The suit jacket’s sleeve buttons aren’t complex. As a matter of fact, the number of suit sleeve buttons hardly matters.
What matters is your intentional choice of these buttons (and their style).
Knowing the nuances of the formality of sleeve buttons would be an additional appreciation of your sartorial testament.
Let’s dive into these seemingly minor details and their use as aesthetically powerful statements.
Understanding the Number of Suit Sleeve Buttons
Why do different suit sleeve buttons exist in the first place? The simplest explanation is to complement your jacket closure buttons.
There is some history that various sleeve buttons made it easy to roll up the functional sleeves.
But the number of buttons on your suit sleeve is, nowadays, an expression of personal style.
Also, these buttons keep the formality in check. The rule of thumb is that the more buttons your suit jacket sleeve has, the more formal your style will be.
Four or More Buttons
Four is the de facto button number for the suit jacket sleeves. The reason is these buttons are an ideal balance of formality with style.
In addition, you can effortlessly express the craftsmanship by showcasing a bare buttonhole.
Designers like Tom Ford go one step above with five sleeve buttons.
More than five sleeve buttons are just too much. It’s a thing better to stay away from.
Three-Button Suit Sleeve
As they say, “Your first made-to-measure suit is a big leap towards improving your suit game.”
Besides many things I could recall, my first MTM suit had a three-button suit sleeve.
I enjoy it because the three-suit sleeve buttons have a sporty flair with timeless formality.
Your business suits can have it. But the three buttons are best matched with blazers and a sports jacket.
Similarly, suits with unstructured suit jackets are a good match to have a three-button suit sleeve.
Two-Button Suit Jacket Sleeve
Two-button suit jacket sleeves are a perfect match with your most contemporary looks.
For example, matching that beach wedding linen blazer or the off-guard patterned sports jacket.
The focus here is to get a minimal aesthetic with a casual style allure.
Despite its elegant sophistication, two suit jacket cuff buttons are scarce and aren’t business-appropriate.
A one-button suit jacket sleeve represents a bygone style.
If ever, you’ll find this sleeve button style on casual sports coats.
Pulling off this style is also a hard thing to do. The only possible way is only with a single jacket closure button.
Different Suit Jacket Sleeve Button Styles
Most of the suit jackets you’ll see would have three or more suit jacket sleeve buttons. The obvious reason to choose more buttons is that they look formal and timeless.
More importantly, extra buttons mean you can experiment with different suit jacket sleeve button styles. Embrace these variations to showcase your personal style.
And if going with a bespoke suit, your suit sleeves would be a subtle indicator of craftsmanship.
Standard Sleeve Buttons
Evenly spaced and aligned in a straight row, these sleeve buttons are pretty much the industry “standard.”
Almost all off-the-rack jackets and custom suits intrinsically featured this button style until Italian brands like Zegna presented the kissing buttons.
Still, that doesn’t mean they’re boring. This simple sleeve button style comes with impeccable versatility.
Also, you can’t go wrong with standard sleeve buttons, whether wearing a professional business suit jacket or a casual blazer.
Angled Sleeve Buttonholes
Sometimes, suit jacket sleeve buttonholes can have an angle, with a buttonhole slanting around 45 degrees.
It’s a style that’s unconventional and, therefore, eye-catching. Most often, gentlemen wear angled sleeve buttonholes to express a fashion-forward style.
Style savants sometimes style these for effortless distinction. Many even wear metal buttons to draw attention to these unique buttonholes.
Waterfall Sleeve Buttons
Also known as “kissing stacked,” these jacket sleeve buttons visibly overlap, thus looking like a waterfall.
Waterfall buttons add-in a cheeky flair to an otherwise boring suit jacket sleeve. It’s a button style for those looking to mark a distinction.
Most off-the-rack jackets feature this style, and that might look tacky.
Therefore, don’t choose this sleeve button style with high-quality suits or sleeves with working cuffs.
Kissing Nonstacked Buttons
Nonstacked means the buttons of your suit jacket sleeve barely touch in a straight line.
I like to think of this as if buttons are caressing each other. Note that these never overlap.
With their descent from Naples (Italy), kissing buttons are generally associated with more contemporary European suit styles.
Today, both stacked and nonstacked kissing buttons represent a high-quality suit.
Why Are Suit Sleeves Buttons Non-Functional?
It’s rare for people to notice if you’ve functional or non-functional sleeve buttons. The reason is modern fashion primarily focuses on decorative elements rather than craftsmanship.
But there are some practical reasons to have non-functional sleeve buttons.
The biggest of them is that you can customize the fit. An off-the-rack suit jacket is made to fit as many body types as possible.
So, having non-functional buttons here means easy alternation in sleeve length.
That way, it’s easy to maintain the fabric consistency with non-functional sleeve buttons.
Another reason is the price. Non-functional sleeve buttons are usually less expensive.
Surgeon’s Cuffs: Functional Suit Jacket Sleeve Buttons
Back in the day, everyone used to wear suits. So do surgeons when they operate.
It was practical to have working sleeve buttons as this helped to roll up the sleeves. Therefore, the name surgeon’s cuff came into being for functional sleeve buttons.
Bespoke tailoring took inspiration from these practical sleeves to create a masterpiece of craftsmanship.
With this history, the functional suit jacket sleeve buttons now represent a subtle attribute of a high-quality garment.
It’s also an elegant way to showcase your appreciation for the artistry of tailoring.
Style Tips for the Working Suit Jacket Cuffs
If you spend the money on a quality suit with working suit jacket cuffs, it’s good if people appreciate it.
But don’t try hard. Embrace the style and be subtle. Believe me, everyone will notice.
Only unbutton one button to showcase the working buttonholes. Similarly, symmetrically unbutton both sleeves.
Make sure the occasion and the fit complement your jacket cuffs. It’s best to wear a working suit jacket cuffs for formal occasions.
Proper sleeve length and the visible shirt cuff underneath are important to create a polished look.
Gently buttoning and unbuttoning the sleeve buttons would be helpful to preserve the fabric’s integrity.
Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.