Jacket Cuff Button Styles

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Grey plastic buttons on the three-piece glen check suit in Goldfinger
Four buttons on the cuffs on Sean Connery’s checked Anthony Sinclair suit jacket in Goldfinger

Have you thought about how many buttons should be on the cuffs of your jacket? There are neither rules nor even general conventions that determine how many buttons should be on your jacket’s cuffs. Some makers vary the number of buttons on their jackets based on the number of buttons on the front, if the jacket is single- or double-breasted, or if the jacket is a suit jacket or odd jacket. The current standard around the world is to have four buttons on the cuffs off any type of jacket. This has long been the standard for English tailors, but now it’s the most common number of cuff buttons on Italian and American suits. Anthony Sinclair made almost all of Sean Connery’s jackets with four buttons on the cuffs. Angelo Vitucci put four buttons on the button two jackets he made for Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Douglas Hayward used four buttons on the two dinner jackets and blazer in A View to a Kill. Timothy Dalton’s navy pinstripe suit and dinner jackets in The Living Daylights have four buttons on the cuffs. All except one of Pierce Brosnan’s and all of Daniel Craig’s Brioni jackets—seen in the five films from GoldenEye through Casino Royale—have four buttons on the cuffs. Four cuff buttons is the most common number of buttons that Bond wears on his jacket cuffs, but the number Bond’s cuff buttons has varied over the years.

Three buttons on the cuffs of George Lazenby's Glen check suit in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Three buttons on the cuffs of George Lazenby’s Glen check suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Three is the next most common number of buttons on the cuffs for James Bond. George Lazenby’s dinner jacket, navy blazer and most of his suit jackets in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service have three buttons on the cuffs. Angelo Vitucci used three buttons for Roger Moore’s double-breasted jackets: the dinner jackets in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker and the skydiving blazer in Moonraker. Vitucci also put three buttons on the cuffs of the single-button cream suit. His sleeve buttons followed a system: his four-button cuffs echoed the even number of buttons on the front of a button-two jacket, whilst his three-button cuffs echoed the three rows on the front of the double-breasted jacket and the button one jacket’s odd number on the front.

Octopussy-Chalkstripe-Suit
Three buttons on the cuffs of Roger Moore’s charcoal rope stripe Douglas Hayward suit jacket in Octopussy

Douglas Hayward put three buttons on all of Roger Moore’s jackets in For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy and on the suit jackets and tweed jackets in A View to a Kill. Timothy Dalton’s grey herringbone and beige suit jackets in The Living Daylights have three buttons on the cuffs, and all of his jackets in Licence to Kill have three buttons on the cuffs. Three-button cuffs were common in the 1980s, and at that time they were the standard on Italian suits. Pierce Brosnan’s tan Brioni suit jacket in GoldenEye is oddly the only jacket of his four films that has has three buttons on the cuffs. Three-button cuffs returned to the series with the Tom Ford suits in Skyfall. Those are designed for only the first two buttons to fasten. The last buttonhole is a little longer than the others.

Five buttons
Five buttons on the cuffs of Daniel Craig’s navy striped Tom Ford suit jacket in Quantum of Solace. Notice the last, unused buttonhole is larger.

On the Quantum of Solace suit jackets by Tom Ford, the last buttonhole is longer like it is in Skyfall. These suit jackets, however, have a total of five buttons on the cuffs. There is no precedent for five buttons on a jacket’s cuffs, and it’s quite an excessive number of buttons. Then again, three or four cuffs could just as easily be seen as excessive if there wasn’t a tradition of having three or four buttons on the cuffs.

A perfect sleeve
Two buttons on the cuffs of Sean Connery’s Anthony Sinclair blazer in Dr. No

Two-button cuffs on a jacket are something Bond has only worn a few times in the series. Bond has only worn two-button cuffs on odd jackets, and the style is seen by some as less formal than having three or four buttons on the cuffs. The first appearance of this style is on the Anthony Sinclair navy blazer in Dr. No. Sean Connery later wears two tweed jackets in Diamonds Are Forever with two-button cuffs. Timothy Dalton’s gun club check jacket in The Living Daylights is the last jacket of the series to feature two-button cuffs. The two-button cuff was popular in the 1950s and 1960s on suit jackets and odd jackets in America. The classic Brooks Brothers button two show one jackets have two buttons on the cuffs, spaced apart, like on Felix Leiter’s suit in Goldfinger.

