Jacket Button Stance: What Is It, and Why Is It Important?

Have you ever noticed that some jackets look better on you than others, even with the same measurements?

Perhaps you’ve had a jacket at some point that has issues with tightness around the top buttoning point, even though the measurements say that everything should be correct. Or, a you’ve bought a regular length jacket off the rack that makes you look a bit short for some reason.

Chances are that any of these issues – especially if they’ve arisen from a contemporary off the rack jacket – are caused by a button stance that is too high.

Those of you who aren’t as familiar with sartorial lingo will be thinking; what is button stance?

Button stance is the distance between your jacket’s collar and the positioning of the buttons. A low button stance means the top button sits further from the jacket collar, while a high button stance means the button sits closer to the collar.

Why does it cause issues?

Simply put, the standard length of department store jackets has shortened over time. If you’ve recently tried on a suit or sport jacket from a mid tier brand at a department store like Myer or David Jones and noticed that the rear tails (vents) don’t extend long enough to cover your seat, this is because the jacket is too short.

How does this affect button stance?

When a jacket is cut shorter, the buttons need to be placed further from the bottom of the jacket in order to create a visually proportionate look.

This makes for a troublesome time: where the top button should normally be placed roughly in line with your natural waist, a short tailed jacket would look disproportionate at the front if it was to follow this rule.

A jacket that looks disproportionate on the rack won’t leave the rack, so the manufacturers raise the button stance. The consequence is that you’ll now be trying to button your jacket across your rib cage, which – providing you’re somewhat in shape – is likely to be wider than your natural waist. Here is an example of a button stance that is too high:

If done up, the lapels will bow out and X shaped pulling marks will appear around the buttoning point.

These are caused by the button stance being too high. On paper, this jacket should have fit me through the torso; the chest and waist measurements were adequate.

However, it was all ruined by the construction. Trying to pull fabric together over a chest and ribcage the size of mine is never going to work; which is why button stances are traditionally supposed to be lower.

So, what should a good button stance look like?

If you look to good quality jackets from upscale sartorial brands or that are made by tailors who know their stuff, you’ll see that the button stance is lower; closer to your natural waist. As a result, there shouldn’t be any prominent X shaped pulling or other nasty faults magically appearing when the jacket is buttoned.

Notice that these button stances aren’t drastically lower than on the problematic jacket shown before. I would hazard a guess that they’re probably only an inch lower.

However, this makes all of the difference; underneath the ribcage, human bodies have a tendency to taper in somewhat sharply to the natural waist line. Placing the button stance within this zone of taper allows the jacket to create waist suppression in the figure with cleaner lines.

Why? Simple. It’s creating a suppression effect on movable skin, rather than immovable bones.

The Other Benefit of Lower Button Stance

Another benefit of lower, more traditional button stance is that it creates a longer V zone in the torso. This, in turn, creates an effect of making the wearer look taller.

A higher button stance has the opposite effect, and can shorten the appearance of height.

For this, I’ll compare the two button jacket from before to a three button jacket that has a correct button stance.

These jackets are both of similar length, and the middle button of the three button jacket sits at a similar stance to the top button of the two button jacket. However, I look much taller in the photo on the left.

This is the effect created by button stance. It’s also why two button jackets are the standard fare in jacket design.

Conclusion: get your stance right.

Look for a button stance that sits somewhat close to your natural waist. It will help the jacket to fit better, it will help you look taller and most importantly it will help you look flatteringly proportionate.

Make sure you get the jacket length right too; if the tails don’t cover your seat, leave it on the rack.

That’s all for today!

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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