The Plausible History of the 3/2 Roll

A few days ago I was leaving a comment on Ivy Styles most recent blog post by longtime commenter and newest author DCG (a great addittion) entitled, “The Millennial Fogey: Why Do We Get So Worked Up Over Brooks Brothers?” During a quick search for some supporting evidence for my comment I found an interesting entry on the Brooks Brothers site about the history of the 3/2 roll.

Here is it is. Straight from the horse’s mouth.

Brooks Brothers 3/2 Roll History

This history sounds trendier than I would have imagined (or perhaps preferred to imagine), but I will add it to the list of 3/2 creation theories. I have briefly laid out the three explanations that I am currently aware of below:

  1. Original Design – The 3/2 roll was not meant to look like or mimic any jacket.
  2. Influenced by well-worn 3-buttons Jackets – The 3/2 roll was designed to look like a well-worn 3-button jacket that had developed the 3/2 roll overtime.
  3. Influenced by College-age Trend – As Brooks Brothers suggests above the 3/2 roll was made to capitalize on a trend created by college age students of pressing back the 3rd button.

What’s the truth? We may never know the whole history of the #1 sack (even with the world’s leading Trad scientists on the case), but my instinct tells me that it was probably not an original design. If it were original and not meant to look like the jacket had either been pressed or naturally rolled to that position I can’t imagine the designer including the 3rd button and button hole on the jacket. However, I could be underestimating the creativity of designers.

The last two explanations both seem plausible. I have to admit that I would prefer that the 3/2 roll have been created to imitate a well-worn 3-button jacket instead of made to feed a fashion trend created by college kids. However, the history that Brooks Brothers offers above is more of a statement and less of a complete history. Perhaps the trend had less to do with 2-button jackets being passé as mentioned by Brooks, but instead the students did it because they wanted the well-worn look of the 3/2 roll?

Any other theories out there?

oxford cloth button down
Jerrod Swanton is a simple man interested in simple, classic, and traditional style.

31 Comments on "The Plausible History of the 3/2 Roll"

  1. Fading Fast says:

    Great find – although, as you said, I wouldn’t believe it any more than anything else – it might or might not be right.

    My favorite theory would be if college kids were intentionally rolling their 3 button jacket lapels to look like worn 3 button jackets whose lapels had rolled to 3/2 over time because they liked the worn-in look it gave their 3 button jacket. If BB, seeing this trend, actually designed the sack suit to replicate what the college kids were doing, then the holy grail of suits was the original “pre-frayed” garment. The holy of holies was a gimmick. That would be irony.

  2. Uncle George says:

    I think the important words are “unable to afford two-button jackets”.
    I see no reason why Brooks Brothers wouldn’t tell the truth, particularly when it would have been much easier for BB to take the credit and claim that they had invented the style.

  3. oxford cloth button down says:

    Uncle George – I wasn’t suggesting that they were lying, but rather that the origin of the trend was misinterpreted. Perhaps the college boys weren’t pressing back their lapels because they couldn’t afford 2-buttons, but instead it was because they did not have the time on their hands to get the natural roll which was the true reason for pressing them back.

    FF – You and I are on the same page. Either way I will still enjoy my 3/2 sack.

  4. Labrador says:

    Maybe those college boys simply realized that 2-button jackets looked far better than 3-button jackets. They still do.

  5. oxford cloth button down says:

    Uncle George’s comment also brings up a distinction worth discussing. I had always considered the #1 sack as the first jacket to feature a 3/2 roll, but as Brooks stated they adopted it from a trend. This would make the trend the origin, but now I am wondering if anyone else produced a 3/2 roll (preferably a sack cut) prior to #1 sack?

  6. Carmelo says:

    I believe that the American sack suit is a sort of “living fossil” or if you prefer is as one of those species that evolve in a isolated environment maintaining ancient features missed elsewhere.
    Ivy sack has straight evolved from the late Victorian 1890s lounge suit.
    Natural shoulders,lack of darts,no pleats on the trousers….and the lapel’s roll.

    And i have found also the central hook vents on many of these 1890s-1900 coats.
    Why the sack suit cut were said “conservative” already in late 1910s?
    Because WAS conservative; rejected many of those sartorial innovations that had occurred (especially from Saville Row).
    Of course some changes were incorporated : cuff at trousers, number of buttons (but in Brooks Brothers sacks the stance between buttons remained high,a vestigia of the Victorians four buttons),belts instead suspenders (but belts were worn on sport models in 1890s).

  7. Richard E. Press says:

    Custom tailored clothing was prime at J. Press since its founding in 1902 until World War II. The overwhelming choice of its customers was the three button roll to two natural shoulder model perfected by my grandfather Jacobi Press.

