You can tell a man by his buttonholes

You can tell a man by his buttonholes

Released On 3rd Jun 2021

What do you notice when you are looking at a jacket or coat?

The styling, the fabric, the collar and rever? 

Yes well, all of those things are important, but here at Owen Barry one of the first things we observe is the buttonholes, the quality and finish of a tailored buttonhole can tell you so much about the designer or manufacturer of the garment and it is one of the key things that we are hugely passionate about.

There is a vast amount of skill and craftsmanship that goes into tailored buttonholes, if you aren't "into" buttonholes you might be thinking "there can't possibly be that much difference" but oh yes there is (take it from us) 

When you have finished this article you will never look at buttonholes the same way again - guaranteed!

The mass-produced buttonholes all look very much like the ones below, there is very little skill involved in the process, you just point the machine and press go !!: 


Whereas here at Owen Barry, we have only ever produced tailored (or welt) buttonholes, which look far better and last much longer, yes they are more fiddly to perfect and possibly cost a little more, but we believe that a buttonhole should tell you a lot about the "cut" of the wearer.

In the video at the bottom of the page, Jax, our machinist team leader shows how in the hands of an expert it is a fairly quick process and certainly a pleasure to watch and appreciate.

Owen Barry has been making leather and sheepskin jackets here in Street, Somerset since the mid-1960s and tailored buttonholes have always been our method,  but frankly, it wasn't until the early 1990's that we realised what we had been doing was so sought after in the luxury and designer market place.

Ken tells us in the video below about an occasion when we were visiting clients in New York, Ken was doing a presentation of our Men's shearling range to Barneys New York, a store, thought by many to be the finest in the world at that time, when the owner and president of the company, Mr Fred Pressman happened in upon the meeting, he immediately noticed the buttonholes on the jackets Ken was showing, he dived on them, studied them, he then swiftly summoned the full buying team (men's and women's) into the room where he proceeded to enthuse about the jackets and praise the craftsmanship that had gone into them.

At that time, Ken was extremely fortunate to receive one of the most treasured and longest-standing compliments our company has ever received  "You can tell a man by his buttonholes" which, later transpired was one of Mr Pressman's main business tenets.

So much so, that even after Mr Pressman died, his oil painting displayed in the main office reception area carried the inscription "You can tell a man by his buttonholes".

Yes, sufficed to say that we got the order, and many, many further orders from all divisions of Barneys (even the children's and lifestyle sections !) from that day right up until the day Barneys sadly closed in 2019.

Ken and Mr Pressman met quite a few times after that, Ken is too modest to say, but I sincerely believe that Mr Pressman could see in Ken an honesty that is found in men who know their craft and have confidence in their skills, he definitely enjoyed designing outerwear and accessories with Ken knowing they would be engineered to the high specification he loved (and demanded).  

Here is the video Ken telling us a little about that first meeting, it also demonstrates Jax's sewing the famous Owen Barry tailored buttonhole.

Let us know whether you agree,  do you think handcrafted elements (including buttonholes) are important manufacturing skills to maintain?

If yes, you can check out examples from our Men's shearling collection here or Women's collection here

Category: Cindi's Journal

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