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Historically there was a button under the opposite lapel so that the coat could be fully closed in bad weather.

The buttonhole is also used to hold a flower.

Neither of these is done often any more.
Two separate types of buttonholes. Both of which appear on the coat below, from Orvis:


The little tab in the notch of the left lapel corresponds to an unseen button under the other lapel, so that the coat can be buttoned up all the way to the neck.

The buttonhole on the lapel itself is for a boutonniere - a flower which is trimmed below the bloom and wrapped with florists' tape so that the stem can be put through the hole. Some coats have a loop on the back of the lapel to hold the end of the stem.

As to whether it's OK to leave it off - it's unlikely you'll wear a boutonniere, so it doesn't serve any actual purpose. Leaving it off will either a) make people think that you consciously chose to leave it off, and you have great style and taste becauce you're so meticulous about the details of what you wear, or b) you bought a jacket so cheap they didn't want to spend the extra $1.50 to put on a buttonhole.

Obviously, the rest of the garment will dictate which of these two groups people think you fall in. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
miket61: I'll go with a). Thanks for the response. I just thought when thee tailor asked if I wanted one, I thought it looked cleaner without and as I could not think of a reason have one, I decided to leave it off. These days, why would anyone where a boutonnière on a suit jacket, especially if the suit is a business suit? People would think you were off your rocker. :p
I can see for a tux - as one would be highly likely to wear a flower on their lapel with a tux.

BTW - what would you call a coat like the one pictured? I really like that it has the buttonhole to close the jacket with. Do you think something like that would be out of place on a traditional, everyday blazer?
 

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I would still put one on there, just in case. You never know when a suit could benefit from a flower. A suit without one seems, well, incomplete! To me it would be like leaving off the breast pocket -- where then will you put a pocket square?
 

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The tab on the collar of the Orvis jacket fastens to a button on the underside of the opposite collar (not lapel). I believe this is called a throat latch.

I was describing a storm button -- a button high on the chest of the jacket, under the right lapel, that fastens to the lapel buttonhole.

A jacket could have both a throat latch and a storm button.

Throat latches are also made as a separate strip of cloth with two buttonholes that buttons to the underside of the collar on both sides. This can be concealed under one side of the collar when not needed.
 

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I would have one put in just in case.

Also, today is Rememberance Sunday so you need that buttonhole to slip your poppy in!

I have a morning coat, DJ and tails without buttonholes which I found rather odd. I had to have them put in by the tailors.
 

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On a couple of my earliest MTM suits, I opted out of having a lapel buttonhole. A mistake. It looked fine, I guess, but it was annoying not to have anywhere to put a poppy around this time of year or a flower if the mood took me at other times of year.
 

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The lapel buttonhole is also used for the smallest version of decorations (medals and chivalric orders), the rosette.
Nothing wrong with not having one as many people never need it, still should you need one and not have it it would be somewhat annoying.
 

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Buttonholes are also useful for such things as museum entry pins, which must be bent around a convenient edge.

I had a suit and a dinner jacket that came without (I'd assumed they would be with, but that wasn't standard...). There was maybe one occasion when I needed a flower for the DJ, and I'm probably going to have one put on the suit before next spring. It feels sort of naked without it.

Taking the other side are (mostly American) tailors such as Chipp, who see the whole enterprise of cutting the face of a perfectly good lapel and then handing it off to a buttonholer as too much of a risk. The cost of screwing it up, should it happen, is high indeed.
 

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I have a tailcoat without a hole and my brother's choir tuxedo does not have a button hole. All of my suit jackets have the stitching, but only one of them actually has a hole. So far as I know it is now customary to pin a boutonniere onto the lapel, rather than stick it through the hole, if there even is one.
 

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This past weekend mi esposa and I took a short cruise down to Mexico and back where she was one of the speakers to a group of other lawyers. I opted to take my cream dinner jacket for the formal dinner on Friday evening. Sadly, the ship's gift ship carried only roses, but I noticed during dinner that the centerpieces on the table some nice yellow daisies. As we were leaving dinner I freed one of the blossoms from its certain fate in the ship's garbage hold and placed it my buttonhole where it comfortably danced the rest of the night away.

That is what a buttonhole is for.
 
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