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 }

1 Frank May 15, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Then what’s the point of having the bottom button in the first place? A button whose specific reason for being is to NOT be used…

2 Ed May 15, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I give up…why have a bottom button at all if it’s never to be used??

3 Luke May 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm

So basically, just buy two button jackets?

4 chris May 15, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I believe the bottom button rule also applies to vests…

5 Bruce Williamson May 15, 2013 at 1:20 pm

I was told that the bottom button should ONLY be buttoned if you were a lawyer or a banker.

6 Debesyla May 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Or you could just wear 2 button suit.

7 logan May 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm

i always bottom the last 2

8 Andrew May 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I hate this rule! As a pragmatic fellow, I can’t stand the thought of fashion overruling function…why cant we get a skinny royal to undo the precedent of another fat royal all those years ago!

9 Eric May 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Only times I button the bottom is if I have to walk out on a windy day – keeps things from flapping.

10 Charlie May 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Actually for two button jackets, I believe the rule is adapted , Always(top button) Never(Bottom button)

Modern suit jackets have evolved from former styles and trends. There are some garments from antiquity such as certain styles of frock coats from the mid 19th century that are full of functional buttons that were never intended to be buttoned and always worn open.

11 Uncultured May 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm

This is one of those rules that I purposely break even though I know why it exists. Why? Because I find the reasoning for it to be stupid and irrelevant in the year 2013. I don’t care if a fat king from England was too cheap to get his suit properly tailored. I don’t feel obligated to adjust my behavior just because other people set an arbitrary standard based on making a monarch feel better about himself.
If my suit jacket has three buttons, I will damn well button them all if I feel like it.
And yes, I have thought about wearing my watch on my right wrist. ;)

12 Ben May 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm

The linked article about buttons explains the believed reasons for the unused bottom buttom fashion. (Fat kings!)

13 Tom May 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm

@Bruce Williamson…

As a banker, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if bankers had written a rule for their own 3-button etiquette.

I never button the bottom button. I’m glad to see I was on to something.

14 Ben May 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Oh, and that you don’t do up the bottom one if there’s only two. So fie on those of you suggesting the 2-button workaround :D

15 Shane W. May 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Even on a two button suit you’re not supposed to button the bottom one. At least, that’s what I have heard from many different business men.

16 Don May 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Why is the bottom button there? The same reason there are buttons on the sleeves that are unneeded. It’s just another holdover from Colonial military uniforms. After all, that all a suit is; it’s a uniform. On that note, I almost never wear a suit. It’s simply another aspect of the western homogeneity that’s taking over the world. The only time I will wear one is when if to not wear one would hurt someones feelings, like at a funeral or wedding.

17 Brett McKay May 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm


While the style of leaving one’s last button unbuttoned may have begun with a fat king, for a very long time, modern suit jackets have been specifically tailored with the button rule in mind and are tailored to come in at a man’s waist, the narrowest part of his torso, where the middle button sits. For this reason you always button the middle button as doing so brings the jacket in where it was cut to come in, and allows the bottom to drape over your hips, thus giving you the best look and fit. Buttoning the third button negates this intended effect. You are welcome to break the rule and button all three buttons and have your jacket not look and fit as good on you. But if a man wishes to have a nice suit he paid for with his hard earned money make him look his best, it is hardly stupid or irrelevant.

18 Joe A May 15, 2013 at 2:03 pm

What better place to store an extra button!
I also wear my watch on my right wrist, being a leftie

19 logan May 15, 2013 at 2:17 pm

@Brett McKay

that’s keeping your head when all about you are loosing theirs and blaming it on you.

20 Robert R. May 15, 2013 at 2:17 pm

As someone who isn’t of the heftier persuasion, I feel it’s perfectly fine to button the whole way. I think (on people who are fit at least) suits that are tailored slimmer and more form fitting just look better with everything buttoned up.

21 Jason May 15, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Don’t argue it, gentlemen. Just do it and stop looking like a boy who doesn’t know how to wear a suit properly.

22 guffaw May 15, 2013 at 2:21 pm

The bottom button remains unbuttoned on a vest, to allow more rapid access to the sword.
I’m surprised no one mentioned that.


