Suit Button Rules: A Simple and Illustrated Guide

Let’s face it, guy: We don’t wear suits as often as we used to. I don’t mean how you wore suits as a little boy but not prefer to wear your favorite team t-shirt. I mean how men in generations before us wore suits frequently. They had style and knew how to dress. In fact, it was my grandfather that taught me the rules about how to wear a suit jacket, and I’ve remembered them ever since. 

But, sadly, men today just don’t wear suits that often anymore. Though I think they should, especially by the time they turn 30.

That shouldn’t mean we can’t look good in them, though. But, to look good in a suit, you have to know how to wear one. This guide will explain how to wear a single-breasted suit jacket and the suit jacket button rules you need to know. 

Note: These are men’s suit button rules, only. I won’t pretend to know the first thing about women’s suits.

Why You Need To Know Suit Button Rules

Ever been somewhere and seen someone who has no idea how to wear his suit? The suit jacket looks uncomfortable. The pants look frumpy. And he just generally looks like crap. If you can tell he doesn’t look right, other high-value men can tell he doesn’t know how to dress properly as well. Not a great look if you’re just starting your own business and looking to land a big client.

You need to know suit button rules because suits are designed for you to wear in a specific way. If you don’t know how to wear them, they bunch, look funny, and tell everyone around you that you have no idea what you’re doing. You look like a pissy little kid whose mom made him dress up.

But, if you know the rules, you’ll be able to make that suit look great and you’ll feel like Frank freggin’ Sinatra wherever you go. So, take the time to get to know these rules because they definitely matter.

One Vs Two Vs Three-Button Jackets: What decides?

Each suit jacket type is different, and they each have their own rules about which buttons to button and which to leave open. But, for distinction’s sake:

  • A one-button jacket has just one button on the front that keeps it closed. These are often formal wear like tuxedos and evening jackets.
  • A two-button suit has two buttons on the front that keep the jacket closed. This is the most common jacket type in modern suits today.
  • A three-button suit is a bit of a throwback to yesteryear, but they’re great for taller men. They have three buttons that keep the jacket closed.

Which jacket type you have determines which buttons you should button and when. Here’s what you need to know:

Single-Breasted One-Button Jackets

When you’re wearing a one-button jacket, your jacket should always be buttoned whenever you’re standing. This will keep the jacket closed and streamlined, and offer you the best V shape the jacket creates possible. Leaving the jacket unbuttoned looks too relaxed for the formal events that you’re likely to wear these jackets to.

Always button the one button whenever you’re standing.

Single-Breasted Two-Button Jackets

The rule with two-button jackets is different: Always button the top button, NEVER button the bottom button. Not only does this offer a timeless, rebellious look, but it’s also part of the design. Modern suit manufacturers cut suits in a specific way because this is the rule.

If you were to button both buttons, the suit will sit too tight on your hips, you’ll lose the V shape that makes men look good in suits, and you’ll look like you gained 10 or 15 pounds. Not a good look.

So, always button the top button when standing and leave the bottom button unfastened.

Single-Breasted Three-Button Jackets

You might’ve guessed it, but the rules are slightly different for three-button jackets, as well. A three-button suit jacket has three buttons that keep it closed, but only two are ever fastened. It follows the classic “sometimes, always, never” motto. 

You may button the top button on a three-button jacket while you’re standing if you desire. You ALWAYS button the middle button while standing. You never button the bottom button, ever. 

Following this buttoning pattern on three-button suits allows the suit to hang properly, provides the V shape, and helps you look cool. If you button all three, you’ll look heavier, uncomfortable, and like you don’t know what you’re doing.

Double-Breasted Jackets

Double-breasted jackets are another story altogether. Most men will never own a double-breasted jacket unless they come back in style or they’re into 1920s gangster cosplay. However, these jackets have two rows of three buttons, and they should be buttoned as follows:

  • Top two buttons: Always
  • Middle two buttons: Always
  • Bottom button closest to pocket: Always
  • Bottom button furthest from pocket: NEVER

Again, this is the optimal way to button a double-breasted suit jacket for not only style but also the way the jacket is cut. This allows the amount of flexibility that the suitmaker planned for when they designed the jacket. However, very tall men may find that they need to alternative the top and bottom buttons to get the jacket to hang correctly and hide their belt buckle. This will be on a case-by-case basis.

