Men’s Style 101: Why’s There A Buttonhole In My Lapel?

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Edward Armah Boutonniere available in store at The Clotherie.

The traditional men’s suit has become such a classic look, that we rarely stop to think about all the small details make it so unique. So today, inspired by our friends at the iconic Italian design house, Ermenegildo Zegna, we wanted to break down a few of the more distinctive, and unusual details behind the timeless men’s dress jacket.

Lapel Buttonhole

Ever wonder why your jacket has a buttonhole on the left lapel? Ever stranger, there’s no matching button to be found on the right lapel. The most popular explanation is it’s a flower holder inspired by England’s Prince Albert, who after he was presented with a small bouquet from Queen Victoria on their wedding day, made the gentlemanly gesture of cutting a hole in his lapel to hold the flowers.

However, a second theory espoused by GQ Magazine holds that the lapel buttonhole was designed to keep hats from flying away on a windy day. These hats included an elastic string with a button on the end, which could be securely attached to your lapel. Furthermore, GQ says, the buttonhole was originally paired with a button sewn to the underside of the right lapel, allowing a man to button all the way up in brisk weather.

Either way, what started as a functional item has become an essential detail of the contemporary suit. No matter how you use your lapel buttonhole, the key is to make sure it’s open rather than sealed and reinforced with a hand-stitched travetta or bar tack. Hand stitching takes a little longer but it’s sure sign of quality, and our tailor will be happy to finish off your jacket’s buttonhole if it’s missing either of these features.

Next time we’ll tackle the button sleeve, a holdover from when men worked the fields and had to roll up their sleeves from time to time to get work done.