23 Dave May 15, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Now if I could just remember if I should place an open shirt collar over, or under, the jacket collar.

24 MarylandBill May 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Of course, some of us are a bit heftier, and in fact our waist is not the most narrow part of our torso. So what is the rule then?

25 Bud May 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Why must people on the internet argue with everything? Sometimes, Always, Never: A proper grandfather should have taught you that.

26 Alexander May 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm

This is why I never wear three-button suits.

27 DH May 15, 2013 at 4:52 pm

@Uncultured – if you are breaking a rule just for the sake of breaking it, you are as much a slave to that rule as those that obey it.

28 PAUL May 15, 2013 at 4:52 pm

hope this helps!


29 Patrick May 15, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I disagree with the never button the Bottom rule. It has always been the practice at least in Catholic circles to button the bottom button at funerals. This is a man’s way of saying “This is not a fashion show, but rather a serious occasion.”

30 Pat May 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm

So, if we are getting our suits tailored as we should be, then why not just say “I want a bottom button that is actually functional.”

31 Jake May 15, 2013 at 6:39 pm

I agree with many of the comments. Just buy 2 button suits. I have 6 suits – my oldest is a 3 button. It just didn’t look or feel right last time I tried it on. Stick with the 2 button and I rarely button the button. Now days, suit jackets are all but optional in many offices. The no tie – with a jacket or even without a jacket is normal. My old Merrill Lynch manager would send us all home…

32 Colonel May 15, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Like Patrick I’ve been told that the bottom button is be buttoned at funerals (I’ve also heard weddings). I had always assumed this was standard etiquette, but it might vary from group to group.

33 Joe May 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm

I believe the bottom button is left open so the jacket may flair open
rather then ride up, bunch and crinkle when you take a seat. or bend at the abdomen

34 munchie May 15, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Brett, the comments above are a perfect example why the world needs this website. Please keep on keeping. Don’t Y’all get mad at the guy for telling you the proper way to wear a suit. Thank him for helping you look like you know what the hell you are doing. The 7th grade douchebaggery of breaking the rule because it’s a rule just proves why there need to be more sites like this to try and help boys be a man. Grow up and button you damn suit right already.

35 Cash May 15, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Leaving the bottom button undone increases the look of relaxation and ease. Buttoning ALL the buttons is inherently tense and uptight.

36 Gomez Addams May 15, 2013 at 9:40 pm

The Brooks Brothers “sack suit,” which I believe is what is illustrated in the drawing, is a timeless classic of which I have owned several. These are the most comfortable suits I have ever owned, appropriate for any occasion requiring a business suit. Inexpensive? Not by a long shot. Worth every dollar? You bet.

37 PG May 15, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Never… Always… Never…

38 Brian Greene May 15, 2013 at 10:33 pm

The Jacket doesn’t bunch-up when you sit down. Hence it spreads open and allows you to not worry about. Always, Jackets, waistcoats(vests) bottom button unbuttoned.

39 gray man May 16, 2013 at 1:16 am

Commenters keep writing: “just buy a two button suit” or something to that effect. Even with a two button suit, the bottom button is never buttoned. Yes, it is for decorative purposes, much like sleeve buttons on a suit / sport coat.

40 Carl Jesper May 16, 2013 at 2:56 am

Never button the bottom button!

With the exception of idiotic fashion-forward brands attempting to “break the rules”, no jackets are produced with the intention of buttoning the bottom.

Buttoning the bottom will always ruin the fit of the jacket.

41 Tim May 16, 2013 at 6:17 am

David Tennant abides by this in Doctor Who, and he looks very sharp. Good enough for the doctor, good enough for me!

Thanks for the tip!

42 Brian V May 16, 2013 at 7:05 am

Man up, you naysayers! Mr. McKay posted some useful information here for those who want it. You can button some, all, or none of your buttons without needing permission from someone else (unless you’re married, in which case just do what your wife tells you). Geez, it’s just a bit of etiquette. Grow up!