And Sports Coats?

All of the same rules apply to sports coats as they do to a suit jacket. However, it should be noted that sports coats are actually casual jackets, and as such, they may be worn outside during activities or cooler weather. If you’re walking the dog in a sport coat, feel free to unbutton and allow the air to flow. On the other hand, if it’s bitterly cold out, go ahead and button up all the buttons and flip the collar up to stay warm. 

What About When You’re Sitting or Standing?

There are rules for sitting and standing in a suit jacket, as well. Number one, never take your suit jacket off and hang it on the chair behind you. This doesn’t look good and your jacket will almost always fall. If you must take off your jacket, take it to the coat check where it can be hung properly. Otherwise, wear the jacket.

However, when you’re sitting, you always unbutton all of the buttons on the suit jacket. If you don’t, you’ll be uncomfortable, stress the buttons, and possibly stretch the suit fabric, depending on the material. Unbutton your jacket just before sitting down.

Whenever you’re standing, your jacket should be buttoned. This helps with maintaining the look of the jacket, hides your belly if you have one, and generally neatens your appearance. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

  • For example, if it’s extremely hot, you can get away without buttoning your suit jacket for a bit. This will allow some airflow, and most of the people around you will understand. If you want help managing that sweat, these ball deodorants will help.
  • If you’re not wearing a tie, the unbuttoned jacket look is a bit more acceptable, but only if you’re at a relatively relaxed event. If not, wear a tie.
  • If it’s late and the night is winding down, you might notice some unbuttoned jackets. Not that it’s good etiquette, but chances are no one will judge you. 

Other Suit Jacket Rules

There are some additional rules that guys should know about when it comes to suit jackets.

  • The pockets on the outside of the jacket are for show. Don’t unstitch them. The fabric will hang strangely. Use the pocket inside the jacket instead.
  • Give your suit jacket a little flair by placing a pocket square in the breast pocket. The square does not have to match with your tie or shirt, but a little coordination helps.
  • Do always give your jacket to your wife or girlfriend if it’s cold. You’ll survive and it shows her you care. You do care, don’t you?
  • Never tell an older gentleman how to wear their suit unless they ask. They may have been wearing their suit that way for 80 years and don’t care what you have to say.
  • Never wear your suit jacket with jeans or chinos. It may look okay, but it will wear the suit jacket’s fabric out sooner than the pants, causing them to look like different shades.
  • Always wear a dress watch with a suit and sports coat. Never wear any watch with a formal jacket, such as a tuxedo.

Your Turn

Did I miss anything? Did your grandfather share any other suit rules with you that I should know about? Let me know in the comments below. And, if you like this content, make sure to sign up for my newsletter. I send it out weekly and it’ll make sure you stay up to date on the latest posts on badass skills, hobbies, business, relationships, and more..

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Suit Jacket Button FAQs

That was a pretty decent primer on suit jackets, but there might still be some questions you want buttoned up (get it?). Here are some of the most frequently asked questions on the topic:

How do you properly button a suit?

The rule to follow is “sometimes, always, never,” and this applies when you’re standing up. The top button may sometimes be buttoned, the middle button should always be buttoned, and the bottom button should never be buttoned. 

What are the rules for 2 button suits?

The rules for two-button suits are “always, never.” Always button the top button when standing but never button the bottom button. 

Is it okay to leave your suit jacket unbuttoned?

On rare occasions, yes. If it’s extremely hot, no one will judge you. Also, if it’s late and the party’s over, an unbuttoned suit jacket is often fine. 

Why do you never button the bottom button on a suit?

The reason we don’t button the bottom button is that suit jackets were originally worn as riding coats. When riding, the bottom button would either pop or cause the jacket to bunch. Not buttoning them now is a throwback to those times. 

What are the common mistakes in wearing a suit jacket?

The common mistakes when wearing a suit are usually wearing a suit that’s too large, too small, or one that hasn’t been tailored. Also, buttoning the suit jacket wrong and wearing overly casual footwear are common mistakes. 

Should I button my suit when sitting?

No, you should not. Buttoning your jacket while sitting will cause the jacket to bunch, may stress the button, and can stretch the suit fabric. 

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