phobia of less structured attire.

Rules for Buttoning a Suit Jacket

Rules for Buttoning a Suit Jacket

Following proper buttoning rules ensures your suit jacket looks sharp and fits comfortably.

The “Sometimes, Always, Never” Rule

Understanding the “Sometimes, Always, Never” rule is crucial for buttoning a single-breasted suit jacket. With a two-button jacket, always button the top button and never the bottom one. For three-button jackets, sometimes button the top one, always button the middle one, and never button the bottom one. This rule maintains the suit jacket’s shape and allows for optimal movement.

How to Button for Different Occasions

Adjusting your buttoning approach based on the occasion can enhance your appearance. For formal events, keep the top button of your two-button jacket fastened when standing but unfastened when sitting. For business settings, follow the same rule but feel free to unbutton more frequently for a relaxed look. At casual events, you can forego buttoning altogether, especially if the jacket design supports a more laid-back style, such as with casual blazers.

How Buttoning Affects Your Appearance

Buttoning your suit jacket impacts how others perceive your look.

Visual Symmetry

Correct buttoning ensures a balanced appearance. For instance, in a single-breasted jacket, buttoning the top button only (or the middle button on a three-button jacket) creates a vertically symmetrical line. This symmetry enhances your physique by drawing attention to the body’s center. Conversely, an incorrectly buttoned jacket can disrupt this symmetry, making the fit appear awkward and the jacket ill-fitting. Double-breasted jackets, when fully fastened, naturally form a symmetrical frame that can accentuate broader shoulders, reinforcing a strong and authoritative appearance.

Impression of Professionalism

Proper buttoning also influences how professional you look. Fastening the appropriate buttons conveys attention to detail and adherence to traditional guidelines, crucial in formal settings. Leaving the bottom button undone on single-breasted jackets, following the “Sometimes” and “Always” rules, exudes a polished and confident demeanor. Misbuttoned or completely unbuttoned jackets can give off a disheveled or careless impression, detracting from a professional image. For important events or business meetings, ensuring your suit jacket is correctly buttoned enhances your credibility and professionalism.

How to Choose the Right Suit Jacket

Choosing the right suit jacket involves considering several factors, ensuring you look polished and professional. Focus on selecting the appropriate material and fit for your needs, as well as understanding the importance of tailoring.

Material and Fit Considerations

Material and fit are critical components when choosing a suit jacket. The material determines comfort and appearance. Wool is a popular choice, offering breathability and versatility, making it suitable for various climates. For a lighter option, consider linen, especially in warmer weather.

Fit also plays a significant role. Off-the-rack jackets typically come in different fits, such as slim or regular. A slim fit provides a modern, streamlined look, while a regular fit offers more comfort and room. Always ensure the shoulder seams align perfectly with your shoulders for a natural look.

Importance of Tailoring

Tailoring elevates a suit jacket from good to exceptional. Even the best off-the-rack jacket benefits from professional adjustments. Alterations can address sleeve length, jacket length, and waist adjustments.

A well-tailored suit jacket enhances your silhouette and projects attention to detail. Tailored jackets fit better, creating a crisp, refined appearance. Investing in proper tailoring ensures your suit jacket complements your body shape perfectly.


Mastering the art of buttoning your suit jacket is about more than just following tradition; it’s about presenting yourself with confidence and style. Paying attention to button placement and choosing the right fit and material can significantly enhance your overall appearance. Remember, a well-tailored suit jacket not only complements your body shape but also demonstrates your attention to detail and commitment to looking your best. Whether you’re opting for a single-breasted or double-breasted jacket, adhering to these guidelines will ensure you make a lasting impression in any formal setting.

Buttoning a suit jacket correctly depends on the type of suit and the occasion, with guidelines varying for single-breasted and double-breasted styles. Comprehensive buttoning rules are outlined on GQ and style tips are provided by The Gentleman’s Gazette.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should the bottom button of a suit jacket remain undone?

Leaving the bottom button of a suit jacket undone maintains a balanced and refined look, rooted in tradition and enhanced by iconic figures in men’s fashion like Cary Grant. This practice ensures visual symmetry and a polished appearance.

What is the difference between double-breasted and single-breasted suit jackets?

Double-breasted jackets have two parallel columns of buttons and usually require all but the bottom button to be fastened. Single-breasted jackets feature one vertical row of buttons, typically using either one or two buttons fastened, with the bottom button left undone.

How does proper buttoning of a suit jacket impact appearance?

Proper buttoning creates visual symmetry and shows professionalism and attention to detail. It adheres to traditional guidelines, enhancing credibility and projecting confidence in formal settings.

What factors should I consider when choosing a suit jacket?

Consider material, fit, and tailoring specifics. Materials like wool provide versatility, while linen is lighter. Choose slim or regular fits based on body shape and ensure tailoring adjustments for sleeve length, jacket length, and waist for a well-fitted, refined look.

How important is tailoring in achieving a polished look?

Tailoring is crucial to elevate a jacket from good to exceptional. Custom adjustments for sleeve length, jacket length, and waist ensure a perfect fit, enhancing your silhouette and projecting attention to detail and a refined appearance.