How To Button Your Suits, Jackets, Vests, Overcoats, & Tuxedo

If you make an effort to dress up, you want to look your best. Now, sometimes if you button your suit the wrong way, it sends the signal I don’t know anything about conventions and how it’s done and how it flatters me the most.

Unfortunately, most people never ask why the rule is a certain way and because of that, we decided to create the ultimate guide on how to properly button a suit jacket. Keep in mind that buttoning conventions have changed over time and what you wore in 1901 is different than what you wear today.

How To Button Suit Jackets

Single Button Suit

Single Button Jacket

Single-Button Jacket

It’s rare to see a single button jacket outside of evening wear, but it exists. Usually, it has a peak lapel, sometimes notched lapel, but when you have that and it’s a two-piece suit or a combination with a jacket and pants, you simply button the button and when you sit, you unbutton it.

Black Lapel Single button three piece suit

Single button three piece suit

If you wear it with a vest, maybe in a three-piece suit, you simply leave it unbuttoned. It doesn’t matter if you stand or sit, it’s just unbuttoned all the time.

Two-Button Jacket

If you have a two button two-piece suit or jacket and pants, you simply button the top button when you stand, and you open it up when you sit.

Robert, Ted and John Kennedy - look at the disappearing pocket square

Robert, Ted, and John Kennedy

Generally, it’s a faux pas to button both buttons because it simply looks odd. Yes, it was something you would see in the 1920s, but men’s fashion has gone away from that. If you go back to the 60s, you can see JFK wearing suits with both buttons buttoned however, they were way too low and just looks odd.

 

regular suit jacket vs a paddock suit

regular suit jacket vs a paddock suit

Paddock Coat & Suit

Those paddock coat and suits were made to be worn on a horse and so they had a central vent and much higher buttoning points and because of that, you could button both buttons. Basically, it was a three button jacket with the bottom row simply left off.

In this day and age, 99.99% of two button single-breasted jackets are tailored, so you only button the top button. That also means you should never just button the bottom button of the coat unless you have a paddock coat or suit with a lower button that is as high as your waist level.

burgundy vest gold button tweed jacket black pants

Three-Piece Suit / Odd Vest

If you decide to wear an odd vest or a matching vest to make it a three-piece suit, you always leave the jacket unbuttoned.

Three-button jacket

Three-button jacket

Three-Button Jacket

If you have a three button single breasted jacket, things are even a little more complicated. On a simple jacket or a two-piece suit, you simply button the middle button or the top two buttons. Of course, it’s only true when you stand and when you sit, you unbutton your coat.

Never just button the lowest button or the two lowest buttons because that looks simply off. Likewise, don’t button all three buttons because that makes you looked closed off and it’s a style you would have seen sometimes in the 20s and in the 30s but then, suits are tailored differently.

Modern suits are oftentimes not tailored in a way that you can button everything so it looks neat. If you button all three buttons, sometimes you get wavy wrinkles and it looks just bad. You should also stay clear of buttoning just the top button because that gives you a Victorian look and just looks odd because it exposes your tie and the shirt underneath the buttoning point and it leaves very little on top of the v-shape.

Three Roll Two Jacket

Three Roll Two Jacket

Three Roll Two Jacket

It has three buttons but the top button is rolled into the lapel, that way you see more of the shirt front and the V over the buttoning point and basically, it behaves like a two button single breasted jacket. In that case, you simply button the middle one or it’s the top button that is visible.

If you wear a vest underneath, either an odd vest or a three-piece suit, again, leave it unbuttoned at all times. Yes, you can find vintage pictures where men would wear that, but in this day and age, it will just look odd.

Four/Five-Button Jacket

First of all, I don’t recommend you wear them because they very quickly go in and out of fashion and it’s just not a timeless classic style. If you still want to have a four or five button jacket, simply button the middle buttons, leaving the top and a bottom button undone.  I strongly suggest you do not wear a vest or a waistcoat because those jackets are tailored so there’s not much visible space for it.

two button DB suit

two button DB suit

Two-Button DB Jacket

If you look at double-breasted jackets, things are a little more tricky, double-breasted simply means that you have two rows of buttons that are usually parallel to each other. The most simple version of a double-breasted jacket is the two button jacket.