43 Ben May 16, 2013 at 9:25 am

By not buttoning the bottom, your tie sticks out of the bottom of your jacket. If your tie sticks out, you look stupid and you draw people’s attention to your crotch. I see TV reporters do this a lot.

44 Thee May 16, 2013 at 10:39 am

“it’s always appropriate to have the middle button buttoned”… unless you’re sitting.

45 Uncultured May 16, 2013 at 11:26 am

My critique was not geared towards Brett. I am in fact grateful for his articles and advice. No, my issue is with this rule. I can see by the reactions that none of you ever thought about the ‘why’ of a rule. You just follow it because it’s the rule and it has always been done that way. Not to go below the belt-line, but that is behavior fit for a sheep, not a MAN. Yes, I am aware that last button ‘ruins’ the fit of a jacket, unless you get a special tailored one, but that doesn’t answer the question why it’s there in the first place. And even if you do get a two-button, can’t button the last one either, at which point the whole suit looks ridiculous, being held together by only one button! No, I demand that the elements of my clothing actually serve a function. None of those fake sewn-on pockets, no epaulettes (unless you’re in the military or on Safari), no buttons sewn on the outside of a sleeve, etc. and if my suit has three buttons, I expect every one of them to have a purpose. And no, it’s not impossible to combine form and function, but the former should never trump the latter.
I hope this clears up my standpoint.

46 Puck May 16, 2013 at 1:59 pm

It’s the same as pouring a cup of coffee on your laptop. You can decide whether you do it or not. But it is advised not to do it, because it will ruin your laptop and you will not look very clever in the process. Also, don’t get mad at a silly little thing like a suit button. It’s not good for your heart :) Mr. McKay, thank you for this clever little rule.

47 Claude May 16, 2013 at 3:13 pm

My dad taught me never, always, never, but I wear a jacket so rarely that people would probably understand if I goofed. I’ll be lucky to have my shoes match my belt.

48 Brandon May 16, 2013 at 6:04 pm

For all those determined to “break” the rule, please note that regardless of its origin – the rule works. Every time I see a clown (either in a 2 or 3 button) with the bottom button done up I can’t help but laugh. It never looks better, and regardless of the age, style or cut of the suit, a man always looks best when following this rule.

49 Tom May 16, 2013 at 11:17 pm

@Ben Considering that suits are made with the intention of the bottom button remaining open, those news reporters are either wearing ties that are too long or suit jackets that are too short.
As for me, I’m on the bigger side and doing up all 3 buttons is downright uncomfortable. It’s awful.
I’ve never seen anybody do up all of them anyways, it really does look bad.

50 Antaine May 17, 2013 at 6:25 am

The bottom button you don’t use is, at this point, there for decoration. We also have nonfunctional sleeve buttons and a superfluous lapel button hole on almost every modern jacket. If we were to follow the reasoning in many of these comments, we’d have to be sewing closure buttons on the backsides of our right lapels and making those sleeve closures functional as well. Just silly.

51 porkchop May 17, 2013 at 9:16 am

If all the buttoners want to do is button-up from top to bottom please acquire for youselves suitable and elegant car-coats (the buttons end long before the coat does and it should be cut to fit accordingly.) You can thus pretend at ‘uniquity’ without abusing the rest of the adult world.

52 Brendon May 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm

The bottom button does serve a purpose; appearance. The tailoring of every two or three button suit in this style has a natural break at the waist. The middle one on a 3-button and the top one a 2-button naturally draw in your jacket right where it is supposed to be (around the area of your diaphram) .

Your shirt gets tucked in at your waist, your tie should end right at the top of your waist, and that bottom-most button of the suit should conveniently sit right at your waist. The entire ensemble has a very obvious focal point, and fastening the bottom-most button on your suit completely ruins the entire styled appearance that comes together when you don slacks, a dress shirt, tie, and a suit jacket.

For those who mentioned just “removing the bottom button”, you would look twice the fool with having your outfit come together at your belly button; that’s a look for elderly people who wear high-waisted clothes and opt to have their pants sit halfway up their chest.

Having only 2 buttons sit at your belly button and sternum, or a single bullseye smackdab in the middle of your torso would look terrible when all your clothes come together another couple inches down.

