Mens' fashion mavens: Are 3-button suits still in style?

A pal who gained a bit of weight gave me a few very nice suits that no longer fit him. With a few minor alterations they should fit me fine. Most of them have 3-button jackets, however, which I’ve always thought of as a fairly conspicuous style feature. Now I know that the 3-button look was all the rage a few years back. But is it still? If wearing these suits is a major Glamour “Don’t”* I might think twice before I spend money at the tailor. It’s not like I have to look like I just stepped off a Milan runway, but I certainly don’t want to look like I just got unfrozen from some suspended animation experiment set in 1998.

Please advise.

And thanks all, in advance.

  • Does Glamour Mag still do that? In fact, does Glamour Mag even still exist???

Gee, I had no idea this was such a tough question.


What are the suits for? Are you going to be wearing them to some trendy NY or LA hot spot, or just wear them to the office? If it’s the latter, then I’d say go ahead and wear them, no one is going to give a flying fuck.

Yes and Yes.

How far up does the front of the jacket come? I believe that but there are still some featured here. And here, which claims to be current styles. What types of fabrics are they?

Mostly the office, but also to NYC afterwork spots as well.

I was just browsing through a sale at Harold’s in a local mall, $400 jackets on sale for $250! (no, I didn’t buy any). They were all three-button. Now, I wouldn’t call Harold’s trendy, it’s more a traditional, classic (preppy?) kind of style I guess. So, I think you may be safe if that’s the look you’re after.

A charcoal single-breasted 3 button suit with modest lapels with or without subtle vertical pinstriping is never out.

I agree with Hawthorne. It’s all in the lapels when you’re talking three buttons these days. If they’re the kind with very short lapels and you can see all three buttons, then no they’re not the height of style. If they’re the kind where the bottom of the lapels gently curls over the top button leaving just two buttons to be really seen, they they’re fine. That’s really a rather traditional style in suit jackets and will never go all the way out of style.

Of course, depending on your body type two button suits may never be an option as they work best with a slim jacket and narrow shoulder profile. As long as they’re quality suits (on the jackets, can you pull the fabric away from the backing? if so they’re not great suits and will wear out quicker than ones that are sewn to the backing, preventing wrinkling and curling.)

The only real “no-no” are the ESPN Basketball 6 button style jackets that look horrible and out of date on everyone.

Question: why are jacket pockets sewn closed? Seems like a waste of effort to make jackets with non-functional pockets.

Jacket pockets are mostly for show (now), like buttons on sleeves. If one stuffs junk in the pockets, it breaks the clean lines of the jacket. Same with putting a fat wallet in the inside pocket, so that it looks like one is packing heat.

Not only does it break the lines of the jacket, but habitual use of the outside pockets will cause them to lose shape and balloon out, ruining the jacket to some effect. They’re really just ceremonial, like the button hole in the lapel that originated as a place to affix a cord that would stop your hat from blowing away on windy days. Tailoring is rife with tradition.

What would you put in the pockets anyway? Not that’s it is in any way practical, but in theory a well dressed man shouldn’t be packing much stuff on his person anyway. A billfold (not a wallet) or a money clip to hold an ID, some cash and some credit cards is preferred, and perhaps some smokes and a lighter in your inside pocket. Everything else should be in a briefcase. As for cell phones, the really strict will say into the briefcase they go, but those with the cash to seriously worry about this kind of thing will generally have a thin phone that fits well in a pants pocket.