It simply means you have one faux button and one that buttons that’s visible in the front. Just like all the rest of the garments, chances are there’s a button on the inside that makes sure that your lapels always look symmetrical and elegant.

Just like a single breasted four or five button coat, the two-button double-breasted coat is a very dated look that places you in the 80s. Fortunately, it’s very uncomplicated to button it, you simply button it at all times and you leave it buttoned when you sit or when you stand.

Four-Button DB Jacket

Four-Button DB Jacket

Four-Button DB Jacket

The four-button double-breasted suit coat or jacket is a little more unusual but much more mainstream, timeless, and classic. Basically, you have three options. You can button just the top of the working buttons, you can button both, or just the bottom, or if you have a square or rectangular button shape.

Most suits today are only buttoned on the top one or on both. Traditionally, a double-breasted suit with peak lapels was more formal and all buttons were buttoned at all times. Only when you would sit would you unbutton the bottom one.

Today, people like the sprezzatura and more casual look and therefore, they oftentimes leave the bottom button unbuttoned. However, sometimes you can also find four-button double-breasted coats especially in evening wear where the top pair of buttons is spaced further apart and because of that, you can only button them on the bottom button.

6x3 Double Breasted Navy Blazer, Made in France by Cezar Ltd. for A. Sulka & Company, 1971

6×3 Double Breasted Navy Blazer, Made in France by Cezar Ltd. for A. Sulka & Company, 1971

Six-Button DB Jacket

The six-button double-breasted jacket is probably the most popular and common style that you will find. Because there are six buttons, there are different ways to position those.

A not so popular way to position the buttons is to have two parallel rows from the top to the bottom. If you have that kind of a coat or suit, you button either all three of them or the top two. If you want to sit comfortably, you probably have to undo the bottom button, however, just like with any other double-breasted coat, you never unbutton it completely.

Sven Raphael Schneider wearing a DB flannel suit

Sven Raphael Schneider wearing a DB flannel suit

The most common six-button double-breasted silhouette is basically two rows of buttons that are parallel with the top pair being spaced further apart. It creates a nice v-shape that accentuates the male attractive silhouette. Traditionally, you’d button both of the bottom buttons for a very classic look.

Lino in Blue

Lino of Al Bazar – notice how he buttoned his 6 button DB jacket

Now if you go to Italy, you’ll rarely see a man who wears a double-breasted coat that is buttoned on both. Usually, they button just the middle button; they like it because it’s a more nonchalant look and it’s something that was really popularized by Lino from Al Bazar.

If you have a very formal double-breasted suit, you can wear both but the traditional look is probably a tad better and more accurate.

Six Or More Button DB Jacket

It’s very important that you pay attention how you button it on the inside and on the outside. Because if I button the middle button on the outside and the lower button on the inside, I get the asymmetrical look of my lapels and most people can’t pinpoint what’s wrong with your outfit but it just looks off.

Because of that, most quality double-breasted suits will have two inside buttons. So if you decide to button just the lower button on the outside, you button just the lower one on the inside. If you decide to button just the middle one on the outside, you can button either the top one or the top one and the bottom one.

Prince Charles in the same navy 8x3 double breasted blazer

Prince Charles in the same navy 8×3 double breasted blazer

Eight-Button DB Jacket

This is very unusual, and it provides a very Maritime look which is usually something you see only in a blazer. Prince Charles has one for example, and he has been wearing it for years. In that case, the top row is spaced apart, and he buttons the three button buttons below. Because you have so many buttons on your front, chances are you’ll have to unbutton the bottom one or maybe the bottom two of you sit depending on what makes you comfortable.