As I draw this narrative to a close, the whole idea of the extra button is appearance. It brings balance to your entire look. Much like a gig-line on Military dress uniforms (where your shirt buttons, belt buckle, trowser zipper and tie all form one razor straight line), so too must your suit form a distinguished appearance.

While it may never be fastened, that bottom-most button may just be the most important of them all. Wear the suit as it was intended to be, as a professional and sophisticated piece of clothing that makes you look like a MAN.

53 Jason May 17, 2013 at 7:01 pm

@ Uncultured

“I demand that the elements of my clothing actually serve a function.”

What is the function of wearing a suit? To look professional for business? To look nice for a date? To dress formally for an and show honor for a special event?

In every instance the function is the form. The function of a suit is to look nice and to do that you never, ever button the bottom button, EVER.
Unless you want your boss thinking you don’t know how to dress appropriate for work, or your date treating you more like a child than a man and having to tell you to unbutton your bottom button (good luck getting another date), or looking tacky and thus disrespectful at a formal event such as a funeral.

“but that is behavior fit for a sheep, not a MAN.”

A MAN knows how to dress appropriately for the occasion. A child whines, complains and constantly asks “why.”

54 Michael May 18, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I agree with the “sometimes, always, never” rule, since the point of the suit it to look dapper and savvy, and buttoning the bottom button doesn’t serve that purpose very well.

But, I disagree with those that call the bottom button superfluous. I like that it’s there, functional but unused. And I like it because of the very subtle message it sends.

A gentleman is in a constant state of reserve, always mindful of moderation. Buttoning only the buttons that serve your proper fit says that you know when to stop – when enough is enough and more would be detrimental.

The bottom button gives the gentleman in question the choice to be classy. Without that choice, that subtle but important personal statement is also lost.

55 Richie May 18, 2013 at 9:01 pm

I am actually surprised this many people oppose the rules of how to wear a suit coat.

56 Andy May 18, 2013 at 10:54 pm

As something of an aside, the proper way to button military service dress is to include all of them. Times when service dress is appropriate are often formal (in keeping with previously noted wedding/funeral solemnity). There is a definite seriousness implied by being tightly held together; however the graphic Brett posted provides excellent guidance for everyday civilian wear.

57 Rob May 20, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I’m surprised at how many people comment. Implied in this is that there are a lot of people who wear suits. Where do they do this? I haven’t worn an actual suit since 1983 and even then the only purpose of the jacket was to make it from the car to the office and then keep the coat hook warm on the back of the door until it was time to go home. I don’t think I ever buttoned any of the buttons..

It’s all very curious that in the 21st century there are still people who need to “dress up” for things…

58 Red May 21, 2013 at 1:42 am

My solution seems to work – if there’s a button that doesn’t ever get used, cut it off. Eliminates all debate and confusion

59 Nick May 21, 2013 at 9:49 am

What is everyone’s problem here? Don’t you get it? Style rules aren’t up for your personal interpretation. Unless, you want to look like a generation that tried that in the 60′s.
People aren’t going to think “what a thoughtful guy who uses the bottom button”. No, they are going to think “what an idiot who doesn’t know to unbutton that”. You probably also leave the tags on your jacket, or don’t remove the threads holding the jacket vents together.
Thank you #53, 54, & 55

60 brf May 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm

There are no rules. Just wear it how you like it and how it is most comfortable.

I remember I had a boss once that told me that garbage about not buttoning all the button of a jacket. I said bye-bye.

61 Nathan May 21, 2013 at 8:53 pm

I was under the impression that, as a mark of respect, the bottom was to be buttoned only when attending a funeral. That’s the rule I adhere to, but see many people with differing “button etiquette”

62 Tyler May 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I believe the tradition of the bottom button dates back King Henry. The king could afford to eat and, naturally, did. He was then unable to button his bottom button. Not to offend the king, nobody else did as well.

And for those asking why have the button if we don’t button it: If it weren’t, then the next button up would always be the bottom button. If we only had buttons up top but not down below it would look silly.

