Of course I watched Jim Comey’s interview with George Stephanopoulos. And his interview with Stephen Colbert. And with Rachel Maddow. Didn’t you?
But I have to tell you that I was distracted during a few of the Comey interviews. I was distracted by the lapel buttonhole in his sport coat. I was astonished at how distracted that orange buttonhole in a blue sport coat distracted me. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. And when I pointed it out to my wife, she, too, was astonished.
After watching the Stephanopolous interview, I looked in the back of my closet at the two sport coats and two suits I still have but haven’t warn since I retired. Sure enough, each had a button hole on the left lapel. But none of those buttonholes was outlined in a contrasting thread like Comey’s was.
Then I started thinking generally about lapel buttonholes. What purpose does a lapel buttonhole serve? And why is there one on the left lapel and not a matching buttonhole on the right lapel?
According to my exhaustive research on lapel buttonholes, the most popular explanation is that it’s a flower holder inspired by England’s Prince Albert. After he was presented with a small bouquet from Queen Victoria on their wedding day, made the gentlemanly gesture of cutting a hole in his lapel to hold the flowers. Aw, how romantic was that?
But according to GQ Magazine, the lapel buttonhole was designed to keep hats from flying away on a windy day. These hats included an elastic string with a button on the end, which could be securely attached to lapel hole.
Another theory is that, back in the day, the buttonhole on the left lapel was paired with a button sewn to the underside of the right lapel, allowing a man to button all the way up in brisk weather.
So whether the lapel buttonhole started as a romantic gesture, or as a functional item to combat wind and cold, it remains a strange, somewhat vestigial detail of the contemporary suit and sport coat.
Written for today’s one-word prompt, “astonish.”