The Mad Tailor: Suit Buttons

Choosing the right buttons for a bespoke or made-to-measure suit is of paramount importance; the right buttons can elevate a simple two-piece suit into the stuff of legend. Buttons can show taste and a sense of style or a lack of both at a glance. However, is there really a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ choice? Help me, Mad Tailor, you’re my only hope.

How am I going to wear the suit?

The first question you need to ask yourself when choosing your buttons is ‘how am I going to wear this suit?’ If it’s going to be a formal option, it will be dark, so a light button will be too loud and incongruent with the level of formality. A deep navy suit, for example, will generally require black or navy buttons, as the suit is formal and will mainly be worn with black oxfords. A brown button will come off as slightly too casual. If, however, your shade of blue is somewhat lighter, a very dark brown button can do the trick, as it can comfortably be worn with both black and dark brown shoes. When commissioning a suit in a more casual shade, lighter brown buttons are a safe options as your shoes will almost always be brown.

Now for something completely different. Coloured buttons (okay, perhaps not completely different) can help a tailored garment became a work of art. (If you don’t believe us, we recommend looking at the work of Tommy Nutter.) However, this is one indulgence we strongly recommend approaching with the utmost care. Many a good man has been lost on the quest for the grail.

Materials

It should come as no surprise to those who read this blog regularly that our main source of inspiration is the work done on London’s hallowed Savile Row. One of the many things we have learned from our observations over the years is that many old and new Savile Row pieces feature matte buttons (in contrast to the Italian tendency towards polished buttons). The reason is, as is so often the case, that little bit of restraint that is indicative of true elegance and style. A shiny button just attracts a little too much attention.

Whether you choose matte or polished buttons, coloured buttons or black, one point that is non-negotiable is to always forego plastic buttons. Not only are natural materials such as corozo or horn generally more durable and classic, but plastic also just cannot compete with the variety of shades found on natural materials.

Two-hole or four-hole buttons

Welcome to the anorak zone. How many holes should you have on your buttons? Some will be wondering if we really have gone mad. However, we are here to assure you that there is an alternative to four-hole buttons. What’s more, in our opinion, two-hole buttons make a terrifically charming and reserved statement. Some on Savile Row (most notably Henry Poole) agree with us. Two-hole buttons add a touch of novelty to a high-quality suit without being remotely flashy.

Two-hole button.

A dissenting opinion

There are some that argue (and we can empathise) that the best choice with regards to buttons is always to match them to the main colour of the suiting fabric. So, let’s say you want to emulate Mick Jagger and have a yellow suit made. Well, just like Mick Jagger did on his double-breasted Tommy Nutter, you’d opt for yellow buttons. This will certainly help you avoid many pitfalls and make footwear choices simpler.

Mick Jagger in his yellow double-breasted suit from Tommy Nutter. Yes, the buttons are yellow. No, they are not yellow in this illustration.

Additional information

We are not going to delve into the world of buttons for dinner suits here (although we aren’t counting it out for the future). However, we generally recommend silk-covered buttons.  Yes, there are other options, such as black corozo. However, these are not to our taste. MM/DC

Maximilian Mogg

Kreativdirektor & Chefredakteur

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