Your father may have mentioned them to you – here’s a refresher course.
Care about it
When you look at your suit and see three buttons on it, you might ask yourself, ‘Who really cares if I button all three?’ Well, the tailor, for one — he didn’t design the garment to have all three buttons fastened. And other on-lookers will notice, too — lacking that attention to detail communicates that you don’t really know what you’re doing with your formalwear, and only dust off your $200 off-the-rack number for days at the races and court dates.
Sometimes, always, never
If you only remember one of these rules, make it this one. Sometimes button the top button of a typical single-breasted three-button suit jacket — go for it with a flat lapel, no need when the lapel is especially long and features a soft roll that hides the top button. Always button the middle one when standing — that draws the jacket in around the waist and produces the clean silhouette the tailor intended, free of unsightly creases and more comfortable for the wearer. And never button the bottom one — it makes the jacket look boxy and strains the fabric.
Do up one button on one- or two-button jackets
The rule is just as simple if there are fewer buttons on your suit — only do up the top button of a two-button jacket (that bottom button just looks stiff and stuffy, and really restricts your movement), and always keep the single button on a one-button jacket done up when standing for that flattering tapered silhouette.
Always button double-breasted jackets
The style of a double-breasted suit jacket is named after the number of buttons ‘on’ the number of actual buttonholes — a six on four or six or two being the most common — and all those working buttonholes ought to be filled. You can also leave the bottom row of buttons undone for a dandy look that improves the drape of the jacket, as opposed to the buttoned-up naval vibe that comes with fastening all of them.
Best for a vest
Rocking a three-piece suit? That principle of keeping the bottom button undone also applies to your vest — it’s much more comfortable, looks less straight-laced, and relieves that dress on the vest fabric especially when sitting down.