Almost Never Button the Bottom Button

26
Charcoal-Suit-Both-Buttons-Done-Up
Sean Connery has both buttons on his dark grey suit fastened in Dr. No

Sean Connery’s tailoring in his Bond films is often admired for its clean, simple lines and limited colour scheme. But wearing suits didn’t come naturally to Connery, and on four occasions he makes the mistake of buttoning the bottom button on his suit jackets. The first time is on the dark grey flannel suit in Dr. No, when wearing tailored clothing was still very new to him, and presumably director Terence Young did not catch the brief mistake. It happens a second time in Dr. No when both of the buttons on Bond’s blazer are fastened when he watches the Three Blind Mice’s hearse fall off the cliff. The third time is in From Russia with Love when Bond enters his hotel room in Istanbul and suddenly the bottom button on his grey silk suit is fastened, even though it was not when he entered the lift. This is not only a style error, it’s also a continuity error. The fourth time came in Diamonds Are Forever. On none of Connery’s suit jackets is the bottom button ever meant be fastened.

Connery fastens the bottom button on his linen suit in Diamonds Are Forever

It’s typically advised that only the top button on a button two jacket should be fastened. This is not just an arbitrary style tip but it follows how the suit jacket is cut. This is because the foreparts are curved away below the top button, and the lower button doesn’t meet up with the buttonhole. Thus, fastening the lower button causes the jacket to pull across the hips, and it makes a mess of the jacket as seen in the screen capture from Dr. No at the top. Closing the bottom button disrupts the clean lines Connery’s suits are known for having.

Why is a suit designed for the foreparts to be cutaway below the waist? Visually, this cutaway balances the open space above the waist and gives the jacket a dynamic and more flattering look. A jacket that buttons high—such as the button four jacket of an army uniform—does not need to be cutaway to look balanced, but modern button two and button three jackets look bottom-heavy if not cut away. The cutaway also makes one look taller from the front by extending the trouser line up above the bottom of the jacket. Practically, a jacket that closes over the hips restricts restricts movement when walking and makes it difficult to sit. The skirt of a jacket would need to be unflattering wide to be comfortable if fastened shut in front. This practical aspect of the modern lounge coat’s design has its origins from horseback riding. There are, however, some button two jackets designed to have both buttons fastened.

Button-2-Paddock-comparison

On a paddock-cut button two jacket, both buttons are meant to fasten. The button stance is raised, usually placing the two buttons equidistant above and below the waist. Placing both buttons higher means that the bottom button can be fastened without restricting movement. The front on a paddock cut is only cutaway below the bottom button. President John F. Kennedy, British politician Anthony Eden and the Duke of Windsor are known for wearing this cut. In his later years, the Duke of Windsor only fastened the bottom button on his paddock-cut jackets for a longer lapel line. Roger Moore wears a couple button three jackets with a high button placement in The Persuaders that are similar to the paddock cut, but they have an additional button at the top.

Cyril Castle made Roger Moore's high button three suit in The Persuaders. It has a slanted, flapped breast pocket and flared link-button cuffs.
Cyril Castle made Roger Moore’s high button three suit in The Persuaders. It has a slanted, flapped breast pocket and flared link-button cuffs.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Absolutely, Matt. Not even Connery could get away with this faux pas. By the way, have you noticed that Prince Charles always fastens the bottom button on his double breathed suits? Surely this is incorrect as well, isn’t it?

    • What Prince Charles does is not incorrect, since the button and buttonhole line up. It doesn’t pull the jacket out of shape. It’s also acceptable to fasten only the bottom button on a double-breasted jacket, like the Duke of Windsor and Duke of Kent were known for, and the lapel rolls over the waist buttons.

      • Isn’t buttoning the lower buttons on a 6 x 4 button double breasted suit more traditional?

        I thought that the leaving of buttons undone – whether the top ones ala the Duke of Kent or the bottom one as most people do – was the rakish alternative in the 20s and 30s.

  2. Given the generally raised button stance fashionable at the moment, are most suits cut more like paddock suits than traditional two buttoners?

    I’ve seen a 30s illustration of one that appeared to be cut more like a three button jacket without the lowest button (so that the second button was more about waist height than the top one) but your illustration suggests a less extreme raising of the buttons.

    • With today’s raised button stance, the bottom button typically isn’t raised high enough and the front still cuts away at the top button and not at the bottom. They are just regular button two jackets cut out of proportion.

      That’s a very similar style, and an older one, though the paddock style I wrote about places the buttons more like half way.

      • “the front still cuts away at the top button and not at the bottom. They are just regular button two jackets cut out of proportion.” – indeed! Thus exposing the belt buckle and the bottom of the tie, which I find grotesquely unaesthetic….

      • Completely agree, Dan. I just don’t see the point of this modern trend which looks a mess. Got to hand it to Anthony Sinclair that he came up in the 60s with an elegant and modern cut which has endured until today. The only thing I find slightly old fashioned are the high rise, double pleated trousers but the high rise trousers to the level of the jacket fastening button give a smooth and uniform look to the whole suit.

      • Interesting. I’ve always been a little unclear what the distinction is but that helps.

  3. Connery did the same mistake in FRWL , in the hotel room. It’s a pity Terence Young didn’t notice it either ! Speaking of Connery’s dark grey suit in Dr No, isn’t it a flannel one, judging from the picture ?

  4. JFK two buttons were not “Paddock cut.
    Infact the effect on the President was the same that in these Connery’s pictures.

