Simon,



I am a loyal fan in San Francisco. Your style, commentary and photos are extremely helpful in navigating the bespoke world, and more importantly, developing my style.

Question: my tailor is making a navy three-piece suit, single breasted, notch lapel. Nice and simple. Cloth is Minnis, from the Saville Row book. 

I cannot seem to make a button selection, however. I source from Tender Buttons in NYC.
 I have narrowed it down to three: dark brown, matte finish; navy blue, matte finish; or black, polished finish. Any thoughts are appreciated.



Regards,


David Serrano Sewell

Hi David,

The first thing to note is that there are no hard-and-fast rules about buttons with bespoke suits. That should be obvious from the distinctly different attitudes in England and Italy.

English tailors prefer matte, horn buttons. Reasons given include that it is traditional and that it differentiates them from ready-made suits. When Italian tailors use horn buttons, however, they are nearly always polished. They are also more likely to see the similarity to fashion suits as a positive. For more formal suits, the Italians normally go with corozo, a type of nut. That is polished and looks like plastic until you look very carefully. I don’t like it that much, but more for the polish than the material.

French and Spanish tailors vary more and experiment more. Cifonelli in Paris has made jackets for me with three or four different types of brown button that I’ve never seen elsewhere. Spanish tailor Calvo de Mora had so many different variations I ended up buying four different colours. And in the past I’ve sourced my own buttons in mussel shell from Duttons in York.

So any choice is a personal one. I’ll set out the different factors for you to consider, and the common associations and rationalisations made for each.

The finish: Readymade suits usually have polished buttons, and Savile Row suits usually have matte ones. If you want to associate with the latter and not the former, go for matte buttons.   

The material: Natural materials like horn and corozo are tougher than plastic. They also have a surface that is patterned and that varies subtly between the buttons. When I used to have readymade suits with plastic buttons, I never had one shatter; but it does happen. The variegation is lovely in light to mid-brown horn buttons; in other colours and materials it is barely noticeable. The natural materials are, of course, also associated with better suits. Choose which features and associations you want.

Colour: A dark colour, like navy or black, is more formal and looks better with dark suits and dark shoes. Brown buttons will look good with brown shoes, and if dark enough brown is more versatile than navy or black. The paler the button, and the stronger the pattern, the more casual it is. Unusual colours and metals are also more casual, which is why they are often a way to differentiate a blazer from a suit.

I hope that helps David. I would go with brown, matte buttons on your suit, unless you nearly always wear black shoes. But that’s just my choice.

Simon

Images, from top to bottom: horn buttons on Huntsman jackets; pale brown buttons on Choppin & Lodge cotton suit; metal buttons on Timothy Everest grey fresco blazer. First and third images: Andy Barnham

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Anonymous

Hello from Montana. Just letting you know how much I appreciate your attention to detail. Your information is an enormous help to me. I do menswear alterations, sometimes as detailed as moving the shoulders in for men with narrow shoulders, cutting down overcoats to fit the recipient, and all sorts of regular shortening cuffs, taking in or letting out trouser waists,etc. I have Flusser’s book, Dressing the Man, but he doesn’t always show the detailing I need. Again, THANK YOU so much from a busy seamstress! Elva in Montana

Julia

Wow! The detail and precision with which you write is incredible! This post was a well of information and I learned a lot, so thank you so much for the insight. I never saw buttons as that crucial, but you’ve demonstrated how the different types of buttons can be very telling about where a suit comes from. Thank you for the great post!

Emanuel Lowi

Do you have an opinion about the different look of 2-hole buttons (Huntsman, KHL) and the far more common 4-hole buttons most of Savile Row etc. uses?

Also, I am having a medium beige double-breasted jacket made and am torn between using matching buttons, a shade or so darker or quite a bit darker brown buttons.

What sayest thou?

Albannach

Dear Simon,

What do you think about the grey fresco blazer with silver buttons pictured at the bottom of your post? Do you see it as a handsome and versatile piece? Limited to spring and summer wear? With what trouser, shirt, and tie combinations do you think it could be successfully and strikingly worn?

Thank you for your great blog.

Hugh

Hi Simon,

I’d like to pick your brains about choosing the number of buttons on a cuff.

I know that you have had a single button on some of your odd jackets, and I have become fond of three on odd jackets.

Can you lay out some thoughts on four or five button cuffs: style, formality, showiness?

Sam

Simon, what color buttons would you opt for on a high s number pale grey pin stripe suit? A light horn looks best (color-wise) to my eye but seems incongruous with the formality of the suit. Grey would be my preferred option but seems to limit me to plastic or shiny corozo which I’m not keen on. The high degree of contrast with black horn seems to draw too much attention to the buttons….. any advice?

Enock

Hi
I want to make a grey strips double breast suit and the button selection is the problem. Any help?

Emanuel

Some tailors will use the same size buttons on double breasted coats as they would on single breasted. But, traditionally, buttons on a DB would be slightly larger. I suggest you consider which look you prefer. The size and positioning of the buttons on a DB coat are stylistic elements, not merely functional closures.

danny

would you ever consider different (maybe tonal) buttons on the sleeve together?

Henry

Simon, please confirm if I am correct that usually the button size for odd jacket is 30L and for sleeves 23L? Many thanks

Humayun Rashid

Hi
Can you kindly advise where I can buy matte horn buttons?
I am based in Toronto (Canada)…….is there an online website that I can use/

thanks

Emanuel

If you can make it to Montreal, a store here called Rix Rax has thousands of buttons, including matte horn and corozo, in numerous different sizes and colours.

She’s at: 801 rue Gilford, Montreal H2J 1P1. She doesn’t do internet sales, though, but it is a fun shop to explore.

Prices are similar to ordering from the UK once you consider order minimums and shipping from overseas.

Richard

Hi Simon

I have a suit, only a few years old, where the trousers are no longer usable, but the jacket still has quite a bit of life left. The suit is bespoke and so it seems a waste to let go of the jacket and so I am thinking I can change the buttons to reduce the formality so that it could work as an odd jacket.
The jacket is a light grey 9oz worsted cut in an English business suit style. The current buttons are a dark grey/black horn. I was thinking to change them to a light brown.
It would still be quite a formal jacket but do you think this would work or possibly other suggestions.

Thanks in advance
Richard