The “three-roll-two” jacket has become, since a few years, a staple in most gentlemen’s wardrobe, and is also a common idiosyncrasy of the single-breasted Neapolitan style (including the best-selling configuration for the Brooks Brother’s sack suit in the USA).
For those among our readers who do not know what we are speaking of, a three-roll-two jacket is a jacket that features 3 buttons holes and three buttons, but with only the middle button intended to be used. These jackets are usually pressed to roll directly to the middle button. The upper button hole is practically invisible to the eye, as it is sewed inside the lapel roll.
But what is the history behind this strange buttoning configuration, by which tailors work hard to create two-button holes (by hand if it’s a bespoke jacket) that will never be used ?
In the sartorial world, as in many other worlds, the origins of certain details are obscure. For the three-roll-two jacket, however, Brooks Brothers’ explanation seems to be a plausible one : Unable to afford two buttons jackets when three button jackets became passé, at the beginning of the 20th century, college students pressed back the lapels of their old jackets in order to transform them into two buttons coats.
According to this explanation, the origin of the three-roll-two jacket is based on an economical reaction, which we must admit, is not very glamourous. It is a story remeniscent of the reasoning behind why we never button the last button of our jackets : i.e., the portly King Edward VII was simply unable to button the last button of his coats and his vests because of his big belly…and the people followed the trend.
Isn’t it funny that those two sartorial habits which we consider to be refined and elegant today, are stemming from utilitarian problems like a lack of money and a large belly ? I would have preferred that these two practices had stemmed from a rebellious act against the statu quo or, at least, a daring stylistic statement from an artistic or sartorialist movement.
These two stories also open a broader subject that I’ve planned to tackle for a while, weighing the relationship between “Style and Substance”.
In his book “The Economics of Attention”, author Richard A. Lanham suggests a few ideas that will be the basis of my future writing (and research). He says : “Style and substance, fluff and stuff, are loose and baggy categories but useful ones even so. Important versus peripheral, planned versus spontaneous, natural versus mannered, appearance versus reality, inside versus outside, why versus how, manner versus matter : we must make such distinctions every day. Confusingly enough, though, such pairings describe both the world and what we think is important in it…”
Style and substance should work hand in hand, otherwise if the object (dressing well with taste) becomes the subject (you), then your quest can risk becoming soulless and egocentric. Let’s explore soon…
And by the way, I love the three-roll-two jackets (as you can see below).