You might not realize it, but when it comes to your suit jacket – there are men's suit button rules. Unfortunately, most men don't follow these rules because they don't understand them.
Why are these rules important?
Your jacket – depending on its style – is designed to be fastened in a specific way. If you button your jacket incorrectly, it won't drape properly. You'll find your jacket bunching up around the midsection and it will throw your whole look off. And to anyone in the know, you'll look like you don't know how to dress properly.
In this article, I explain the men's suit button rules you need to know if you want to dress like a stylish, distinguished man.
- Why Does Buttoning Your Suit The Right Way Matter?
- Suit Buttoning Rules For Single-Breasted Jackets
- Suit Buttoning Ruels For Double-Breated Jackets
- When Is It Okay To Leave Your Jacket Suit Unbuttoned?
Why Does Buttoning Your Suit The Right Way Matter?
Let's begin with the ‘why.'
There are several reasons to care about how and when to button your suit jacket:
- It sends a signal that you pay attention to the details. The vast majority of men who violate these rules do so because they do not wear a suit regularly. These small rules are used by “those in the know” to identify other men “in the know.”
- In most situations, this makes a suit look better on a man. A buttoned suit, when standing, cuts a cleaner silhouette.
- Prevent the buttons from popping. When seated, unbuttoning allows you to sit more comfortably, prevents wrinkles, and keeps the buttons from popping.
- Suits come with the assumption that you will never fasten the bottom button. Modern manufacturers cut suits so that the fabric doesn't drape properly when you button the bottom button for a two-button or three-button jacket.
Important to note that we're talking about SUITS here. Sports jackets are usually buttoned the same way, but the rules are much more relaxed because it's a more casual style.
Your grandfather probably told you about the traditional buttoning rule for a three-button jacket – sometimes, always, never. For a two-button jacket – always, never. And for a one-button jacket – always.
The rules are easy enough to learn from the suit buttoning infographic below.
Click here to see my infographic on suit buttoning rules.
Two factors determine when and how you should button your jacket:
- Are you wearing a single or double-breasted jacket?
- Whether your single breast jacket has 1,2, or 3 buttons.
Men's Suit Button Rules – Single-Breasted Jackets
A single-breasted suit jacket has one column of buttons and a narrow overlap at the front.
Typically, they'll have one, two, or three buttons and a notch lapel. How to button it depends on the number of buttons the jacket has.
Buttoning rules for one-button suit jackets
The presence of only one button distinguishes the jacket of this type of suit.
Because of its origins in traditional eveningwear designs, one-button suit jackets are often cut longer than other types of suits.
Keeping the button fastened maintains a balanced proportion.
The issue of deciding which button to fasten doesn't exist due to only one buttonhole on the suit's jacket.
These jackets should ALWAYS be buttoned when standing.
Unbutton the jacket when sitting down so that it doesn't crease.
Buttoning rules for two-button suit jackets
The traditional way to button a two-button jacket is to fasten the top button and leave the lower undone.
The top button on these jackets should ALWAYS be buttoned when standing.
Unbutton the jacket only when sitting down to avoid creases. Fasten it again as soon as you stand up from your seat.
NEVER button the bottom button.
Fastening the bottom button will make you look like you don't know what you're doing and add an extra ten pounds by the billowing illusion your jacket creates. You're supposed to keep the bottom button undone because that's how most men's suits these days are cut.
If you fasten the bottom button, your suit is likely to fit more tightly around the hips. This causes the sides to flare out a little bit around your torso, throwing your silhouette out of proportion.
A few possible exceptions to the rule:
- Men who like a very long lapel sometimes button the lower button and fold the lapel down past the top buttonhole.
- An unusually high-stance jacket might look more proportional buttoned at the lower button.
- Very tall men may need to use the lower button rather than the upper to keep the jacket from spreading out above their waist and exposing the trouser-front and belt buckle. A three-button suit jacket is preferable in this instance.
Buttoning rules for three-button suit jackets
“Sometimes, always, never” refers to each of the three buttons.
When standing, it is optional to button the top, the middle always, and the bottom never.
- Closing the top button on these jackets is OPTIONAL when standing.
- The middle button on these jackets should ALWAYS be buttoned when standing.
- You should NEVER fasten the bottom button.
- Undo all buttons when seated.
