Suiting 101: Two-Button or Three-Button Suit
Men’s style is all in the details. But you already knew that. And there are few better examples than those 1-inch-diameter disc-shaped objects hanging snugly from the front of your suit. What your buttons are made of is important – real bull horn (what we use) is superior to plastic. But even more to the point, the number of buttons you opt for on your custom suit can make a world of difference. How much difference? The difference between looking like a head-turning, put-together gent and a bro – one of the Ringling kind.
At Black Lapel, we get a lot of questions regarding the buttons of a suit: 2-button or 3-button suit? How many buttons should you go for if you’re a shorter guy? And what’s the big deal about leaving the last button unbuttoned? What exactly is a 3-roll-2 suit?
We’ll answer all these questions for you. But before we begin, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with some of the basics:
The King had his cake and now you can too.
- Always Leave the Last Button Unbuttoned – If there’s any universally accepted “rule” to buttoning your suits, this is it. In fact, buttoning the last button not only screams fashion faux pas, it means you’re wearing the suit incorrectly. Suit patterns are actually cut to account for the last button being unbuttoned. So where did this rule even come from? According to menswear lore, this trend was started in the early 1900s by King Edward VII who was too fat to get that last button of his vest and jacket closed. And what does a King Shamu do when he can’t button a last button? He leaves it unbuttoned because a King does whatever he damn well pleases. Society followed.
- Button Up while Standing – Suit jackets are designed to be buttoned when you’re standing for the best look, fit and drape. By keeping proper form and a nice silhouette, a buttoned up suit jacket simply looks better. So button up, unless you’re sitting down.
- Unbutton Your Jacket when Sitting (or Dancing) – Sitting with your jacket buttoned will add unnecessary stress to your jacket button(s) as well as the rest of your jacket – it may cause some odd pulling and tugging in the chest and the back. So give your suit some love and unbutton it when you sit. Of course, if you’re going to be breaking out some wild dance moves at a wedding or Swedish House Mafia’s final tour, keep that suit jacket unbuttoned as well.
Looking for a fail-proof single breasted suit? Look no further. The 2-button suit is your classic All-American guy who works hard, plays hard and gets along with just about everyone. While button stance will vary by maker, a 2-button suit generally has a lower button stance (i.e., the vertical placement of the jacket’s top button), which creates a deep “V” that has a very flattering visual effect. The visual flattery occurs because a lower button stance means longer lapels, which deepens the point at which the jacket is buttoned, thereby elongating the torso. And an elongated torso means visual heightening and slimming – in other words, it makes you look taller. This makes the 2-button a very flattering choice for any man looking to maximize the illusion of height or the heftier gent looking for a little slimming magic. Think of it like the grilled chicken of suit button types—a good base for any recipe of style and great for your body.
How to wear it: Button the top button only.
Where to wear it: Any place, any time from boardroom to bar.
The 1-button suit is the cooler, hipper younger brother of the 2-button suit. While his bro is trying to slip the bouncer a $20, he struts in with two gorgeous ladies on each arm. A 1-button suit further accentuates the elongating and slimming benefits of a 2-button suit with an even lower button stance and deeper “V”. However, it’s possible that this suave look can be seen as a bit too cool – i.e., you run the slight risk of coming off a bit rakish in a conservative work environment. With that said, most people probably won’t even notice that it’s a 1-button. And finally, with more torso exposed, the 1-button is also great when you want to show off more of that dapper shirt / tie combo you put together. So if you’re in the mood to showcase some sartorial moxie, go for that 1-button suit.
How to wear it: If you can’t figure this one out, then we’re not even sure how you’ve gotten this far.
Where to where it: Stylish and formal social occasions, stylish office settings.
Whereas the 1-button is the cool, in-the-scene younger brother of the 2-button, the 3-button is the stiff, eccentric uncle from overseas. A 3-button suit has a high button stance, creating a shallow “V” and consequently, looks the most “buttoned-up”. Literally. Because it lacks the elongating effect of a 2-button or 1-button suit, the 3-button is the least forgiving and visually flattering (in our humble opinions). The 3-button is also the button type that seems to be most trend-elastic; it had its run and its run ended…in like 1995.
Okay, okay, so it’s old school and it doesn’t flatter most body types…but there has to be some reason why some guys would wear it right? Yup, if you’re a really tall guy (think like 6’4″ and up). These guys don’t need the elongating effect of a lower button stance – in fact, the higher button stance of a 3-button suit will balance out their height a bit and make them look more proportioned. So if you’re over 6’4” or waiting on grand kids or both, 3-button it up. Otherwise, caveat emptor.
How to wear it: Button the top and middle buttons or just the middle one; never button the bottom one.
Where to wear it: Anywhere other 3-button suit wearers congregate. NBA benches or Tall Clubs International (TCI) is a good place to start.
The 3-roll-2 (or 3/2 roll) is the cool uncle who has been living overseas and returns with an abundance of hilarious stories to entertain you with. Think of it as a hybrid of the 2-button and 3-button suits.
The 3-roll-2 is a 3-button suit masquerading as a 2-button suit. The top button is designed to be left unbuttoned with the lapel shaped to achieve this look. In fact, the lapel is shaped exactly like a 2-button suit, offering that same deep “V”.
How to wear it: Button the middle button and leave the top and bottom ones unbuttoned.
Where to wear it: Anywhere you’d wear a 2-button suit but want a little extra sartorial punch.
Note: The 3-roll-2 suit is available at Black Lapel by special request.
Yeah, we all wanted to be like Mike back in the day. And now you can. Just put on a 4-button suit and smile.
You just read almost a thousand words on buttons. And you’re awesome and better off for doing it. Now when it comes to selecting your next suit, you’ll know why you want that ____-button suit instead of being a receptacle for a store’s excess inventory. Choose your buttons wisely, and as a smart man (okay, it was Glenn O’Brien) once said, “Dress for eternity.”
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