How To Button Vests

Sven Raphael Schneider wearing olive green coat with a tan vest, diagonal stripe tie, white & blue check shirt, Blue Cornflower Boutonniere, & cream pants plus green gloves

Sven Raphael Schneider wearing olive green coat with a tan vest, diagonal stripe tie, white & blue check shirt, Blue Cornflower Boutonniere, & cream pants plus green gloves

Single-Breasted Vest

Single breasted vests are usually worn with the bottom button undone. There are different theories about why that’s the case. One references Bertie who later became Edward the 7th, and he was so big, they simply couldn’t button the bottom button and because of that, other people adapted his style.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the different theories are because it’s just a custom that you can see all over the place. No matter if you wear a three-piece suit with a matching vest or an odd vest, on the single-breasted vest, the bottom button is usually undone.

White tie tailcoat ensemble

White tie tailcoat ensemble

The only exception to the rule is for example, for evening wear such as white-tie, single-breasted vests, and black tie single breasted vests. In that case, you button them all the way because it’s a formal ensemble and an unbuttoned button would simply look off and too nonchalant and casual.

On the other hand, if you have a double-breasted vest, the rules are simple. You simply have all buttons buttoned at all times. Some Italians leave the bottom button undone because they want to be casual and show some sprezzatura but it just looks off because a double-breasted waistcoat is simply more formal than the single-breasted counterpart.

Sven Raphael Schneider in Black Tie Tuxedo

Sven Raphael Schneider in Black Tie Tuxedo

Black & White Tie Ensemble

What about other garments in a white tie ensemble? There’s nothing to button so you just leave it unbuttoned. On the other hand, with a black tie ensemble, it’s a little different. If you have the traditional one-button jacket; you leave it unbuttoned if you wear it with a waistcoat or a vest, and you button it if you wear it with a cummerbund.

How To Button Overcoats

When it comes to overcoats, buttoning is fairly simple. Usually, you have all the buttons buttoned simply because it’s supposed to keep you warm. Yes, you have the option to leave the bottom button undone because that creates a little more range of movement and it allows a little more air in when it’s not so cold outside.

If you have a double-breasted overcoat with different inside buttons, you have to pay attention to the same things as you do with a suit. Don’t button the button inside with the top outside or vice versa, it will just look off.

I hope I didn’t confuse you with all the different rules. This is just a great reference video so whenever you’re unsure about buttoning points you can always come back to it, so bookmark it!

Summary
How To Button Your Suits, Jackets, Vests, Overcoats, & Tuxedo
Article Name
How To Button Your Suits, Jackets, Vests, Overcoats, & Tuxedo
Description
An in-depth guide to buttoning your suit jackets, vests, and overcoats so you always look dapper!
Author
Publisher
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
Publisher Logo
36 replies
  1. LAStyleGuy says:

    I agree with most of your recommendations, except the black tie one. Whether or not you’re wearing a vest or cummerbund (by the way, you should always wear one of these—a man’s waist should NOT be exposed in formal wear) the one-button black tie jacket should always be buttoned when a man is standing. There are no other style sites, as far as I can see, that recommend leaving the button unbuttoned. A formal affair is just that—formal. And as such, leaving the jacket unbuttoned is totally out of place.

    Reply
    • H.E. Robinson says:

      I believe the tradition of leaving the single-breasted coat unbuttoned originates from early dinner jackets which were tailored so as to be unable to close, in the fashion of an evening tailcoat (for which they were the informal alternative).
      If other websites do, as you say, fail to agree with Gentleman’s Gazette over this point, I would take this as just another indication of the superior quality and depth of research on this site!

      Reply
    • James de Saxton says:

      Here in the States, black tie was originally worn with the white-tie waistcoat, hence the habit of not buttoning the coat. Over the years, black waistcoats, which would originally have been thought quite impossible, have become completely accepted.

      Reply
  2. Ktcarpentry says:

    All good, however, I didn’t see the traditional trenchcoat. I mention it only because I would prefer to rarely button it at all. And I would NEVER buckle the belt. Possibly button it, but then tie the belt and leave it casual. I didn’t realize JFK buttoned the bottom button of a single breasted suit. I always thought of him as well dressed. So sad…

    Reply
  3. Mark in OZ says:

    The photo with Jack Kennedy and both buttons done up may be a distraction from the heavy back brace he had to wear following injury received during WW2.

