Style Basics

About that lapel buttonhole

By on June 9th, 2017

Does it seem odd to have a lapel buttonhole on your jacket, but no button on the opposite side? Why is it even there in the first place?

Like so many things in menswear, there are a handful of origin stories. Many of which have very practical beginnings. The story of the lapel button hole is no different.

The origin stories

There was a time when men would wear dress hats with an elastic cord with a button on the end. This button on a string was used to fasten to your jacket lapel. Therefore, in windy conditions, you wouldn’t lose your hat if it blew off. It doesn’t get more practical than that!

Another story is that at one point there actually was a button on the opposite suit lapel buttonhole, but on the underside. This way you could button the coat all the way up in chilly weather. I think this is a great idea, especially since you can’t see the button with it being on the underside of the lapel.

Yet another origin story is that when Prince Albert (1819 – 1861)1 was presented a small bouquet of flowers by his bride, Queen Victoria, cut a small hole in his jacket lapel and wore the flowers. His tailor then made the smart move to include a small hole on the left lapel of all of his jackets. Needless to say, the trend caught on and it became the now standard lapel buttonhole.

The lapel buttonhole today

Fast forward to today, and that buttonhole is used largely for flowers, lapel pins, or boutonnieres. And especially popular with suits and sport coats in the summer time.

By the way, in Europe this lapel buttonhole is called a boutonniere, while in the US, a boutonniere refers to the floral arrangement.

everything you need to know about the lapel buttonhole

It’s important to note that whether you opt for a single flower or a boutonniere, that you put it through the lapel buttonhole versus pinning directly to the fabric. There are some cases, however, where it may be best to let your florist arrange the boutonniere as he/she likes. But generally speaking, always place a flower directly through this hole. If you look closely on well made jackets, you’ll see that there is a small bit of thread running horizontal on the backside of your jacket lapel, just below the lapel buttonhole. This is where your flower stem goes. It’s a neat little trick to keeping everything in place.

the underside of a lapel buttonhole

So, there you have it! A little helpful background on your lapel buttonhole.

And here’s a pro tip: have your tailor install a small button on the backside of your opposite lapel buttonhole such that you can button up all the way in the fall and winter months. And during summer, don’t forget to put that buttonhole to good use and put a flower in there.

Looking for inspiration? Here’s some photos of real wedding couples with plenty of sharp looking bouts.