One button gauntlet cuff on Roger Moore's white silk dinner jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun
One-button gauntlet cuff on Roger Moore’s white silk Cyril Castle dinner jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun

One-button jacket cuffs, a 1960s trend, are slightly more popular with Bond than two-button cuffs. George Lazenby wears a number of jackets with this style in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; his cream linen suit jacket, his light blue suit jacket and his houndstooth check jacket all have a single button on the cuffs. Like two-button cuffs, some people consider one-button cuffs a less formal style than three- and four-button cuffs, and Lazenby’s one-button cuff examples are less dressy than his suits and double-breasted blazer with three-button cuffs. But in the 1960s, a single button was often put on the cuff of dressier jackets as well. Cyril Castle made many of Roger Moore’s dinner jackets, suit jackets and odd jackets in The Saint and The Persuaders with a single button on the cuffs, and they often have a turnback “gauntlet” cuff. The single-button gauntlet cuff made it to Roger Moore’s navy overcoat in Live and Let Die and his white silk dinner jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun. On Moore’s one button cuffs, the button is slightly larger than the standard 24L cuff buttons, but it’s not as large as the button on the front would be.

Marine Blue Suit Link Cuff
Roger Moore’s flared link cuffs on Roger Moore’s blue Cyril Castle suit jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun

Roger Moore wears a style of cuff in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun that resembles a one-button cuff but actually has two buttons. It’s called the flared link cuff and has the sides of the cuff “kissing” instead of overlapping as they ordinarily would. The end result is a button on either side that has the effect of a double-sided cufflink. There’s only a buttonhole on the outer end of the cuff, and a button is sewn to either side on the inner end of the cuff. The flared cuff adds an interesting flair to Roger Moore’s suits, and it is supposedly Moore’s own idea. He first wore the cuff on a few suits in The Persuaders. Patrick Macnee earlier had this style of closure added to a suit cuff in The Avengers that originally had no buttons. James Bond has never worn a jacket without cuff buttons, but Patrick Macnee wears a few suit jackets without cuff buttons in The Avengers, and Roger Moore wears a suit jacket without cuff buttons in The Man Who Haunted Himself. These jackets have a vent without an overlap at the end of the sleeve so it doesn’t look like the buttons were forgotten.

An illustration of the flared link cuff
An illustration of the flared link cuff

Cuff buttons can be spaced in various ways. Most English jacket have the buttons touching or with a little bit of space between them. Cuff buttons on Italian suits are often done the same way, but many Neapolitan tailors overlap the buttons in a “waterfall” style. Older American suits sometimes had the buttons spaced a full button-width apart. The space from the last button to the edge of the cuff is also something to consider. Today, the standard is to place the centre of the last button 1 1/2″ from the edge, though on Bond’s suits before the 1990s the last button was typically 1 1/4″ from the edge.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Matt.

    I have rather strict views on cuff buttons: To me the only viable option is the four button version, three is a no-go and five is gimmicky (as well as Moore’s flared link cuffs). Two cuff buttons on a blazer is all right because that’s the classic standard.

  2. Owning a few American suits from the ’60s and ’80s, I can confirm the two button style spaced a button width apart was common. Almost like a three button sleeve where they forgot to add the middle button. It looks a little more handsome to have them spaced a half inch apart, in my personal opinion.

    Brooks Brothers once had a sleeve button system in place so salespeople could find the right style without needing to look at the front of the jacket. Something I think many menswear shops could stand to emulate so they’re not shoving around suits and jacket on the racks all day. I can’t seem to find what it is besides that two spaced buttons were the 3/2 sacks, and then there were three and four buttons on the other two common choices. Perhaps three on double breasted (six buttons, two to close), four on two button?

