The Moving Button Stance

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Button-Stance
A flattering button stance just below the waist on Sean Connery in From Russia With Love

The button stance of a lounge coat—whether it be a button-one, button-two, button-three or double-breasted jacket—is determined by the position of the button placed at the waist. That would be the single button on a button-one jacket, the top button on a button-two jacket and the middle-button on a button three jacket. On the traditional six button double-breasted with two to button, the button stance is at the middle row buttons.

There’s no absolute rule as to exactly where this button is placed, but it should be around the waist of the jacket and the wearer’s natural waist. This is usually at the navel or an inch or two above it. The position of the navel can vary from person to person, so it’s not an ideal point of reference. The button functions best around the waist since that’s where the body pivots. The jacket moves the best with the body when the waist button is at the natural waist. Alan Flusser writes about the ideal button stance in Dressing the Man: “The placement of the coat’s waist button should divide the body so that the torso and legs appear at maximum length.”

Some tailors, like Anderson & Sheppard, have a system that measures exactly where that button should be, whilst others eyeball the position. The position of the waist button is placed first and the others around it. Some like to place the button on a button one jacket lower than the top button on a button two, which can sometimes provide a better visual balance, but that’s more relevant with today’s trend toward a higher button stance.

The jacket’s waist button should feel like it’s in a natural place. Without any clothes on and without looking in a mirror, reach on your body for where you expect the button to be. Most likely, you’re naturally going to reach for where the waist button should go.

1973
A well-placed button stance on a well-proportioned jacket in Live and Let Die

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the button stance was very consistent on all of Bond’s suit coats and sports coats and placed slightly below the waist, around the height of the navel. This is a lower stance than what is most commonly seen today, but it flows well with the body. It comfortably hugs the jacket around the waist, and being a little lower than halfway down the jacket it emphasizes V-shape of a man’s torso and makes him look more athletic. A low button stance gives prominence to the chest and torso and the expense of leg length, while a low button stance emphasises both the length of the legs and the width of the hips.

A View to a Kill Tan Suit
A very low button stance on an otherwise classic-cut suit in A View to a KIll

In the 1980’s the button stance on Bond’s suit jackets lowered a bit more to follow the trend made popular by designers like Armani. Thankfully that’s the only trend of the 1980’s Roger Moore’s suits followed. A very low button stance gives the suit a more relaxed look than a higher button stance and further emphasizes a the torso, but it does at the cost of making the legs look shorter. Though Roger Moore has longer legs that can work with this style, it’s not as flattering on the majority of men. Moore’s double-breasted jackets by Douglas Hayward in the 1980s had the same low button stance as the single-breasted jackets. As opposed to the single-breasted jacket with a low button stance, the low-buttoning double-breasted jacket is flattering to the shorter man because of the long, sweeping lapel.

Charcoal Windowpane-Cream Shirt
A fashionably low buttoning, button-three suit in GoldenEye

Timothy Dalton’s suits continued with the lower 1980s button stance. Pierce Brosnan’s suits in the 1990s also had a low button stance, but it was balanced by a longer jacket length.

For Die Another Day in 2002 the button stance is raised to higher than Bond’s suits had ever buttoned before. The fastening button is now exactly halfway down the jacket at the waist, though it doesn’t flatter Pierce Brosnan so much now that his waist is larger than his small chest. Daniel Craig’s suits in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace stick with the same balanced button stance, halfway down the jacket. As opposed to Pierce Brosnan, this button stance is great for Daniel Craig, and it works well for most people.

The modern button stance: higher on the waist.

The button stance in Skyfall has gone against the current trend and moved down slightly to the natural waist, but it looks a lot lower than it is because the jacket is shorter. And because the jacket is shorter, if the button were placed in the middle of the jacket it would be too high. That’s the mistake most fashionably short jackets make. They position the button in the middle of the jacket, which would be fine on a traditional-length jacket but ends up being too high for the person wearing it.

In the second half of the aughts it was fashionable to place the button stance on a traditional-length jacket above the waist, and that trend has still carried over with some makers. It’s especially unflattering with the low-rise trousers that are so often paired with that style jacket because it shows shirt below the waist button. But now the bottom of the jacket has come up to, putting the high button in proportion with the jacket. Not following the trend and keeping the button stance low on Daniel Craig’s suits in Skyfall was one of the better decisions made by the film’s costumiers. However, keeping the button stance at the lower, traditional height emphasizes how short the jacket is.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Matt,
    Thanks for the very informative post, it helps to underscore one of the reasons why the Douglas Hayward suits for Roger Moore always seemed to be a little “off” to my eye, and why I prefer the earlier Cyril Castle suits.

