Dress shirts, suits and formal wear: everything you need to know about buttonholes


When it comes to weddings, everyone knows that the star of the show is the bride, who the groom must nervously await at the altar to say, ‘I do.’

But one particular detail tends to make all the difference when it comes to the groom's suit, and it’s often overlooked, despite being incredibly important, given that it makes a frequent appearance in photographs of the big day, just like your cufflinks and wedding band: we’re talking about buttonholes.

From the French word boutonniere, buttonholes are threaded through the eyelet on the jacket’s left-hand collar, above the heart. Over time, the two terms have gradually come to mean the same thing, and the world buttonhole is now often used to refer to the flower itself, which is placed through the buttonhole. But as you can imagine, they are two very different things.

Sitting in pride of place on an elegant dress shirt paired with a stylish suit, buttonholes can also be worn by close family members, such as witnesses and brothers. In high society, the small flower arrangement used for the groom's buttonhole tends to be coordinated with the bride's bouquet or, if the flowers are too large, it will at the very least match the bride’s chosen style and colour palette.

Rule number two: never pin a flower directly onto your lapel. It should always be threaded through the eyelet. And if your jacket doesn’t have an eyelet or buttonhole, we recommend getting a trusted tailor to make an alteration – because it’s a key detail.

According to the rules of etiquette, buttonhole flowers must be small and draw inspiration from the seasons. In spring, the most popular choices are freesias, daffodils and orchids, while lilies, gardenias and roses are perfect for the summer months, and gentians and irises are great for Autumn. And last but not least, you’ll often find camellias and Christmas roses on buttonholes during winter ceremonies.

A rustic, country style ceremony might suit jute or wildflowers instead, for a youthful and fresh look.

Flowers and foliage not for you? You could also opt for a classic brooch, a perfect choice for vintage, boho-chic or alternative weddings.

And if your wedding has a somewhat retro feel to it, why not pair your suit with an antique artefact, such as a vintage key or pocket watch.

It's entirely up to you: already got an idea about how to customise the buttonhole on your next dress shirt?

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