    It’s funny, in those early Connery films the buttons look like they’re only an inch away from the edge of the sleeve, if not less. Menswear enthusiasts might think that someone had their sleeves shortened if they saw such a thing now.

  3. Hah! When I got my brother a custom tailored jacket, we decided that five buttons wasn’t nearly garish enough. And six would just be one-upping five, so we went with seven. Of course, the jacket was in a zebra print, but it’s the little details that count.

    I’ve heard that buttoned cuffs originated for being able to wash one’s hands without taking of one’s jacket. Is having more buttons meant to give the sleeves more room to be folded back?

  4. All of those solutions are much less flashy than the 6 (!) buttons director Peter Hunt had on his Dimi Major suits ! See behind the scenes stills from OHMSS for a look at the sartorial sense of this director. I must admit I like it but will not personally deviate from 4 button cuffs.
    Regards from France

  5. Matt, amazing timing with this piece. Just last week I was at a restaurant and saw one of the best-dressed men that I’ve seen this year in NYC. There were two interesting details about his suit jacket: a) the space between his right flap pocket and the ticket pocket was significant…looked like 3″ instead of the usual 1″ (and it worked, in part because he was 6’4″ or 6’5″) b) he had just two buttons on the sleeve of his jacket. Overall, it was a beautiful and obviously bespoke suit.

    I then wasted 30 minutes at work Googling around to learn more about that button style.
    Here’s a picture of Leiter’s jacket that illustrates the space between the two buttons:
    http://blog.bullz-eye.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Article-Felix-Leiter.jpg
    That’s approximately what the buttons on that man’s jacket look liked last week (his jacket didn’t resemble Leiter’s in any other ways!).

    I hadn’t realized that it was also common on suit jackets instead of just blazers and odd jackets.

    IMO, the trend toward 5- and 6-buttons runs parallel to the rise of iGent suiting styles, tall shirt collars with two buttons, and details like colored button holes, flashy linings, etc. Fun stuff, but sometimes easy does it on all the frills!

  6. I guess I am in the minority here; I am a three-button man. To my eye four buttons can result in a rather “busy” look. It is not overly objectionable on a suit, but on a blazer with metallic buttons it really becomes a bit heavy-handed. Add a cuff link and a wristwatch into the mix and all of a sudden there is an awful lot going on at the end of one’s arm.

    Most military uniforms that incorporated decorative sleeve fastenings in the 17th and 18th century featured triple buttons, including the British navel uniform, which at the time had three buttons arranged parallel to the cuff edge. Both 007 and Ian Fleming served as Commanders in the Royal Navy and accordingly wore dress uniform jackets adorned with three gold cuff-bands, analogous to the earlier buttons.

    An array of three buttons also calls to mind the rule of thirds in artistic composition, and the popularity of triptych painting which dates back to early Christian altarpieces. Very few polyptychs have been made with more than three panels because there is something about a grouping of three objects that is aesthetically balanced. Indeed, the highest price ever paid for a painting was for a 20th century triptych that sold at auction last fall.

    As to two-button cuffs; I watch a lot of films from the 1960s, and based on what I have seen, the two-button cuff was indeed extremely common in the U.S. and may well have been the most popular. The simplicity of the two-button cuff complemented the minimalist style of the Ivy League suits and jackets that were in vogue.

    • I understand why you might think that four brass buttons look busy, but part of a whole it doesn’t look so bad to me.

      In addition to a ’60s sack suit I own, my sport coats from that time also have the spaced two button sleeves.

  7. I’ve seen a great picture of Michael Caine in the ’60s in a link-cuff jacket (part of a light coloured suit, if I recall correctly). I’ve always rather liked the literal and figurative flare of that look.

