Button to Button: Let's Talk About Buttons

Buttons might not be the first thing on your mind when you buy your new suit. Not all men go nuts about the minutia of their wardrobe. However, buttons are the key visual indicator of a suit’s quality.  Indeed, the button question seems nitpicky. You might not care about the buttons, but your fashion savvy coworkers might read more into your choice of button than you could imagine in your wildest dreams.


Counter intuitively, buttons on a quality suit never match. If buttons do match perfectly, those buttons are plastic. Plastic buttons look solid and feel tacky, deteriorating in the wash. Prefer imitation horn buttons for your business suit--save the real buffalo horn buttons for your hunting attire, Hemingway, and be ready to pay a 50,000 dollar fine if you brag about your ivory buttons to the office snitch.

Just like the real horn buttons, the imitations vary in hue, with classy marbled veins running through them. Lastly, test your buttonholes by buttoning and unbuttoning your suit repeatedly as you try it on--the more irritated your tailor gets, the more likely his slipshod stitching will fray sooner than later. Of course, straggly threads are a red flag.


Just like your suit’s pockets, buttons must be functional. Also like suit pockets, you should rarely actually use your buttons, especially along the suit cuffs. These buttons make up the surgeon sleeve--yes, back in the day surgeons were expected to wear their suits at the operating table. Just because industrial era surgeons got to roll up their jacket sleeves, that does not mean that if you try rolling up your jacket cuffs at dinner your waiter will not ask you to leave, no matter how nice your buttons are. Today, the surgeon sleeve serves exclusively as a mark of craftsmanship.

Button down shirt collars have been somewhat phased out in the United States, although they remain popular in Europe. In our casual dress we Americans prefer crisp, modern collars. Unfortunately, a shirt with no buttons on the collar just does not fly without French Cuffs, which is what those soccer cleat cuff links your uncle gave you for Christmas are for.

While the cuff link has its place in your wardrobe, the young professional should not risk flashiness. Cuff tend to be distracting. Buttons keep the focus on you, instead of your jewelry. You are not a gangster. You are not a debutante. Do not be cute. Be wary of men's jewelry. Quite simply, match button cuffs with a button collar.


Like a team, your suit will be judged by its weakest link. And the buttons are literally and figuratively your suits weakest link. When your boss complements your buttons, your judgement has been affirmed by a direct superior. Congratulations. When your boss compliments your man jewelry, he might be hitting on you. Maybe avoid him at the company picnic. Never wear bling where a button will do. Of course, after you have climbed the corporate ladder to the executive summit, wear as many chains as you like without fear of being weighed down.

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