Tag Archives: business appearance

A Man’s Suit Coat: To Button or Not to Button

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Elegant businessman buttoning his suit coat.

To button or not to button is the age-old question when it comes to a man’s suit coat. Some men seem to know when to button, when to unbutton and which button to button under which circumstances. Others don’t seem to get it all. Perhaps you’ve noticed.

There is a high profile figure that I have in mind, but like Meryl Streep, I don’t want to name names. This person, who is seen almost daily in public, wears a suit and tie—that’s a good start—but he never has his suit coat buttoned. The example that he sets is not the one to follow. So I am here to set the record straight.

Now I am the first to admit that this is not the most important question you have to ponder, but if you want to show a touch of class and a bit of polish, you should know when to button a man’s suit coat and when to unbutton it.

First, let me give you a bit of history. How did the habit of leaving one button undone even come about? It seems that we have Edward VII to thank for this bit of fashion. That particular monarch was reportedly rather rotund so he found it difficult, if not impossible, to button the bottom button of his jacket or waistcoat. As a result, he got in the habit of leaving the bottom button undone. His subjects, out of respect or fear, followed suit (pardon the pun).

So today here is what we have for rules that govern a man’s suit coat–when it is correct to button or not to button:

  • When wearing a two-button coat, the top button is always buttoned. The bottom one never.
  • When wearing a three-button jacket, the middle button is fastened. The top one is optional and the bottom never.
  • When wearing a single-button coat, the button is always fastened.
  • When wearing a double-breasted jacket, button all those that have button holes.

Those rules for buttoning apply to when a man’s suit coat when he is standing. When seated, buttons are undone. This is for comfort as well as to keep the jacket from “bunching up” or to keep the bottom button from flying off–should the coat be a tad tight.

Simplified—as if it weren’t simple enough:

The traditional buttoning rule for a three button jacket – sometimes, always, never. That’s top button, middle, and bottom. For a two-button jacket – always, never. Or top button and bottom. And for a one-button jacket – always.

You might be tempted to say, “Who cares about the buttons on a man’s coat?”  Well, if you want to be viewed as someone who pays attention to detail, you do. You’d be surprised who notices and what they think about to button or not to button.

For your added amusement, try counting the number of times I have used the word button in this blog. For those who get it right, I will send you a link to my 21 Commandments of Business Etiquette. Simply email me at lydia@lydiaramsey.com with your response and correct email address. Better yet, complete my “Contact Lydia” form to receive your complimentary article.

While you are at it, let me know if you have a particular topic you want me to address or a question you would like answered.

You can find more information on business etiquette and modern manners in my book, Manners That Sell – Adding The PolishThat Builds Profits.

lydia_sm-e1393277822156Lydia Ramsey is business etiquette and modern manners expert, keynote speaker, seminar leader and author of Manners That Sell-Adding the Polish That Builds Profits. Based in Savannah, Georgia, she travels across the US and as far away as India and Dubai to work with clients that include universities, corporations, small businesses, associations and non-profit organizations. Her topics range from flip-flops to forks. Visit her website www.lydiaramsey.com for more information about her services and resources.

Your Business Etiquette IQ: Are You Hireable? Referable? Promotable?

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I recently received a newsletter from my friend and colleague Mark LeBlanc of Small Business Success. The title “Are You Referable” immediately caught my eye.  Mark  began his article by telling about a conference that he had attended and where he noted that most of the attendees were not referable.  He gave three reasons why he said he would not refer any of these people to anyone else he cared about.

  1. Poor dress
  2. Poor communication skills
  3. Poor behavior

Mark’s observations struck a chord with me.  As a business etiquette trainer, these are exactly the issues I address in my keynotes and seminars delivered to business people at all levels from new hires to experienced executives, from large corporations to small businesses.  Mark makes the point that most of these individuals knew better when they started out in their careers, but somewhere along the way they became complacent. They lost sight of the importance of good manners and basic etiquette skills in the workplace.. I have to agree.

In many of my business etiquette presentations, I find that those people who have achieved a certain level of success, decide that the soft skills aren’t so important after all. They believe that because of their expertise and experience that they can dress as they please, communicate as they please and behave as they please. And it is not only those who have made it, so to speak, but the newest generation entering the workplace has a “whatever” attitude.

In today’s tough economic times, that is dangerous thinking.There is too much competition to overlook the importance of professional appearance and conduct.So think about it. Are you hireable, referable and promotable? Do you look, speak and act like someone who deserves to be hired for the job, referred to other clients and promoted to the next level? If others are getting hired instead of you, if they are getting more new client referrals  or if you are being passed over for promotions, it is time to assess how you look and sound to other people.

It is all in perception. It is not how we see ourselves; it is how others see us.It is not how we feel about ourselves; it is how others feel about us. Basic business etiquette skills and good manners matter.

So what can you do about it?  Look into my business etiquette training courses, executive etiquette coaching and the many resources available on my website Manners That Sell.. From the way you dress, speak, write and eat (yes, I said eat), every detail counts. Now may be the time for you or your organization to consider adding the polish that builds profits.

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.