  8. It’s funny, given so much choice in the design of suits, we all have our preferences of the variables. I just ebayed a rather nasty Venturo 21 suit from Moss Bros in the UK. I got it second hand purely because it fitted (there aren’t many 36″ suits around in second hand shops). The lapels were very thin, the shoulders were padded like Joan Collins’ Dynasty dresses and the arm holes were so small that when I raised me arms, the entire jacket lifted up like I was wearing a cardboard box. It was a hideous shiny silvery dark grey that caught the light like fish scales and reminded me of a game show host’s costume. But the thing that put me off the most was the single button on the cuff. It caught my eye every time I opened the wardrobe.
    Good riddance to it! Three or four buttons suits me fine. Two looks like a you’ve lost one. One looks like a mistake.
    (In my opinion…I might add.)

    • Ventuno is the worst brand Moss Bros sell. The suits are unbelievably ugly and gimmicky, and outside 18 year-olds and low-grade estate agents I’m not sure who buys them.

      Moss have a new line called “Moss 1851” which is rather good – flamboyant lounge suits with a bit more character than the standard business suits. I bought a royal blue 3-piece a few weeks ago from this line and it’s a beauty. Wide peak lapels – which seem to be properly back in fashion now.

      My main beef with Moss is the ubiquitous “Moss Bros wedding”, in which the groom’s party is kitted out in identical, invariably awkwardly worn morning suits which have no individuality and whose wearers don’t really understand them. I don’t understand where this idea that the groom and his party have to wear identical clothing comes from – it would be much more tasteful and authentic if every man wore his own morning suit (hired if necessary) in his own style. A common colour for ties/cravats, and boutonnieres, would surely be enough to identify them as privileged guests.

  9. Greetings after a long absence… you know how it is… jealous husbands, outraged chefs, humiliated tailors… they catch up with you… anyway, I recently had my tailor copy the sports jacket from MWTGG (different cloth but similar) and he made it with flared link cuffs which I rather enjoy… to the untrained eye they don’t notice but they really are a bit fancy

  10. I think it’s nice, that we have so many styles to chose from. And most of them can work very well in the right surrounding. Even leaving the last button open can be allright if you have a tight fitting suit and a big watch to show.

  11. Matt, I’m not entirely sure that the flared cuff style was Roger Moore’s invention or if it was then it was quickly adopted by Castle and provided to other clients. I noticed the actor Donald Sinden some time ago on a repeat of a 1980’s British sit com and he wore a jacket with what appeared to be exactly the same type cuff as Moore and in this link you can see him wearing this on a suit in the mid 70’s.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11091536/Sir-Donald-Sinden-obituary.html

    Question is then; were Sinden’s suits tailored by Castle? This is, of course, an assumption – albeit a plausible one – but perhaps other top London tailors also provided this cuff option on suits.

  12. “Even leaving the last button open can be allright if you have a tight fitting suit and a big watch to show.”

    I am glad and grateful that this point has been raised.
    I am not a great fan of having the last button opened. Unless I am wrong, the habit started in the franchise only during the Craig era, and I gather it would have ‘never happened to the other fellow(s)”.
    To me it is way too -deliberately- ostentatious, and the mere purpose is to show that a suit has been tailored made (or bespoke). Unfortunately, many suits that are none of the above have working buttons, and an exercized eye would notice this quasi-immediately. Even more now, thanks to Matt’s precious input.

    It would be interesting to know who or what started this habit, which I tend to consider as simply vain.

  13. Five cuff buttons is normal for the boating jackets, Service Dress and Number 1 Dress coats of officers in the Welsh Guards. Some of them carry this practice to their civilian coats. If you’re not a Welsh Guards officer, it’s rather pretentious.

    The current Hackett practice of having four cuff buttons arranged in two sets of two buttons is adapted from Guards uniform – in this case copying the Coldstream Guards.

  14. Dear Matt,

    What are your feelings on a single button cuff, where the cuff button is the same size as the front buttons of the jacket? I agree that they should be larger than the standard size for cuff buttons, but would a normal 3/4″ button look too big? I’m looking to add antler buttons to a tweed, but the smallest size I can find are 3/4″.

    Thanks!

    • The button should ideally be larger than a standard cuff button, but smaller than the front button, like 26-28L. If you can find that size, a standard cuff button size of 24L is better than a larger 30-32L that is used on the front.

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