  2. Excellent post Matt, and I nice tour through sartorial history. The Connery an first Moore photos above show really nicely balanced jackets – that Live and Let Die one is near perfect. I don’t mind a low button stance (it works well for me personally), but the longer jackets of the late 1990s looked “off” to my eye. I think I still have one from Burberry from 1999, and it is really long. Good point about the Skyfall suits too.

  3. The combination of the higher button position coupled with the lower rise trouser, as one sees now, is for me, disturbing to the eye. Even if one wears a jacket with a lower button stance than is currently fashionable as I do myself (it works for my height and leg length as well as being simply more aesthetically pleasing to me personally) another factor which comes into play is tie length. Ties, in general, seem to have become longer in length over the years (ties from the 1960’s and 1970’s seemed to have a noticeably shorter length) and naturally, especially with this current trend, this results in the bottom of the tie showing along with the shirt between jacket and trouser top. Not a nice look. A shorter tie (though nothing as short as Connery’s awful pink “DAF” tie though) would not come as far down as the waist of the trouser and would end behind the portion of jacket where the button lies.

    I’m not entirely sure what is served by having a longer length tie anyway.

    • I have always operated under the assumption that the end of the tie should fall just above the waste, with the tip touching the trouser, or just above. Given my compact torso, it is virtually impossible for me to tie a four-in-hand or even a single windsor any shorter than this.

      Is there a well settled rule here Matt?

      • It’s generally recommended that the front blade of the tie hit the middle of the waistband. With a classically-fitted suit, this makes sense. If you’re going to wear a suit with a high button stance and low-rise trousers, something is going to show below the button. And whether the shirt or ties shows, both look unattractive. Because trousers sit lower now, ties are being made longer. I usually tuck the narrow blade into my trousers, which is necessary on all but a few of my ties.

      • Interesting–thanks. I wear suits with a classic button stance in an attempt to offset the difficulties caused by a lower-rising trouser.

    • David, you got a point there. And being tall or having a long torso doesn’t mean the tie length will be correct. I am rather tall myself but for a four-in-hand knot and natural rise trousers, the tie length is much too long. Moreover, long ties, as opposed to bowties, make the wearer look taller and slimmer, and that’s not an advantage for some physiques. Perhaps that’s why ties are so long ; todays’ current fashion trends deal with tall and slim men, wearing jackets and trousers whose lapels and trousers rise are made to make them look even taller and slimmer. I don’t get the interest of it…
      Personnally, I think bowties could be a solution -it’s better than having to wear a windsor or a double windsor knot, which isn’t pleasant to the eyes of everybody-, or then having some ties shortened, like I do sometimes. But the tie length problem is not a 2010s special problem, I think. In the 30s -40s ties were rather short and worn with high rise trousers, but in the 60s for example, the problem of the length of the tie is present ; we see it in Connery’s outfit from Marnie or even in From Russia with love ; his tie worn with the Somerset suit is rather long to my eyes (but perhaps I am too much of a maniac too !).

  4. I guess the perfect solution is to have a made-to-measure tie, so one could choose his own length (and width). Or then tie makers should offer different length available, that would be nice. I believe Drake’s offer different tie length, but that’s all I know.

  5. Matt, what kind of button stance would you recommend for a person that would be roughly the same height of Connery, with roughly his drop but not his weight (to be simple, not athletic, just skinny) ? The same one ? Thanks !

  6. Fully agree with David. With modern 2 button jackets the sight of the shirt between the fastened button and trousers looks shabby and gives the impression of the jacket being at least one, if not two sizes too small. I understand that the whole sartorial point of having high rise trousers without a belt is that this gap should not be seen and the suit should flow harmoniously into one whole appearance. Problem is that they inevitably slip down during the day.

  7. Matt. I know this is an older post but I wanted to ask about button stance. Am I correct in thinking that a good looking stance on an average size man is on the bellybutton? Which also ties in with the natural-waist trouser rise?
    Cheers
    Ryan

  8. Matt, great article. Can I suggest, when considering button placement, to have the button placed one thumb length of the wearer (to the knuckle) above the belly button. Unless the torso proportion is unusual this should give the ideal placement.

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