This is not to say you can’t button it, but if you do just know you’re telling everyone “I don’t know how to wear nice clothes.”

63 Jason S May 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Every 3-button suit I’ve ever owned had lapels that didn’t roll out if I only button the middle button. Which was fine for me. I was a debate nerd who was tall and had respectable facial hair by the time high school was done with. Wearing a 3-button suit with the top two buttoned made me look a lot more imposing- a general rule that I’ve remembered. If you think about it, 3-button suits are always en vogue at a corporate level during particularly aggressive/successful times The higher lapel gives for a more streamlined and therefore aggressive look.
The same can sometimes be true of vests, depending on the cut of the vest and how it’s paired. Personally, though, I’m just tired of seeing guys running around in ill-fitting vests with their suits. Loose, saggy vests = no-no.

64 Steve May 22, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Whether anyone likes it or not, that’s how a suit is properly worn and plenty of people know it. Sadly, because of the way society is you’ll be judged for how you dress, so it’s in your favor to follow the rule. Plus, by not having the bottom button done, one is able to put their hands in their pants pockets without bunching the jacket up. So there’s a bit of “functionality” for ya’.

65 Cain May 22, 2013 at 8:44 pm

A real man wears his suit the way he wants to. If it makes you look and feel good, who cares what “the rule” is. I button all three, with the vest. It makes me feel professional, and on some level, powerful. Strut, Gents. That’s what it’s all about.

66 Aaron May 23, 2013 at 1:45 pm


67 Dimitriy May 24, 2013 at 10:21 am

The whole point of a bottom button is sartorial. it is there to look good rather than be useful.

same goes for vests by the way. if you are wearing a three piece suit or a vest and jeans then do not button the bottom button.

68 Ryley May 26, 2013 at 9:00 pm

It’s interesting, because a military dress uniform has all the buttons done, as a nod to the fact that military members used to not sit down on duty. So I will frequently wear a suit buttoned all the way if I am standing and not being active or sitting down, as a not to my military background. If you judge me because you think I am being immature, ignorant, or not stylish enough, I really don’t care. If you think that I’m not being traditional, well then, I beg to differ, seeing as your suit is a descendent of my uniform.

69 Rhett May 27, 2013 at 11:11 pm

I had learned it as “Always, Sometimes, Never” in that the top button stays buttoned, the middle button is buttoned when you’re standing, but not when you’re sitting, and the bottom button stays unbuttoned. Not saying this doesn’t make sense, just a little thrown off seeing it turned around like that.

70 Stan H. May 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I was told that the 3 button rule came back from the Napoleonic era of warfare. An officer, moreover a distinguished officer usually rode a horse. However riding a horse with all the buttons clasped proved uncomfortable and difficult; due to how tight the uniforms were tailored at the time and the posture involved. So officers began to leave the bottom button opened. This later caught on as a fashion due to the implication of honor that one man must posses if his bottom buttoned remained open. Eventually fashion Incorporated it into civilian life.

71 RPC May 30, 2013 at 10:28 am

As a quick note to all who so proudly insist that they do up the third button on a regular basis – this genuinely ruins the look of the coat. It is never appropriate to do up all the buttons on your jacket except when the environment forces you to – i.e., heavy rain or similar. This is a fact about how good jackets are cut, and about what looks balanced, so if you don’t like it why are you even wearing a jacket in the first place?

If you still insist on not having any “superfluous” buttons and holes on your jackets, buy single-button jackets and stay away from tweeds and the like.

As a general note, remember that this rule is permissive and not proscriptive. It does not say that you must always do up the middle button, merely that you may always do so. However, if you do up any, you must do up that one – and, to be honest, you’re safest sticking to that. Top button doesn’t usually look great done up; it’s a bit unbalanced.

72 Dai June 1, 2013 at 7:44 pm

I knew the last button shouldn’t be touched but never knew WHY.

I thought it was a way to prepare for a manly feast.

73 Greg June 2, 2013 at 8:41 am

The real question is who is still wearing three button suits? Some tux’s are three buttons but if you buy a suit now-a-days they are almost all two button.

