Benjamin writes to ask: I inherited a handful of my grandfather’s tasteful suits a few years ago and am slowly having them tailored and integrated into my wardrobe. Among my favorites are a very classic Brooks Brothers navy blazer and a cotton khaki suit. Both include three-button jackets, however the lapels were folded as two-buttons leaving the third button hole exposed on the lower part of the lapel. Being under 6’, I tend to prefer a two-button jacket, so I would like to keep them folded the way they are now. But I would also like to know a little more about the style, what’s the deal here? Was it a style years ago? Is it considered tacky?
What you’ve got is probably the most classic suit buttoning style, the 3-roll-2: three buttons, with a roll in the lapel that rolls under the top button, making the coat functionally a two-button.
Three-button suits were the style of the “Friends” era, and two buttons the style of the “Cheers” era. The 3-roll-2 is a compromise. It’s found on many Savile Row single-breasteds, and is the classic buttoning for the undarted Ivy League-style “sack” suit. It’s the opposite of tacky – the epitome of class.
The great challenge will be preserving the lapel roll as such. On cheap and mishandled suits, the lapel doesn’t roll at all – it folds. Often dry cleaners will press the lapel down into the chest of the suit, flattening out the suit’s three-dimensional shape. They’ll also often press a 3-roll-2 into an awkward three-button, so be vigilant. A good tailor can steam the lapel roll for you to preserve its shape.