    Reply
  4. John says:

    Another exception — tweed jackets (especially Norfolk ones) worn as outerwear are often buttoned all the way down — especially with a sweater rather than a waistcoat. A short walk outside on a cold, windy day will explain why.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] you need, what style, what color, what fabric, so you always look the part and you have exactly the right suit for the right […]

  2. […] should know that the upper button can be closed or left open, the middle ones should always be closed, and the lower one should always […]

  3. […] should know that the upper button can be closed or left open, the middle ones should always be closed, and the lower one should always […]

  4. […] casual attire doesn’t seem to suit him or his natural style tendencies. While most of his suits are crisp and well-cut, the aforementioned gray t-shirt he wore to Comic-Con in 2016 was too large […]

  5. […] loops, if you have them, can be approached the same way you would tackle the space between shirt buttons, by using the tip of the […]

  6. […] easiest way to coordinate blue and gray is to match the two in a suit and tie combination.  It’s commonly said that when a man first ventures into the world […]

  7. […] how to iron correctly. Preparations begin in the laundry room. Though you would never throw a suit into the washing machine, cotton dress shirts will obviously find their way into the wash, and how […]

  8. […] These shirts get noticed immediately. Even the white ones have colored trim, cuffs and plastic buttons. Designed by Panamanian Juan Credidio, almost all of the fabrics are woven exclusively for […]

  9. […] more formal tan coat such as this military-inspired overcoat; it has an Ulster collar, it has gold buttons, epaulets and it’s cut more like a body coat such as a morning coat or an evening […]

  10. […] moves simply involve not fastening things. Perhaps the easiest and most natural is to leave your suit jacket or sport coats unbuttoned. Formal rules of dress call for you to button up whenever you are […]

  11. […] being totally over-the-top and different. For example, if you wear a knit tie with a rope striped suit, it definitely softens the look, especially when you go with something like a burgundy color, or […]

  12. […] blazer is an essential part of a business casual wardrobe. Avoid gold buttons and stick with dark colors. Navy is the most classic color and your best bet. Single breasted is […]

  13. […] from the back side first, iron all the way over it and then flip it over and iron just between the buttons. Make sure you use pressing motions especially if you have a check or a striped shirt. Otherwise, […]

  14. […] adapted some signature styles such as a long Milanese buttonhole on the lapel and 5 sleeve cuff buttons rather than the usual 4. Moreover, the buttonhole closest to the cuff was longer than the other 4, […]

  15. […] undo any buttons or remove the cufflinks before you […]

  16. […] being a bit uncomfortable. Braces are traditionally worn with higher-rise pants that have special buttons, and since the weight is carried on your shoulders, the cut of the trousers can be wider than […]

  17. […] about this tab, which is why it is showing. Do not show your shirt or waistcoat tab, instead, button it to the inside button of your […]

  18. […] did not have buttons and were instead worn with a sash. Alternatively, these gowns had frogged button closures, which can now be found on Smoking […]

  19. […] page, Tailor & Cutter by Kazunari Arita provides us with a very 30ish looking waisted 1 button suit with wide notched lapels, a high gorge, angled pockets that angle towards the closing button, and […]

  20. […] that this is remarkably higher than on a regular 2 button coat, it makes perfect sense to button both of these buttons. This kind of jacket was introduced in 1938 as the Paddock model, which was […]

  21. […] some fullness in the chest with one clean wrinkle next to the scye (armhole),  and a lower buttoning point. The waist is less suppressed, which results in a straighter skirt […]

  22. […] what you would see nowadays on many jackets. Overall, though, this is very classic. The closing button position is slightly above the waist and emphasizes the long leg line of the wearer in the picture. […]

  23. […] First, I adore the wide lapels, which remind me of the 30’s. Moreover, the coat can be buttoned either 6×2 or 6×1 which makes the lapels appear even wider. In order to be able to […]

  24. […] coat has peaked lapels since it is more formal. It should be noted that one needn’t button up this overcoat all the […]

  25. […] A classic Ulster is rather long and double breasted, with two vertical, parallel rows of buttons. Often the ulster comes with a 6×3 or 8×4 button configuration with the […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *