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The Compass  /  Ask a Black Lapel StylistStyle  /  Bottom Button Rules

Bottom Button Rules

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Q: In your post, Suiting 101: Two Button or Three Button Suit, you discuss the do’s and do-not’s of buttoning up. I wonder, do the buttoning rules apply just the same if there is a vest under the jacket?”-Kadhim

A: We’re not big on rules, but we stand by the “never button the last button” rule. Vest or no vest, buttoning the bottom button will make you look like a rube, plain and simple. If you do have a vest on, the bottom button on the vest ought to remain unbuttoned as well.

When it comes to buttoning when you’re standing and unbuttoning when you’re seated, you have a bit more leeway. When you’re seated, definitely unbutton. Sitting with your jacket buttoned puts unnecessary stress on the button closure. Adding a vest to the mix will only put more strain the button, causing an odd pulling in the chest and through the back.

When you stand, if we’re speaking true formality, button up. On the other hand, a three-piece suit with the vest buttoned and the jacket open can exude a nonchalance that looks pretty boss (see the above photo).

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21 thoughts on “Bottom Button Rules”

  1. Raghav Arora says:

    I think men must unbutton atleast 3 buttons if their shirt .. This gives a sexy and masculine look ..I always have my 4 buttons unbuttoned and I get great comments from girls .. If you want to attract someone this is a great idea ..And when it comes in visiting a bar have ask buttons unbuttoned is highly delightful

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hmmm…we were referring to the bottom buttons on jackets and vests , Raghav, not the top buttons on shirts. Sounds like you’re referring to a more casual setting where anything goes.

  2. What color of necktie would match a vibrant rose dress shirt?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Without seeing it, it’s pretty hard for us to come up with a match, but here’s how we styled our own red shirt into a photo shoot with a simple blue knit tie.

      So curiosity is killing us and we gotta ask: what about the above article made you think of this question?

  3. Beg pardon, but does it take a Yank, like myself, to bring up the explanations for leaving said button undone? The most popular one being that the always sartorially splendid Edward VII “invented” this fashion. It is said that as his waistline expanded, his waistcoats and vests remained unbuttoned.

    1. Ah yes, Roch. Never fear, we covered the topic more extensively in our story on suit buttons.

  4. Hi,am going to a wedding this summer n was wondering if i can wear My navy blue suit with a black bow tie,white shirt,black shoes n black belt. Thanks

    1. Black Lapel says:

      The outfit sounds appropriate, Richie. There is one thing we would recommend reconsidering: the bow tie color. We save our black bow ties for our black tie outfits (aka tuxedos). When not in a tux, we recommend a bow tie in a color. In this case, we would also suggest a patterned bow tie since the rest of the outfit is all solid colors.

  5. Hi Blacklepel!
    I ve been following your site for quite a few days and found it interesting. Need a help from you guys. I ve purchased a black casual shirt, khaki pants and black shoes to wear it on my friend’s wedding. Suddenly my friends are insisting to wear blazers. What colour of blazers will go with this combo? Tried finding but i feel no one can help me out more than you guys!

    Waiting for your reply.

    Cheers!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Warning: What follows is some tough love.

      The original outfit is super-casual, so we’re not surprised that the groom asked for blazers. We’re only surprised that the groom didn’t tell you to wear a full suit. How do we resolve the situation? First, let go of the black shirt idea immediately. Unless the wedding is at a night club, a black shirt is not appropriate. Instead, go with a white shirt. You cannot go wrong with a white shirt. They look good on everyone and they have a bright and airy quality that is appropriate for a festive event like a wedding.

      As for the blazer, avoid the urge to go with black. Black blazers don’t do anyone any favors. If you’d like to opt for a dark color, go with a navy blue or charcoal gray which will contrast nicely with a white shirt but be much more forgiving to your hair and eye color and skin tone than black.

      Finally, a tie may still be optional, but since you’re adding a blazer, a pocket square is the smart choice. You can offset the color of your jacket with a saturated color in the pocket square, or just keep things simple with a white one. Either way, wearing one is essential to pulling off a sophisticated stylish look.

  6. Valentine’s day is fastly approaching and I wanted to dress in something different this year. I was thinking of a gray suit, with a black shirt and black shoes. The only conflict I have is deciding on what tie to wear. I was thinking of either a purple-gray-black patterned tie, red-gray-black pattern or just a solid color. Any feedback? If not these kind of ties, then what do you suggest?

    1. Our advice is not to wear a tie. Black shirts and ties rarely come off well. So if a black shirt is in the cards for this Valentine’s Day, we leave the tie in the closet.

      If you’re not married to the idea of a black shirt then there are some options to consider. Judging by your description of the outfit, it sounds like you’re going for the monochrome look. We approve. In that case, take a look at our story on the Accidental Minimalist where we lay out a framework for dressing with little or no frills but still looking great.

  7. Looking to rock a slim fit, modern grey suit with a blue w/ white dots bow tie. What style shirt should I choose with it? Checkered or solid? Colors or white? Thanks

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Sounds like you’re a good candidate for our story on matching shirts and ties. There we lay out a system for matching patterns.

      We focused on neck ties, there, though. When it comes to pairing bow ties with shirts, we say err on the side of simpler. Choosing to wear a bow tie is already choosing the road less traveled. No need to overdo it. Avoid the kind of sartorial pyrotechnics that some guys try to pull off with busy patterned shirts and in-your-face bow ties. Stick with a solid white or light blue shirt.

  8. Arthur Felter says:

    What about cardigans?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Treat a cardigan like a vest and leave the bottom button unbuttoned, Andrew.

      1. Better yet, leave two undone. I alternate between the first and last or the last two.

        1. Black Lapel says:

          Now you’re talking, Jovan. Two buttons undone on the vest is a varsity move. Nice!

          1. I meant the cardigan, but I’ve seen some guys pull it off on vests.

          2. Black Lapel says:

            Got it, J. As you noted, it works with both cardigans and vests. In both cases it’s a bit more fashion forward but we’ve got no problem with that.

          3. I don’t know that I’d call it that, but it’s stylish.

            A good example is in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (and yes, that’s George Peppard before “The A-Team”).

            http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/07/23/fashion/Breakfast_at_Tiffanys_span.jpg

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