Introduction to Suit Buttoning and Jacket Types
Successful people often pay attention to details, whether at work or in their attire, which reflects their lifestyle. Even if you don't care much for fashion, proper clothing and attention to details can still leave a good impression on people, particularly on business occasions. Most men who don't follow suit buttoning rules do so because they don't wear suits regularly. While these rules may not be crucial in casual settings, business opportunities can arise anytime and anywhere, so it's essential to pay attention to details. Small things make a big difference, and details create perfection. Therefore, today we'll discuss suit jacket buttoning rules, focusing on single-breasted and double-breasted suits rather than sports jackets. You may not want these rules to constrain you when wearing a sports jacket due to its more casual style.
To make it easier to understand, we generally divide suits into single-breasted and double-breasted types. In single-breasted suit jackets, you'll commonly find 1-button, 2-button, 2/3-button, and 3-button styles. While 4-button and 5-button styles exist, they're less common, as they aren't timeless classics and tend to go in and out of fashion quickly. As for double-breasted jackets, three popular styles are 6x2, 4x2, and 4x1 buttons. We must explain the meaning of these numbers: the first number (before the "x") represents the total number of buttons on the jacket, while the second number indicates the number of buttons that can be fastened or "working buttons." You may also encounter an 8x4 double-breasted style, which is less common and often seen in blazers, providing a nautical look.
Buttoning Rules for Single-Breasted Suits
Single-button jackets are typically worn at evening events, but some casual jackets also have a single-button. The fastening rule for a single-button jacket is simple: button it when standing, and unbutton it when sitting. However, if you're wearing it with a waistcoat or as part of a three-piece suit, leave it unbuttoned at all times, whether standing or sitting.
Two-button suits are common for two-piece suits and usually come with a notch lapel, making them a timeless and classic choice for business occasions. Nowadays, almost 99% of 2-button suits follow the rule of only buttoning the top button when standing and unbuttoning it when sitting. As for the bottom button, leave it unbuttoned at all times. This modern way of buttoning differs from the practice in the 1920s when both buttons were fastened. Men's fashion has since moved away from that style.
As we mentioned, this rule applies to 99% of 2-button suits, but there is an exception: paddock suits. Paddock suits were designed for horseback riding and typically feature a single-center vent. They have a higher mid-section than regular suits, similar to a 3-button suit with the bottom button removed. Thus, they have much higher button points, and fastening both buttons won't make you look odd.
● 3/2 Buttons
A 3/2 buttons jacket has three buttons, but the top button is hidden under the lapel. It's designed to be worn like a 2-button jacket, which means the top button isn't meant to be fastened. Sometimes, there are buttons and buttonholes that serve an aesthetic purpose but aren't meant to be used. So just ignore the top button and follow the 2-button suit jacket's buttoning rule: fasten only the middle button when standing and unbutton it when sitting. If wearing it with a waistcoat or as part of a three-piece suit, leave it unbuttoned at all times, whether standing or sitting.
The buttoning rules for 3-button jackets aren't as complicated as you might think. Fasten the top two buttons, or simply button the middle one. The key difference from the 2-button suit is that you should always leave the bottom button unfastened, and never fasten the top button alone, as it exposes your tie and shirt underneath the buttoning point, creating an odd appearance. Similarly, never fasten all three buttons at once.
Buttoning Rules for Double-Breasted Suits
Although double-breasted suits are often considered more formal than single-breasted options, their buttoning rules are more diverse and slightly more complicated.
● 6x2 Buttons
The 6x2 double-breasted jacket with peak lapels is probably the most popular and common style available. If you choose a conservative fabric for a formal occasion, you might want to fasten both buttons to achieve a classic and traditional look. Alternatively, you can "casualize" the suit by only buttoning the middle button and leaving the bottom button undone. Nowadays, many Italian men only button the middle button for a nonchalant appearance, which you can also do. However, never unbutton the jacket completely, as doing so is considered a faux pas.
● 4x2 Buttons
The buttoning rules for a 4x2 double-breasted suit are not much different from those of a 6x2 style. You have three options: button both buttons; button only the top button; or button only the bottom button. Again, never unbutton the jacket entirely.
● 4x1 Buttons
The buttoning rules for 4x1 double-breasted jackets are simple to understand and remember. Always button the button when standing and unbutton it only when sitting.
● Inside Buttons on Double-Breasted Suits
After discussing the outside buttons, we must mention the inside buttons, which are critical for maintaining the correct appearance. If you don't button the inside buttons correctly, you might look off or odd, and people may not be able to pinpoint why. Generally,you must fasten inside buttons, but not always. If you want to button only the middle button on the outside, button only the corresponding top inside button. Likewise, if you decide to button just the lower button on the outside, button only the corresponding bottom inside button.
The rules for buttoning up a suit jacket may not be as simple as one might think, but they aren't overly difficult either. These rules have been established with culture and history as their foundation, and understanding them can help you make the right impression in various settings. Whether you're dressing for a formal event or a business meeting, knowing how to button your suit properly will set you apart and ensure you look polished and professional.