74 Brennan June 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm

If you want practical and logical, wear a zip up sweat suit. The classic suit is a descendant of the padded suit knights wore under armor. It had slowly evolved over time but is full of vestigial traits. The bottom button serves the same purpose as the buttons on the sleeves. decoration (except when it is very windy or for a funeral).
There is an old joke about a posh English boy who ran away from his elite boarding school and hid in plain sight for weeks. When he was finally caught and returned his classmates clamored to know how he had eluded capture for so long. “Oh” he said ” I simply buttoned my bottom button on my jacket and on one recognized me”

75 Ana Lee June 4, 2013 at 7:47 pm

It’s true, with two button suits the rule is always for the top and never for the bottom. So basically it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a two button or a three button suit, you shouldn’t button the bottom button.

76 Don Bugg June 5, 2013 at 8:07 am

The problem is with the assertion that suits are tailored to leave the lower button undone; that it isn’t always true. I bought a gray, two-button Chaps suit about a year ago, and if I don’t do up the lower button, my tie and shirt end up showing through the bottom in rather strange ways.

77 Steven June 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm

The most interesting thing I find about this conversation is the passion at which people want to buck tradition. I am sure this crowd might feel different if the subject of class and appearance were moved to something other than clothes. Take cars for instance.

78 David June 8, 2013 at 9:43 am

The bottom button rule may have come from the need of a man to access inner jacket or vest pockets as well as a weapon in or on a waist band.

79 Joseph Pineda June 10, 2013 at 3:07 pm

The middle button gives a more subtle relaxed look. Definitely have seen gents express unwinding after a long day by undoing their suit’s buttons.

80 King A M H June 13, 2013 at 2:02 pm

A war can be fought on this button issue :P

81 JR June 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm

John F. Kennedy and paddock coat. Look it up. You’re supposed to fasten both buttons with this type of a jacket…

82 JR June 13, 2013 at 4:48 pm
83 Carlo June 19, 2013 at 8:13 am

I like to wear suits as the rest of my clothes, they must make me feel comfortable.
I need to feel in a suit in the same way I feel in khaki pants or jeans and that is what I actually do. I never feel constrained by the buttons or if I have to button up this or the other. I just do what I feel comfortable with. No rules to be follow or whatever, wearing clothes is for you to feel good and nothing else.
My 2 cents

84 TJ June 23, 2013 at 9:42 pm

If ya don’t like the bottom button thing, just cut if off. Or, I suppose you could always have a jacket tailored around a single button – many women have jackets like that….

85 cyrus June 26, 2013 at 3:45 am

If you button the bottom button you look like a dork, because the only time the bottom button is used is in a coffin.

86 Applette98 June 26, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Why don’t you just get a magnetized bottom button that way it pops open when you sit and closes when you stand. Problem solved!!!

87 RM June 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm

I dislike this rule, and often ignore it. If no one notices and tells me to switch it, I button the last button. And I believe I have a valid reason for this: it looks better.

88 Houston July 2, 2013 at 7:49 am

My father taught me this when is was a your sprout and I never, ever, ever button the bottom button on a two or three button jacket.

89 Michael July 5, 2013 at 11:10 am

The way I learned it from an old haberdasher was:
sometimes, always, never, and always never.

90 Benjamin July 6, 2013 at 8:01 pm

If you think no one notices, you’re wrong again. Your boss does and the guy who is gunning for your promotion does too. Wear tennis shoes too…they’re more comfortable…

91 Dan July 7, 2013 at 4:21 am

It’s simple: if you observe someone walking with their bottom button done up you can see that the cloth of the suit pulls unflatteringly, it also makes the torso look longer. The button is there because it creates aesthetic balance with the other buttons, otherwise you have a relatively long stretch of fabric with nothing to break it up visually, also making your torso look longer.
You can make a fuss about being a practical man and how ridiculous it is but some ‘rules’ are there for a reason. If you are wearing a suit without the aim of looking good then you are a fool. The suit is meant to aid you in representing yourself in the best light, and what better way to put your best foot forward than by implying an attention to detail on one of the more subtle of garments? It’s not fashion, it’s tailoring.

