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Coats & Jackets

Q&A: How many blazer buttons should I do up?

Q&A: How many blazer buttons should I do up?

Ah, the age-old question: to button or not to button? It's a tricky one. (Thanks, by the way, to Thread user Nick for bringing it up.) In the past few months alone, the U.S. president has proven himself averse to buttoning any blazer or suit jacket ever, while you've surely seen many a wedding attendee sitting uncomfortably with his tightly fastened blazer riding up around his chin. 

Therein lies the answer, says Thread stylist Millie Rich. "The rule of never closing the bottom button may be founded in etiquette and tradition, but really it's about practicality more than style," she explains. "Leaving your blazer buttoned when you sit down can pull the fabric and exacerbate the effects of any weight you may have in the middle—while buttoning the jacket when you stand up pulls in your silhouette and makes you look leaner."

Here, Millie lays it out for you, no matter how many buttons on your blazer—or how formal the occasion.

Want to leave your blazer open? Here's when it works

1. Whenever you're sitting down. "This will keep your jacket from riding up and the button holes from pulling. It will also keep your shirt from getting wrinkled and, most importantly, help you feel much more comfortable."

2. When you're going somewhere fairly casual. "Doing up a blazer's top button is obviously more structured. This is the way the blazer's made to be worn, so it shows off the fit and shape of the jacket.

"If you're wearing a suit or blazer to a wedding or formal event, you should never leave your jacket open—but if you're wearing a blazer casually with chinos or jeans, you can keep it relaxed and open."

Photographed: Richard James navy blazer (£595), Armor Lux striped tee (£39), Ralph Lauren stone chinos (£115)

3. When your blazer is slightly too small. "Ideally, obviously, you'll buy a bigger size and get it tailored to fit. But if you only have the one suit and you've got to make it work, leaving it undone will look far better than straining the buttons."

4. When your shirt's untucked. "You're going casual, so the blazer should follow suit. Also, it would look odd to have an untucked shirt sticking out of the bottom of a buttoned-up blazer."

Going buttoned up? Here's how to do it:

For a one-button blazer: "Button when standing and undo when sitting."

For a two-button blazer: "When you're standing, the top button should always be done up; the bottom one never."

For a three-button blazer: "This one's slightly more nuanced. The bottom button should never be done up; the middle button should always be; and, again, when you sit, everything should be undone.

"The top button is optional, depending on the height of the button, the formality of the occasion and your body type. Leave the top button undone if your jacket's slightly too small for you, if the button's higher than mid-chest and/or if the event's quite casual. If you're going somewhere formal and your jacket fits well, do up the top button—it'll help your suit look sharper."

And for a waistcoat: "Follow the blazer rules; never close the bottom button—but never ever leave a waistcoat completely open; it just doesn't work."