Lapel flower, boutonnière, or simply buttonhole (if you’re British), all different words for proof of the wearer’s masculinity, confidence, and elegance. This is all about elegance and personal charm. The possibilities are near-endless and there is a long lineage of wearers to take inspiration from. Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, Prince Charles, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, Adolphe Menjou, Sean Connery – the list of illustrious wearers is a veritable who’s who of legendary dressmen.
Another term that we mustn’t neglect is that of the lapel pin flower, as it hints at a key issue with many boutonnières. When you pin something to your lapel, it will make a hole. Be it a safety pin, a metal clip, or a hook that is given the dignified task of holding gentleman’s lapel flower, all will damage the wearer’s suit and test his patience. Add gravity and time into the mix and the results can be catastrophic. If you’re preparing for your wedding, heed this own tip: Less is more. Avoid large bouquets in your lapel, adorned with pearls et al. Let us take advice from history. During the French Revolution, aristocrats would wear a single lapel flower as a symbol of fearlessness on the way to their execution. When it comes to your wedding, be fearless and wear something simple. Final suggestion, don’t lose your head.
Fresh flowers in your buttonhole
A fresh flower in your buttonhole is a charming and personal thing. However, keep in mind that flowers need water. Some flowers are more resistant to the vicissitudes of time, like the classic red or white carnation. However, and this counts for all of life, even the best flowers wilt. To make a boutonnière last longer, there are various types of buttonhole vases on the market. Generally, these are small pipes that are attached with a needle or a clip and provide the stem of the flower with a small amount of water. While indeed ingenious, they are terribly impractical and all too few are attractive in the slightest. Another argument against natural flowers in your lapel is that flowers grow upward, whereas boutonnières are meant to be forward-facing. This leads to the issue of having to bend the flower. This often only partially works, and the flower will continuously slip. Finally, if you do opt for a fresh flower, we would recommend attaching a support to the stem to make sure it stays in place. Alternatively, we would recommend choosing a silk lapel flower and avoiding all of the drama described above.
Hercule Poirot and the silver buttonhole vase
Fans of the series will surely have noted that the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is often seen wearing a small silver buttonhole vase with a flower in it in his lapel. It is, quite simply very elegant and eccentric. The downside is that is attached by a needle. This silver buttonhole vase is a Victorian invention often called a ‘tussie mussie’. If this all sounds too unlikely, do feel free to google it. These vases are often shaped like ice cream cones and are only rarely as flat as Poirot’s. A small wooden rod is used to push some moss into the vase, with which one affixes the flower. It looks very elegant and will greatly enhance the life cycle of your natural boutonnière. The original buttonhole vase for David Suchet’s Poirot was designed by New Zealand jewellery maker Gavan Riley. It is called ‘Amphora’.
Basic requirement: The buttonhole
Many jackets purchased off the rack will have a closed lapel buttonhole. However, any alterations tailor can easily open it for you. Alternatively, opt for a bespoke or made-to-measure suit with a handsewn lapel buttonhole. Our preferred choice is the so-called Milanese buttonhole, for which a thread is very finely stitched around another stabilising thread (known as a gimp) to give it an elegant and prominent finish and make it more resistant to the wear and tear of daily use. For all things boutonnière, we’d recommend picking up Umberto Angeloni’s seminal work The Boutonnière - Style in One's lapel. Known for his tailoring work with Brioni, Angeloni’s writing is amusing, accurate, entertaining, and accompanied by wonderful illustrations.
Without wishing to sound like snobs: Crocheted boutonnières are only suited for rustic occasions and only when it is your grandmother who has done the crocheting. They look like little balls of fabric imitating a flower in the vaguest sense. We won’t even discuss wooden or plastic models. The only true replacement for natural flowers is the silk boutonnière. True-to-life silk boutonnières with silk-wrapped wire stems have been hand-made in Saxony since 1834. For more information on our silk boutonnières, made in Saxony using traditional techniques and the history of Saxon silk boutonnière production, visit our overview page. Visit often to see our evolving range of beautiful silk lapel flowers. In this image, you can see Maximilian Mogg wearing a white carnation with his black double-breasted dinner suit. It would be a shame to wear something so beautiful on only one special occasion. We believe boutonnières should retake their rightful place in the day-to-day life of the elegant gentleman.
Author: Andreas Thenhaus
Photos: Flory Gründig, Maximilian Mogg, Joost Bom, Lars Koel
Translator: Daniel Paul Finbar Carey