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Elegant woman wearing a suit buttoning her suit jacket double-breasted business etiquette

How to Button a Suit Jacket Correctly

Whether you're in the corporate world, law, banking, politics, or simply attending a formal event, wearing a suit jacket is a common practice. Everyone wears a jacket or its less formal version, a blazer, at some point, and while it might seem like a straightforward task, many people don’t know the proper way to button it. Buttoning your jacket correctly is essential for looking polished and professional, and it can impact how others perceive you. In this post, I’ll walk you through the steps to ensure you always button your jacket the right way, enhancing your appearance and boosting your confidence in any setting.

Table of Contents

Essential Jacket Rules You Need to Know

Knowing how to button your suit jacket correctly is more important than you might think. It’s not just about following fashion rules; it’s about ensuring your suit fits and looks its best. When buttoned correctly, a suit jacket maintains its shape, providing a sleek and tailored appearance. A well fitted suit has a huge impact on your overall look, this attention to detail conveys professionalism, competence, and confidence, which are crucial in any professional or formal setting.

A poorly buttoned jacket can make you look careless and unprofessional, potentially undermining your credibility. By mastering this simple skill, you can ensure that you always look sharp and make a positive impression.

The Benefits of Buttoning Your Jacket Correctly

Better Looking: Buttoning the right button at the right time helps optimize your silhouette, enhancing your overall appearance and ensuring you look sharp.

Professional Appearance: Understanding and following the rules for buttoning your suit demonstrates your knowledge of formal wear and how to wear it properly, showcasing your professionalism.

Style: Following these guidelines ensures you look stylish and avoid any fashion missteps, particularly during important events like job interviews or business meetings.

Comfort: Buttoning or unbuttoning your suit appropriately based on your position and the style of your suit helps you stay comfortable and cool, preventing discomfort and a sloppy appearance.

Longevity: Proper buttoning techniques help extend the life of your suits by reducing unnecessary strain and preventing popped buttons, ensuring your wardrobe investment lasts longer.

Understanding the Basics

The rules vary slightly depending on the type of jacket (single-breasted vs. double-breasted) and the number of buttons it has. Understanding and following these guidelines is important because it ensures that your jacket fits well, maintains its shape, and presents you in the best possible light.

The general rule of thumb is to leave the bottom button unfastened at all times. Today’s jackets are cut in such a way that fastening the bottom button would look strange and feel uncomfortable. Leaving it unbuttoned allows for a freer range of movement and a longer stride. This button is often referred to as a “fake button” or a “scuff button,” serving purely a decorative purpose. It is not functional and is not meant to be fastened, so it does not affect the fit or appearance of the jacket when worn.

How to button: Single-Breasted Jackets

Single-breasted jackets are a staple in both men’s and women’s fashion, known for their versatility and classic style. They typically feature a single row of buttons, usually one, two, or three buttons.

1. One-Button Jackets

ALWAYS. For jackets with a single button, always keep the button fastened while standing and unfasten it when sitting.

how to button a one-button jacket

2. Two-Button Jackets

Top Button: ALWAYS. Always button the top button while standing. Unbutton it when sitting.

Bottom Button: NEVER. Never button the bottom button.

How to button a TWO-BUTTON JACKET

3. Three-Button Jackets

Top Button: SOMETIMES. You can fasten it or leave it undone. Both ways are correct.

Middle Button: ALWAYS. Always button the middle button while standing. Unbutton all buttons when sitting.

Bottom Button: NEVER. Never button the bottom button.

How to button a three-BUTTON JACKET

How to button: Double-Breasted Jackets

Double-breasted jackets are a bold and sophisticated alternative to single-breasted jackets, ideal for those looking to make a strong fashion statement. These jackets feature two parallel columns of buttons, typically ranging from four to eight buttons in total, with six being the most common. Only one row is meant to be fastened.

Anchor Button: ALWAYS. Always fasten the inside anchor button, which is the hidden button on the inner side of the jacket.

Working Buttons: ALWAYS. Always fasten all the buttons that have working buttonholes.

Bottom Button: SOMETIMES. You can leave the bottom button unfastened if you prefer.

How to button a Double-breasted jacket

For a classic look, you’d button all of the working buttons, including the bottom button. For a more casual look you can leave the bottom button unbuttoned. 

Unlike single-breasted jackets, double-breasted jackets are designed to stay buttoned even when sitting to maintain their structured appearance. For more comfort, you can undo the bottom button, however, just like with any other double-breasted coat, you never unbutton it completely.

Tips and Reminders

1. Check the fit: Ensure your jacket fits well in the shoulders and chest.

2. Keep it smooth: Smooth out your jacket after buttoning to avoid wrinkles and ensure a clean silhouette.

3. Unbutton when seated: Except for double-breasted jackets, always unbutton your jacket when sitting down to prevent bunching up and stay comfortable.

Why do we leave the bottom button undone on a jacket? 

The tradition of not fastening the bottom button of a jacket originates from a sartorial quirk associated with King Edward VII of the United Kingdom. According to popular fashion lore, King Edward VII, who reigned in the early 20th century, started leaving the bottom button of his waistcoat and jackets undone due to his expanding waistline. This practice was then adopted by members of his court and subsequently became a widespread fashion convention.

Another perspective suggests that leaving the bottom button unfastened allows for better movement and comfort. When a jacket’s bottom button is left undone, the garment drapes more naturally and avoids pulling or bunching up when walking, which preserves the clean lines and overall fit of the suit.

Regardless of its exact origins, this tradition has endured and is now a standard rule in fashion, contributing to a well-dressed, polished look that balances style with practicality.

Exemption to the Rule

Sometimes, breaking the rule of unbuttoning your suit jacket when sitting can be beneficial, especially for media appearances or photographs. A buttoned jacket can convey formality, hide fit problems, keep a tie centred, and direct attention to your face, enhancing your message delivery.

What About Women’s Jackets

While the rules for buttoning women’s jackets are generally the same as for men’s jackets, women are generally allowed to button the bottom button depending on the style of the jacket and body shape.

Mastering the art of buttoning your jacket correctly is a simple yet powerful way to elevate your style. Remember, the key takeaway is to follow the rules based on the jacket type and number of buttons to maintain a polished and sophisticated look.

Ready to take your style to the next level? Get my comprehensive personal style guide “I have nothing to wear” or contact me for a personal consultation. Click here to get started!

By paying attention to these details, you can ensure you always look your best, no matter the occasion. Happy styling!

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Kristina Szabova is a certified Etiquette Consultant and member of the International Association of Professional Etiquette Consultants.