You shouldn't button many three-button suits on the top (called 2 1/2 suits), and the lower button is almost always in a position where it restricts movement. On some three-button jackets, the top button hides behind the lapel. If buttoning the top interferes with the lapel's natural fold, it should be left unbuttoned (hence optional).
I wouldn't recommend a jacket with more than three buttons. If, for some reason, you feel inclined to wear one with four or more buttons, remember to leave the bottom button undone.
Men's Suit Button Rules – Double-Breasted Jackets
Double-breasted jackets should almost always be buttoned. It's very unusual to unbutton one.
You classify a double-breasted jacket with the total number of buttons on the suit front followed by the number of working buttons. A “six-on-four” jacket has six buttons but only four buttonholes.
Button all the buttons that have working buttonholes.
If you plan to leave some buttons undone, it is most traditional to fasten the top button.
However, men who prefer a longer line have been leaving the lowest button undone, including members of the British royal family, so you're probably safe either way.
When Is It Okay To Leave Your Jacket Suit Unbuttoned?
The decision of whether to button or unbutton your suit jacket is not just a matter of personal preference; it also reflects your understanding of suit etiquette.
While there are specific guidelines for buttoning your jacket, knowing when to leave it unbuttoned is equally crucial for a polished and sophisticated look.
One of the only times it is acceptable to leave your suit jacket unbuttoned is during more casual events. For instance, at social gatherings or informal meetings, you can opt to keep your jacket unbuttoned to convey a relaxed yet refined style.
This approach exudes a sense of confidence and ease, demonstrating your mastery of knowing suit buttoning rules.
Whether adhering to traditional rules or adapting to the context of the event, the key is to strike a balance between sophistication and comfort with your suit style.
Finally, what do you do if you see a man breaking these jacket buttoning rules?
It is inadvisable to correct a man in public if you see him violating these rules. They might be breaking a style rule, but never try to make another person look ignorant in front of others.
Especially if he's had a few beers – you might find yourself on the floor with a sore jaw.
Judge the situation and perhaps in private mention the rule & why it matters, especially if you know he is new to wearing a suit.
FAQs: Men's Suit Button Rules
How many buttons should be fastened on a two-button suit?
Typically, only the top button of a two-button suit should be fastened. The bottom button should be left undone.
How should the buttons on a three-button suit be managed?
The traditional rule for a three-button suit is "sometimes, always, never." This means you may button the top button, should always button the middle button, and never button the bottom one.
When should I unbutton my suit?
It is customary to unbutton your suit jacket when sitting down to prevent it from creasing or straining the buttons.
Should I button the suit when standing?
Yes, it is generally accepted to button your suit jacket when standing for a more polished and put-together look.
Should I button my suit while walking?
Yes, it is advisable to have your suit buttoned while walking or standing, unless you're just about to sit down.
What are the buttoning rules for double-breasted suits?
Double-breasted suits should typically be kept buttoned at all times when standing, even the bottom one, for a proper fit.
What is the purpose of the buttons on the cuffs of a suit jacket?
Buttons on the cuffs of a suit jacket are largely decorative today, though they can indicate high-quality tailoring if they're functional.
How do the buttoning rules change for a tuxedo?
Traditional etiquette states that a single-button tuxedo should remain buttoned when standing and unbuttoned when sitting. A double-breasted tuxedo should stay buttoned at all times.
What's the history behind the 'always leave the last button undone' rule?
Legend has it that King Edward VII, who reigned in England in the early 20th century, popularized this trend. He was overweight and started leaving the bottom button of his waistcoat and jackets undone for comfort, which then became a fashion trend.
Do the buttoning rules apply to waistcoats as well?
Yes, typically the bottom button of a waistcoat is left undone.
Do the buttoning rules change with fashion trends?
While fashion trends do change, the rules around buttoning a suit have remained relatively consistent over the years.
What are the rules for buttoning a Mandarin collar suit or Nehru jacket?
With these styles, it's generally acceptable to button all the buttons, due to the unique cut and design.
What if my suit jacket only has one button?
In a single-button suit, the button should be fastened when standing and undone when sitting.
Is it bad to always leave my suit jacket unbuttoned?
While ultimately a matter of personal preference, consistently leaving your jacket unbuttoned can give a more casual and potentially less professional appearance.
Click below to watch the video – Right Vs Wrong Suit Buttoning Rules