Most lounge jackets—suit jackets, blazers and sports coats—have two or three buttons down the front, and this has been the standard for single-breasted suits and sports coats since the 1930s. But what about suits with only one button? Though it is a style most associated with dinner jackets — and, to a lesser extent, black lounge jackets (strollers)—the single-button (also called ‘button-one’, or ‘one-button’) style may also be used for other types of lounge jackets. Though it can lend a more formal look to suits in more formal cloths, it is not necessarily a more formal style just because it is most often used on dinner jackets and morning coats. Any type of lounge coat may be made with just one button on the front.
Amongst English tailors, Savile Row’s Huntsman and their disciple Richard Anderson are best known for the single-button jacket, and they make dinner jackets, suits and tweed sports coats in this style. Huntsman and Richard Anderson by no means have a monopoly on this style, and most English tailors regularly make button-one jackets today. It has a more bespoke feel than the standard button-two jacket since the button-one jacket is still uncommon outside of bespoke. It is currently something of a trend amongst English tailors, though I don’t imagine it is a style that will ever look out of date.
Ultimately, this style is a matter of taste. The button-one suit is more rakish than the standard button-two and button-three, more for cultural reasons than anything else. It is style better worn socially or in creative industries than for traditional business because of that, though many businessmen in London wear the style. If the rest of the suit is conservatively styled, many people will not notice that the suit is different from the usual button-two.
A jacket with one button is not much different than a jacket with two buttons, since most button-two jackets are designed for only the top button to fasten. The main idea of the button-one jacket is to do away with the unused bottom bottom and thus to give the jacket a more streamlined look. A single button is often placed lower than the top button of a button-two jacket, but this is mostly because the buttons of a button-two jacket are commonly placed too high. The button stance of a single button is more important than on jackets with two or three buttons because there are no other buttons to help visually balance the placement of the lone button. Ideally, the top of two buttons and the middle of three buttons should all be in the same place as a well-placed single button. The quarters of a button-one jacket are sometime more cutaway than on a button-two jackets, but this is not always the case.
The button-one jacket was a popular for both suits and sports coats amongst people in entertainment in the 1960s. Robert Vaughn, Patrick McGoohan, Patrick Macnee and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. wore the style while playing their respective spies on television. Actors Dick Van Dyke, Don Adams and Eddie Albert wore them on their respective American sitcoms. Musicians like Sammy Davis Jr and Miles Davis also wore the style at the time. The style was most popular in Hollywood thanks to tailors like Sy Devore and Harry Cherry, though the style was also trendy in England throughout the 1960s.
By the mid 1960s, some thought that fashions were moving towards more buttons. London fashion design Hardy Amies captioned a pair of photos in his 1964 book describing a man in a button-four suit “The complete man-present” and a man in a button-five suit “The complete man-future”. New Edwardian trends and the popularity of the Beatles helped push fashions towards suits with four buttons, but these trends were not the end of the single-button suit, which stuck around through the end of the 1960s and is still more relevant today.
The button-one jacket’s popularity declined after the 1960s, but it did not go away. Pierce Brosnan had a few button-one suits in his character’s wardrobe for Remington Steele when the series started in 1982. Bob Barker often wore them throughout his 35-year run as host of The Price Is Right, ending in 2007. Brad Pitt wore the style on a sporty summer suit in the 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven as a callback to the 1960s. Daniel Craig wore a button one suit in 2004’s Layer Cake, and Tom Cruise more famously wore the style in his 2004 film Collateral.
Single-button suits have occasionally appeared in the collections of fashion brands over the past decade as it logically follows with the minimal trend. It helps the popular shorter suit jacket look slightly more proportionate. Despite this it hasn’t taken a hold in a market that is accustomed to jackets with two buttons.
James Bond wears only three button-one suits over the course of the series, so one could hardly say it is a Bond staple. None of them are amongst Bond’s most memorable suits either, so it is not a style associated with Bond.
The first of these button-one suits is a dark blue wool-and-mohair-blend suit that Sean Connery wears in Japan in You Only Live Twice. Though the rest of Connery’s James Bond’s suits have two buttons, his single button-one suit in You Only Live Twice is Bond’s only foray into this style when it was most trendy in the 1960s. The cut is almost the same as Connery’s usual button-two, with the button stance slightly lower than his usual already low button stance. Connery had previously worn a similar blue button-one suit in the 1964 film Woman of Straw.
Bond’s second button-one suit is a sporty cream suit that Roger Moore dons for his arrival in Rio de Janeiro in Moonraker. The single button here helps contribute to the suit’s more relaxed look while at the same time makes the jacket appear more like an ivory dinner jacket. This suit jacket may have been made with one button to give Bond the ability to also wear it as a makeshift dinner jacket.
The most recent of Bond’s button-one suits is the charcoal pinstripe suit in London in The World Is Not Enough. Apart from having a single button on the front this suit has other rakish details like lapels on the waistcoat and slanted pockets with a ticket pocket, but overall this is a conservative-looking business suit because of the sober cloth and balanced cut. This is the case where the lack of a second (or third) button goes unnoticed by those who don’t notice the fine details of menswear. However, this suit’s single-button fastening establishes that Bond is dressed like a businessman in London and nowhere else.
Bond villains have also worn button-one suits as well as sports coats. In From Russia with Love, Benz wears a loudly striped button-one suit while Kronsteen wears a more elegant button-one navy silk jacket. In Goldfinger, the title villain’s shawl-collar tweed suit has only one button. Octopussy‘s Kamal Khan wears both a navy button-one suit and a grey tweed button-one jacket.