A common blunder I see many men make is buttoning up all of the buttons on their outerwear (e.g. pea coats) and/or cardigan sweaters.
This is an amateur move. Right up there with matching your pocket square with your tie.
The problem with fastening all of the buttons like this is that it creates an overly stiff aesthetic. By leaving at least the top and bottom button undone on your outerwear and cardigans not only do you create a more relaxed appearance, but you also give a nod to tradition.
Allow me to explain.
The story goes that King Edward VII started the tradition of leaving the bottom button undone because he couldn’t quite close his jacket or waistcoat over his large waist. Members of his court quickly followed suit and before long the trend caught on with the wider public.
Another story contends that the tradition of leaving the bottom button undone served a functional purpose for gentlemen on horseback because it prevented the waistcoat from riding up on the wearer.
There are a few other origin stories floating around out there about leaving the bottom button undone, all of which seem as reasonable as the next.
Regardless of the true reason why we leave the bottom button undone on a jacket, it has now become a standard practice in menswear.
By leaving the bottom button undone on your outerwear or cardigan sweaters you immediately signal to the broader world that you understand tradition and that you pay attention to the right details.
Additionally, leaving the bottom button undone allows the garment to drape better and create a more pleasing silhouette. In fact, I recommend men leave the top and bottom button undone on items like pea coats and cardigan sweaters. It adds a carefree aesthetic/vibe to your style that is very much in line with the concept of sprezzatura.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
The same rule applies to top coats, denim jackets, and Barbour jackets etc.
One again you can see how this creates a more laid back aesthetic. This is how guys “in the know” wear there outerwear pieces. It’s stylish, classy, and just looks good, period.
Minding the right details is a key aspect to developing a good sense of style. How you button up a jacket or sweater may seem like a trivial matter but it’s not. It really does make a difference in how you look.
By leaving at least the top and bottom button undone on your outerwear and cardigan sweaters not only do you create a more relaxed, unstudied look, but you also pay homage to tradition.
Remember this detail the next time you throw on your favourite pea coat or cardigan sweater.
Here’s to looking sharp!