Q: “Black Lapel, can you shed some light on working cuffs? Why should I get them and also, what exactly are kissing buttons?” – Jonas S.

A: When it comes a well-made suit, it’s all about the details. Why? The details can be a very heuristic tell of the suit’s quality. Perhaps the most well known feature of a high quality suit and one of the hallmark details of custom suiting are “Working Cuffs”, aptly named for suit sleeve buttons that are functional and work.


Working Cuffs (AKA “Surgeon’s Cuffs”)

They are also known as “Surgeon’s Cuffs”, after military surgeons who had to unbutton and roll up their sleeves to work in the field. And while you probably won’t be rolling up your suit sleeves to pull a bullet out of anyone anytime soon, this is in fact a detail you’ll want. Just leave that last sleeve button unbuttoned, showing the world (in a very subtle way) that your suit is indeed one of higher quality. It’s a sartorial wink of sorts to all the other style-minded gents in the know.

Be playful, be irreverent…hell, turn your sleeve buttons it into a code language with your coworker and save your next client meeting–1-button-unbuttoned = “yes”,  2-buttons unbuttoned = “no”, 3-buttons unbuttoned = “let’s get the hell out of here and grab a cold one.”

Top: Off-the-rack suit with nonkissing plastic buttons. Middle: Off-the-rack suit with kissing (nonstacked) plastic buttons. Bottom: Black Lapel Custom Suit with kissing (stacked) bull horn buttons.

Kissing Buttons (also called stacked or “waterfall” buttons)

So what about kissing buttons? First the obligatory technical definition: kissing buttons are buttons that touch slightly as opposed to being spaced apart. Popular with Italian suits, stacked buttons or “waterfall” buttons, are a type of “kissing” buttons that are slightly overlapping one another. A lot of tailors will simply use the term “kissing buttons” to refer to this type of stacked arrangement. The charm of the stacked buttons is to imply that the buttons are ever so “imperfectly” aligned, suggesting the suit is handmade (and not machine made). In other words, it’s another one of those details that says, “This is a well-tailored suit”.

In reality, a lot of high quality suits will feature sleeve buttons that are kissing and not kissing. It comes down to your stylistic preference–what looks good to you. Some like the handmade look of stacked buttons (we’re certainly fans), while others prefer a neat row of spaced out parallel buttons. Maybe it, along with the other options you choose for your custom suit, is a better indicator of personality type more than suit quality – a kind of Myers Briggs profile told in Super numbers, button types and lapel shapes.  In case you’re wondering, we range from ENFPs to ISTJs here at Black Lapel HQ and our suits are even more diverse!

Remember, in the end, a custom suit is about customizing a beautiful piece of garment for YOU. So don’t be afraid to have fun with your design and display a little personality once in awhile.

Got questions on surgeon’s cuffs, kissing buttons or sleeve customizations? Leave us a comment below!