The 3 button suit is probably the second most popular suit style, after the 2 button. However, it always generates a bit of a debate.
Many people think that the three button says “I love the 90s” However, from the 1800s until about WWII, the three button was THE standard suit style. It wasn’t until the after war that the two button really got popular and took off. I think it gets a bad rap and can look good on the right guy. It definitely is a better choice for a taller guy, or if you commonly wear vests with it.
Several terms that you’ll hear with three button suits are the roll and lapel. Here’s what they mean:
3 roll 2 - This is the most common form. The jacket has three buttons, but the top button is part of the label and not meant to be buttoned, or more likely, can’t be buttoned. You’ll only really be able to button the middle button.
3 roll 2.5 – This is another popular style. This means that the jacket’s top button could be buttoned, however it again is not meant to be without pulling the lapel roll. As with the roll 2 , usually you will just button the middle button.
True 3 – Has three buttons, all of which can be buttoned. You should only normally button the top two though.
Once a jacket is cut a certain way, it is very difficult, and probably expensive, to change the roll pattern. Keep that in mind if you are looking at a used or off-the-rack suit.
Why would you have buttons that can’t be buttoned? Originally the buttons were meant to be buttoned as a way to close the lapel against cold weather. Nowadays, most men wear overcoats when its cold out and the suit jackets are more of a style thing. Some people do find that the button in the lapel does look a little strange.