Apr 22, 2014

What's the Deal with the Colored Thread on the Bottom Button of Men's Shirts?

created at: 04/22/2014

If you've worn a button down shirt in, oh, the last 100 years or so, you may have noted an interesting feature: the last button hole and button thread are sewn with a different, contrasting color than the rest, particularly in solid color shirts. Or, you could be like me, and have worn button down shirts thousands of times over your existing decades, only to recently realize the thread color was different, and, once aware, started noticing it everywhere. Or perhaps you just looked down as you were reading this and learned that it is indeed true of the shirt you're wearing right now... Regardless, the question stands:

Why? Why are the bottom hole and button sewn with a different color thread?   

First, take a closer look, and check for another interesting feature of the bottom button: it's also sideways. The top six or seven button holes are oriented vertically, for ease of buttoning, but the bottom button hole is horizontal, as is the top collar button. This makes them harder to button (did you ever note that, either?), but reduces the likelihood that the button will come undone. This is especially important since it's the bottom button usually tucked into your trousers, where it experiences a little more stress from being pulled side-to-side.

created at: 04/22/2014

Traditionally, when shirts were still made by humans, this meant reinforcing the button and the buttonhole with a thicker thread, which was either done on a second sewing machine, or as a last step when finishing a job. Hence, the different thread and different color.

These days, while the bottom and top collar button holes are still oriented sideways (the trick does work), the bottom thread color is likely just a nod to tradition, where it indicated a thicker reinforcing thread. 

Check out your button downs next time you wear them, and note which have horizontal button holes and which even have the contrasting thread. Please share your experience in the comments below.



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Anonymous on Jul 20, 2017:

In over 45 years of buying button up shirts, be they dress, casual, or even Hawaiian, not a single one ever had colored bottom thread or a horizontal hole. These are things I notice with my possessions. However, 2 days ago I purchased 2 Dockers shirts at a major Department store in Bankonk and they each had red thread holding on the bottom button and the horizontal hole. Sooooo stupid. I will re-sew the buttons with the same colored thread as the other bouttons. Then yesterday I bought 2 more dress shirts at another major retailer in Bangkok. These shirts were made correctly. No colored thread and had vertical holes. If your shirt has spare buttons they are located usually on the inside of the front tail. And the bottom button of sport coat or suit jacket is never buttoned, on a shirt I have never heard that rule apply.

Amy on May 21, 2016:

i bought my husband some shirts with different color buttons and stitching on the bottom button. He is tall, and when the shirts are tucked in the bottom button shows. Is this ok? He thinks it looks bad. I like the shirts, but am wondering if I should return them.

Lee Miles on Apr 16, 2016:

I recently bought a new shirt (well a hospice shop £1bargain) and to say I was bewildered by this horizontal buttoning fiasco was little short of an understatement. Whilst I'm sure it serves some purpose, which has been kept masterfully hidden away from men since the dawn of the singer sewing machine, I find it nothing more than a daily annoyance and a constant reminder of the secrets of seamstresses and their wicked stitchery!

Stephen Louie on Jan 30, 2016:

I didn't notice that until my 5 years old son asked me about it recently! Thanks to him & your sharing, now I appreciate a bit more about man's fashion!

Ron on Aug 12, 2015:

I have noticed the bottom button and didn't know why. I asked several sales associates Penny's this morning and none knew the answer- of course they didn't know what men's furnishings were either.

Jp2 on Jun 17, 2015:

I always thought it was because they were worried about people getting so beleaguered buttoning on the way down that when they finally reached the different color they were like, "whew, there it is, thought I'd never reach the bottom!"

Chris on Jan 07, 2015:

@Sarah - how interesting. I always button my shirts from the top to the bottom. Differences are cool, huh? 

Sarah on Jan 07, 2015:

See, I just figured the different thread color must be a way to make sure you did the buttoning correctly.  Match up the colors, and finish getting dressed secure in the knowledge that you're not going around with your shirt on crooked.

John on Dec 19, 2014:

Do I button bottom button if shirt not tucked in

John on Dec 19, 2014:

I was told not to button the bottom button on shirt if it's not tucked in

Anonymous on Nov 15, 2014:

I figured it was just to annoy me, which it does.

Chony on Jul 28, 2014:

Fab and interesting fact. Love to lear about the amazing details of our everyday life. 🌹

Anonymous on Jun 21, 2014:

My husband designs menswear, and if never thought to ask as I, too, thought it to be a spare. I asked him and he looked at me like I was crazy and said, "How did you of all people NOT know that?" :)

joannapaul on May 08, 2014:

It made me to think about it!!I immediately ran to check out the shirt buttons to find the difference. I made me to smile and take a quirk. Thanks for sharing the post!!!

Fred Beiderbecke on Apr 23, 2014:

I have noticed the sideways bottom button recently on some shirts.  I did not notice the thread.  Will have to check the next time I wear one.

Ilias on Apr 23, 2014:

I alwas thought it was there to serve as a spare button in case you lose one.