  5. The Paddock coat have the buttons more high on the chest (see the pictures of the real paddock model).
    This is only a two buttons coat with the last button a more high that usual.

    • The button stance on a paddock jacket is flexible. Both buttons on Kennedy’s jackets are higher than usual (disregarding today’s fashions). What pictures of the real paddock model are you referring to? The apparel arts illustration? That one places the bottom button at the waist, rather than evenly spacing the two button above and below the waist. Both styles are still cut the same way.

      • Mainly i refer to the 20s pictures,to the Duke of Windsor two buttons coats ( also in 50s and i think 60s he wore the Paddock cut),and of course to the Vanity Fair and Esquire fashion sketcks.
        My first bespoke suit was a two buttons.
        I ask to the tailor a little high stance of the buttons,and the coat effectively could buttoned to both (was similiar to the JFK sport jacket).
        But was a “paddock model”?
        I think not,only a two buttons with a bit higher stance.

  6. I actually have a paddock cut sport-coat, and for the longest time I’ve been puzzled as to how I would describe it were I to ever get another one custom made. I have to thank you for explaining the proper terminology.

    Also, on some of my normal button stance jackets, I do button both if, say, it’s a particularly windy day and I’m taking a walk outside. Which may have been Connery’s reasoning in Diamonds Are Forever. Of course, it still looks bad in the movie which defeats the purpose of wearing the suit in the first place.

  7. What Jay said – if it is a very windy day then I think buttoning up a suit jacket all the way is reasonable. In severe cold too, come to think of it.

  8. This is not accurate, sorry to say. Connery would not have been allowed to make such “mistakes.” It would never have gone unnoticed. When you are filming a scene, something as significant as the protagonist’s attire, especially when it is an important aspect of his character, is not left to chance. It was quite common in the 60s and early 70s to button both buttons on a suit jacket/sport-coat. It was a fashion statement. Incidentally, by the time “Diamonds Are Forever” came out, I am quite sure that Connery had bought himself enough class to know how to dress himself without assistance. See also episodes of “I Spy,” in which both Robert Culp and Bill Cosby regularly fasten both buttons. That business about the button holes not matching up, I’ve never heard of that. Not sure where you’re getting that from. Also, double breasted jackets may be worn with all buttons fastened. As someone mentioned, the Prince of Wales has done it on many an occasion.

    • You are correct about double-breasted jacket. Anything is fine there. If Connery were making a fashion statement by fastening the bottom button, it would have been done consistently and not just on a random few occasions. There are often mistakes in film that go unnoticed, especially back then. It’s clearly a mistake in From Russia with Love since it breaks continuity.

      Single-breasted suit jackets are not cut straight down below the waist but actually curved away, that’s why the button and buttonhole do not match up. They’re on the same horizontal axis, but not on the same vertical axis. I’m getting it from looking at my jackets, as well as comparing patterns of single-breasted jackets with double-breasted jackets. That’s why there’s so much pulling on Sean Connery’s jacket in Dr. No. In Diamonds Are Forever, Connery’s weight gain adds to the pulling. Let me know if you need further explanation for the geometrical as to why the bottom button isn’t meant to be buttoned.

  9. Moore’s suit jacket looks like it is cut to make him look like a bodybuilder. The combination of such a full chest with slim and tapered trousers really don’t work, to stay in euphemism !

    • Really ? I am a bit surprised.
      Moore was certainly overweight in the movie Bullseye !, (and the shorter haircut accentuates it too) but in the 1960s-1970s he never looked as such to me. He certainly didn’t have the same athletic build as Connery, Lazenby but I think he looked nice in his Castle suits as well as in his Hayward ones, that is to say the suits flattered his physique without trying too hard to dramatically modify it -like a buit up suit with much drape and strong, extended shoulders would on a skinny guy for example.

      I think he looks perhaps better in the Bullseye suit than here, because the suit isn’t trying to make him pass as a slim person. It’s always better to assume his physique and use fine tailoring to deal with it, but not to rely on tailoring to make you look like somebody you are definitely not. In the picture, there is too much disproportion between his chest and his legs/thighs/arms, in my humble opinion.

  10. I understand that you’re the expert in these matters and I defer to your judgement. Even so I maintain that, especially in the 60s, it was not unheard of for gentlemen to button both buttons. It was not a formal look. It was almost playfully casual. Again, I don’t think Bond’s doing this in those scenes from Dr. No and Diamonds Are Forever was an oversight. It strikes me as extremely improbable that they would have allowed such a slip. I think it was intentional. In warm weather climates, sometimes anything goes, fashion-wise. Let’s keep that in mind. When you know the rules you can break them, and all that jazz. In any case, I have seen it done in other films and TV shows, notably I Spy.

    • American clothes had a straighter cut and a higher button stance in the 1960, so it worked a little better in the I Spy suits than with Connery’s suits. And it’s not something I can recall seeing in American productions. You can see with Connery how buttoning the bottom button distorts the lines of the jacket. The continuity error in the buttoning in From Russia with Love, and how it’s only a few isolated cases that Connery fastens the bottom button still lead me to believe it’s a mistake. If it was on purpose he would have done it more often. I don’t think of not buttoning the bottom button as a “rule” but rather as a function of how the jacket is cut. For a British gentleman, he should still dress better than to fasten his suit improperly, even in the tropics. You’d sooner expect him to leave the suit jacket open in Jamaica. After all, it’s a heavy flannel suit meant for London!

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