Wearing a suit in itself is purposeful. There’s always a point to dressing up and looking sharp.
“Why do I wear a suit? Because it’s easy, yes. Because it makes me feel professional, yes. But also because it shows respect. Putting on a suit tells the person I meet with that I value them enough to dress up for them,” says David Silverman, a business writing professor and writer for Harvard Business Review, among other professions.
Whatever your reason for donning a suit, you will be more effective in your endeavor if you understand and adopt suit-wearing etiquette. One key to properly wearing a suit is knowing when to button it and which buttons to fasten.
It’s time for a gentleman’s crash course on suit-buttoning protocol. First, though, let’s take a moment to appreciate why learning how to button your suit is important.
Are There Suit Buttoning Rules & Do They Matter?
Believe it or not, there is an unwritten playbook for suit-wearing, and it includes a page on when and how to button your suit. Does it really matter if and when you button your suit? Yes, for at least five reasons.
Buttoning your suit according to the suit-wearing rulebook is:
- More flattering – Buttoning the right button at the right time will help you optimize your silhouette so you can appear to the greatest advantage.
- More professional – Knowing and implementing the rules on buttoning your suit will show that you are familiar with men’s formal wear and how to wear it.
- More stylish – While some of the rules governing suit-buttoning are purposeful, others are purely a matter of taste and determined by social norms. If you’re not looking to start a trend or make some sort of statement, sticking to these suit-buttoning trends will prevent you from making any waves, especially at key moments, like a job interview or meeting the in-laws.
- More comfortable – Keeping your suit buttoned or unbuttoned in the right spot based on your current position and suit style will help you stay comfortable and cool instead of feeling constricted and looking sloppy.
- More practical – Buttoning your suits properly helps you extend the longevity of your suits, preventing unnecessary strains or popped buttons.
That said, let’s get down to the particulars of suit-buttoning.
When to Button a Suit
Thankfully, the rules for when to button a suit are pretty cut and dry. We can boil the ‘when’ of suit-buttoning down to two basic rules.
Here are the concrete rules for when to button your suit:
- ALWAYS button your suit when standing up, especially in professional settings or when attending formal events.
NEVER button your suit when you sit down since it will bunch up and strain the buttons.
Try to practice buttoning your suit when you stand up and unbuttoning it when you sit down. Over time, it will become second nature, and you’ll do it without thinking as you move throughout your day.
Now that we’ve covered when, let’s go over how to button a suit.
How to Button a Suit by Button Number
How to button your suit depends on the number of buttons. Suits can have a single button or eight or more, depending on the style.
Here is a guide to buttoning your suit based on the number of buttons:
Buttoning a One-Button Suit
Suits with one button are the most straightforward when it comes to buttoning. Simply follow the sit-down/stand-up rule above. No room for error!
Single-button suits can have a slimming effect with wide-peak lapels and shoulders. Suits with just one button also typically have a deeper V, which can help showcase the rest of your look.
Buttoning a Two-Button Suit
Buttoning a two-button suit is almost as simple as a single-button suit. Button the top button and only the top button when you stand, and unbutton it when you sit. Just pretend the bottom button doesn’t exist; it should never be buttoned unless you want to carve your own path. In that case, don’t let us cramp your style.
Two-button suits pay homage to classic professionalism and deliver a more formal presence than their single-button counterparts. They also look super fine as part of a three-piece ensemble.
Pro tip: If you’re wearing a vest underneath your suit jacket, always keep the jacket unbuttoned. Instead of buttoning the jacket, button all the buttons on the vest except for the bottom button. The vest should be comfortable enough to keep buttoned while sitting. Always keep the bottom button on the vest undone.
Buttoning a Three-Button Suit
Buttoning a suit with three buttons is only slightly more complicated.
“Closing the top button on these jackets is OPTIONAL when standing. The middle button on these jackets should ALWAYS be buttoned when standing,” advises Real Men Real Style, adding, “You should NEVER fasten the bottom button.”
So far, we’ve mentioned suit-buttoning rules that govern single-breasted suits. How about double-breasted suits?
Buttoning a Double-Breasted Suit with Two Columns of Buttons
Double-breasted suits can have a lot of buttons, but not all of them have corresponding holes. How do you handle that? All you have to do is fasten all buttons that have buttonholes, except for the very bottom button. Of course, some gentlemen, royalty included, have been known to button the bottom button. So don’t be afraid to make an executive decision on whatever you think looks best on your shape.
A common thread: Did you notice how no matter how many buttons your suit has, if it has more than two, it is almost always customary to keep the bottom button undone?
Men’s Performance Suits with Two Buttons
At xSuit, we’ve managed to make what we believe is the world’s most comfortable suit. Our latest line, the xSuit 4.0 features a stylish two-button jacket and optional vest. This line of men’s wear is highly practical (machine washable, stretchy, breathable, and wrinkle, stain, and odor-resistant) and highly fashionable without breaking the bank.
If you’re new to wearing suits, the xSuit is the perfect place to start. If you’re a seasoned suit-wearing warrior, try an xSuit. You’ll never go back.