The Sometimes, Always, Never 3-Button Rule

by Brett & Kate McKay on May 15, 2013 · 109 Comments

in Dress & Grooming, Style, Visual Guides

Sometimes Always Never 3

A few years ago, we published a guest post on suit buttons, and one of the best things I got out of it was a handy way to remember the right way to button a three-button suit jacket, which was shared by the first commenter. It’s called the “sometimes, always, never” button rule. Starting with the top button and working your way down: it’s sometimes appropriate to have the top button buttoned along with the middle one (a stylistic decision — if the lapel is flat, it can look good to button it; if the lapel rolls over and hides the top button, only button the middle one), it’s always appropriate to have the middle button buttoned (the middle button pulls the jacket together at your natural waist and lets the bottom naturally flare out around your hips), and you should never button the last button (doing so messes up the intended tailoring and flare offered by the middle button). Sometimes, always, never. Easy.

{ 109 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Ronnie September 22, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I have read most of the comments and taken this in but still feel the need to add my two cents.

My addendum to the “never” of the last buttom is as follows:

Sometimes – If to be worn mostly standing, and if the jacket in question has a double side cut allowing for flaring whilst sitting.

Sometimes – If worn over shirt only (no vest)

Never – if worn over vest (hip legth) and carrying snuffbox, pocket watch or lighter in vest pocket (preferable since the ruin the line of the pockets if carried in the jacket).

These have no basis in fashion other than my own sense of proper and dashing.

102 Owen September 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm

I would agree with you, except that buttoning the bottom button on a jacket should only be done at a funeral. You don’t want everyone to think you’re walking around mourning sombody do you?

103 Alexander September 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm

I button the bottom button in protest the absurd origin of that tradition. If it shouldn’t be buttoned don’t bother putting a button there, I don’t care how fat some over-gluttonous king may have been.

104 Brian Greene November 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm

It is left undone to avoid having to unbutton an button when sitting and rising. It appears pretentious, uncouth and gauche for a man to primp in front of others.

105 Marcel Loo December 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm

With a 3-button suit, is it ever appropriate to only button the top button?

106 AD December 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm

I was in a suit store in Chicago recently trying on a topcoat when the sales rep told me “never button the last button!”

Right dude, I’m going leave the last button open on a topcoat when it’s snowing and -15 wind chill. Obviously he didn’t get the “rule”, which is a stupid “rule” as is. Since when did men’s style have “rules” anyhow. If there was a rule it should be: Don’t look like a slob.

107 Doug January 6, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Who are these people?

I would have thought that Art of Manliness readers would have more stylistic sense than to rant against buttoning the bottom button on a suit. It’s a style that has become tradition, and wearing a suit incorrectly is just that—incorrect. Just don’t wear suits if you can’t figure them out.

I think some of you need to

108 Andrew M. January 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Hey if it’s freezing outside go ahead and button the last button. But once you get inside, unbutton it because it really does look stupid. You might think you are protesting stupid fashion rules, but every man in the room thinks you don’t know what you are doing.

109 Denis January 23, 2014 at 7:35 am

Nice… I had quite few jackets to retire from the dry cleaner. Not going to do this mistake anymore.

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