26 June 2009


Like I always say, menswear is all about the smallest of details. Take for example buttons. The right or wrong buttons can make or break a good looking jacket. Keep this in mind when thrift shopping. In the past, I've said that it's a good skill to look at menswear as raw material, and to know what difference a good tailor can make. Sometimes, a couple of bucks and a new set of buttons are all that is needed to turn trash into treasure.

Readers may remember this jacket. A madras sport coat purchased in freezing cold weather. one of my famous off season purchases, in storage until recently:This jacket is made of thin, lightweight cotton, and I love the uncharacteristically muted color scheme. Those floral brass buttons, on the other hand are ghastly. They give the jacket an extremely dated 1960's look, and not in a good way.For four bucks, these light brown horn buttons go a long way to freshening this coat up. Just like that, it's young and modern.

Then we have the pesky green suit. It fits well, and it was only $7.99. I have to admit, its a real pain to wear. It's difficult to match with things, and it has kind of a frumpy vibe, no matter how hard I try to alleviate this. Since I've bought it , I only wore it once.And there is also this killing tartan flannel. I love this jacket. It needs to be taken in a bit, but it's winter clothes, so it can wait for now:Back to the suit. Thrift stores are full of "orphans", suit jackets separated from their pants. As much as I hate this, I do have to break the rules every now and then. So the incongruous brass buttons from the tartan jacket get traded to the jacket of the green suit, producing a blazer that is infinitely more stylish and workable than the suit ever was or will be, plus a pair of pants to boot.Some of you may consider this a minor blasphemy, and you may be right. But some of you also considered the green suit to be a minor blasphemy in the first place, and that may also have been right. As I see it, I now have clothes I like, rather than a suit I felt compelled to buy because it was vintage and cheap and I couldn't help it. One of the glories of thrift shopping is that when stuff is so cheap, you can play around with it more freely, without the fear of accidentally ruining something expensive.

The tartan jacket is currently awaiting a set of braided brown leather buttons. A far better choice, in this fellows humble opinion.

In closing let me say that I switched all these buttons myself the other night while watching t.v. with one eye. Every man should know how to properly sew a button. No excuses. Its right up there with shining shoes and lighting a charcoal grill.


Emily said...

Do you ever go to Windsor Button (on Temple Place in Boston) for buttons? They have an excellent selection.

3button Max said...

actually bought 2 brooks bros damaged blazers for maybe 2 bucks a piece- 10 years ago-to harvest
(3 button) brass golden fleece button sets- and have saved bone buttons from tweeds for later use,more than i needes I guess,
enjoy your blog..

Young Fogey said...

1. Welcome back!

2. Great ideas on changing buttons to change the feel of a jacket.

3. I understand that sack jackets traditionally have a 3/2 roll and two buttons on the sleeve, and that this is your preferred look. Just out of curiosity, what is your opinion of non-sack jackets and 3 or 4 buttons on the sleeve?

pasquale said...

Have you noticed that Gay Talese has the stitching on his button holes changed to contrasting or bright colors? It's a nice touch but a job for the tailor I think.


ADG said...

Good to see you back. Great post.

David V said...

I couldn't agree more on men sewing on buttons.

We need to be self sufficient. I've thrifted a couple of trousers that where a couple of inches too long. I hemmed myself...with cuffs no less. That took more mental gymnastics then sewing skill.

Anonymous said...

very interesting post. I have never seen a "button" post in all of the sites that I visit, and it's true that they really do effect the clothing item in a big way. As your pictures show, it totally changed the look of the jacket. As for me, I have never tried to sew anything myself!

Pigtown*Design said...

a) welcome back. i am sure you were busy with the bambinos and didn't have time for posting.

b) when i lived in wales and haunted the charity shops in the small villages near me, i found that the elderly women who staffed the shops always cut the buttons off a piece of clothing that was otherwise not useful. they would attach them to cards with a couple of stitches, and sell them for about 50p for 4. i have a ton of mother of pearl buttons that are just gorgeous. now i've just got to find something fun to do with them.

DAM said...

Where have you gone off to?

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