Not to mention the very obvious fact that anyone with a protruding gut draws all attention to their midriff with the third button done up.

I hate to place-drop and I wouldn’t usually weigh in on this kind of thing, but after working, albeit briefly, on Savile Row I feel, somewhat, that it is my responsibility to share this. Please take my word for it.

92 G Smiley July 8, 2013 at 9:42 am

Why bother with a 3rd button at all if it is never going to be used?

93 David July 11, 2013 at 12:50 am

The buttoning rules are ridiculous. It’s the 21st century and it’s about time we start dropping some of the archaic rules we inherited from the past. Is it really that difficult to design a jacket that fits will all buttons fastened Women seem to have no trouble doing it. Strangely, to be a man, we have to leave one unfastened. Sorry, but it looks sloppy. We have sent men to the moon but we still have trouble with jacket buttons? Perhaps if we started breaking the rules a little more instead of following like sheep, we might force clothing designers and manufacturers to break away from what is an entirely out-dated fashion item. Men in suits look so bland and so conformant. Despite what many think, it’s not a good look. I hate suits. Lets move on.

94 Darius July 14, 2013 at 3:44 am

Just a bonus. With vests, you are not supposed to button up the jacket at all.

95 Mitch July 15, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Seems to me that this is exactly why this blog exists. How many guys are going to whine about the buttons? We don’t need to “drop an archaic rule.” What we need is guys that will learn to dress appropriately for the occasion and/or the clothing in question. Feel free to button the last button guys…feel free to look like an absolute idiot in doing so. It isn’t about conformity nor being a sheep you hipster doofus. It’s appropriate business attire. If you’re a billionaire tech genius, then you can wear a hoodie or anything else you damn well please. You’re so nonconformist in a conformist kind of way. If you want to be different or just need to be that guy that tells everyone he was doing something before it was cool, you can. Do something different. Wear a top hat, a pocket watch, use a cane…buy a monocle. Just do it right. Otherwise, you’re worse than a sheep. You’re a disrespectful, lazy slob. Grow up and be a man.

96 Man's game July 20, 2013 at 10:23 pm

I didn’t read through all the comments to see if anybody suggested this, but the bottom button is also not done up so that the jacket can sit nicely when you are seated as well as flaring when standing. The people that purposefully act against the bottom button rule for the sake of it need to learn some class, otherwise you look uncultured and whiney.

97 Marshal July 21, 2013 at 11:35 am

I didn’t know this rule existed. This explains why it was uncomfortable and extremely tempting to let the bottom button loose what little I’ve worn my suit. I’ll make it a point to get it right in the future. Thanks for the tip!

98 Wm Bonney August 11, 2013 at 11:23 pm

A quick 10 minute look at photos of grouse and other game bird hunters from the mid-19th century up thru today will reveal that they buttoned the bottom button. There were obvious walking-thru-brush practical reasons for this. There are also many speculations that the bottom button was buttoned by city dwellers to discourage pickpockets. Ultimately it became a fashion statement because a two-button jacket looks informal and unfinished. Therefore the third button is somewhat like the appendix…if it becomes an irritant, remove it, otherwise leave it alone. Ascots and pocket-hankies are, however, a different matter!

99 Rishi Chullani August 25, 2013 at 6:51 am

Completely agree with you here Mitch. David, these archaic rules have been archaic because they have survived the test of time. As the article eloquently points out, the middle button is cut at where your torso tapers, hence flattering your look. Buttoning the bottom button will detract from that, hence leaving it open to drape over your hips. After all, as men, we do want to accentuate the coveted ‘V’ shape look, even if we don’t actually possess it.

I completely agree with this analysis for two or three button single breasted suits. With a double breasted suit, however, buttoning all buttons should be acceptable.

100 David Brickey II August 29, 2013 at 7:41 pm

According to the lore of menswear, in the early 1900s King Edward VII started the trend of leaving the bottom button of a suit undone.

Apparently, he grew so rotund that he was unable to fasten the bottom button of his waistcoat and jacket. To not offend the king, those associated with him started doing the same. The custom then gradually spread the world round (as England was still largely an imperial power with great influence across the globe).

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