Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sometimes, Always, Never

If you are on your feet, your suit or odd jacket should be buttoned.  If you are wearing a three-button jacket, remember this mantra:  sometimes, always, never.  Sometimes fasten the top button.  Always fasten the middle button.  Never fasten the bottom button.  Sometimes, always, never.

Jackets are tailored to accentuate the narrowness of a man's waist and then flare out at the bottom to his broader hips.  The middle button, set at the natural waist, holds the jacket closed at this narrowest point.  Fastening the bottom button works against the tailoring and ruins the lines of the aforementioned flare.  The fastening of the top button is stylistically optional.  It can be argued that leaving the top button undone helps visually balance the unfastened bottom button.  And some three-button suits are designed so that the lapels roll to the middle button; the top buttons on these jackets should be left unfastened.

The rule for two-button jackets is similar.  One should always button the top button and leave the bottom unfastened.  Of course, there is always an exception to the rule.  JFK was known to wear two-button paddock-style jackets.  The buttons on a paddock-style jacket are set higher than normal, and are both meant to be fastened.  Nevertheless, the aforementioned advice applies to the vast majority of two-button jackets.

Say it with me one last time:  sometimes, always, never.


  1. The last time I bought a suit (I prefer 3-button jackets), I heard the same "sometimes, always, never" rule. I suppose that some rules are meant to be broken though. When standing, I usually have all three buttons fastened. I find that it gives a more formal, almost uniform-like, appearance. It could be that being 6'6" tall has something to do with it though. It might not work for those who are a more normal height. I understand the reasoning and it's probably wise for most men to follow that rule. When sitting down, I always unfasten the bottom button, and sometimes all of them.

    Stephen Clay McGehee

  2. True style sometimes means knowing the rules, and then intentionally breaking them.