  8. Charlottesville says:

    Carmelo — Thanks for the perspective and great pictures. The jackets with rolled lapels certainly look like the precursor of the BB #1 sack.

  9. oxford cloth button down says:

    Carmelo – Thank you kindly for the information and the pictures.

    Richard Press – Always a pleasure to see you here! Thank you for the additional info. Would you care to hypothesize where the 3/2 originated?

  10. C.H. Winfrey says:

    To back up Carmelo, I do recall reading in the book American Menswear; From the Civil War to The Present, that the sack suit was a descendant of the lounge suit.
    The book is an interesting read by the way, OCBD, if you haven’t read it already.

  11. Carmelo says:

    Well,the sack suit is a type of lounge suit,namely a suit for the city with short coat.
    In Unites States in 1890s sack suits was very widespread,over frock coats and cutaway coats.

    My guess is that the “Ivy” sack descended directly from 1890s sack,lapels roll included.
    For exemple,here another “naughty nineties” sack:
    The young guy with the fish dress with a natural shoulders,undarted sack 4/2 roll (but only because he had unbuttoned the first button),and flat front pants.

    In late 1910s sack suits were said “conservative”, obviously because this style rejected the new sartorial changes as darts,pleats,paddings and new way of cut.
    Is not strange that college boys from old rich families favored the old cut on the new (and the old were more comfortable that new).
    This is a impressive example:
    The first picture is a sack from a 1898 Brooks Brothers catalog:

    The second is a 1925 Frank Tripler sack suit for “university students”: the same style 27 years later!!

    In 1910s the Brooks Brothers’s No 1 sack was a niche preserved for these customers (is interesting note that BB at time had others type of cut):

    • Hollywood Argyle says:

      Thank you so much for sharing all these pictures, Carmelo.

      As I understand it, the suit silhouette up through the 1920s was “high and tight”: the suit jacket or vest closed high, revealing only a very small part of the shirt and tie, and the clothes were form-fitting with (what we would consider to be) narrow shoulders. The Drape Cut of the 1930s changed all that, with broad shoulders and a nipped waist to give a more masculine silhouette. Part of the new style was a lower button stance, not only revealing more shirt and tie, but also making a deeper, longer V, which has the effect of making a man appear taller and more broad-shouldered.

      Which is a long-winded way of saying I’m not surprised that the 1925 style is nearly identical to the 1898 one: the Drape Cut had not yet changed how we look at, and wear, suits.

  12. Woofboxer says:

    A recurring question; but when you button up your 3/2 jacket do you do all the buttons up? I always find that the cloth around the top buttonhole never sits right when its done up, irrespective of how tight or loose the jacket is, it always seems to pull rather than sitting flat like the other two buttons.

  13. Carmelo says:

    Is because 3/2 is not a “true” three buttons,
    The key is the cut and the construction internal of the lapels.

  14. Anglophile Trad says:


    That is precisely why I refuse to wear a 3/2 jacket: The top button is now a mere decorative affectation. I can assure you that in the 1960s, it was not only possible, but common, for us to button the top button without any unsightly effect on how the jacket looked. Leaving it unbuttoned was like leaving one’s trousers unzipped or one’s buttondown collar points unbuttoned. I have switched to a 2-button jacket as a protest against that now-unfunctional top button.

    • Carmelo says:

      Because back then was possible find true Three buttons (also today is possible,but almost only bespoke).
      Exist four type of three buttons:

      1-The type in which the lapels are cut for arrive over the first,upper,button:
      are coat made for have the first two buttons button up.

      2-The type in which when you unbutton the upper button,the lapels make a gently convex roll till just above the buttoned middle button.
      Of course if you want,you can perfectly button up the upper button.
      This is,in my opinion the best three button coat.

      4-The type that in Italy is said “transformable”:
      The lapels are cut and built (also with interior stitchings) for be elastic:
      you can button up the first button, but when you unbotton it the lapels roll in a pvery well 3/2 roll effect.

      5-The 3/2 roll model:
      Is merely a two button coat with a non-functional button (hidden under the lapel) and a decorative buttonhole.
      If you button up a 3/2 roll coat…well,is a mess.

  15. oxford cloth button down says:

    Anglophile Trad, I have to ask, since we never button the bottom button even though we could doesn’t that make a mere decoration?

    I have a few 3/2 roll jackets that can be buttoned all the way up (Here is an older one: and they are not all from Ivy boom. However, I have others with a button-hole that is not even big enough to get the button through!

  16. Anglophile Trad says:


    Re the bottom button: I stand corrected. The button certainly serves no purpose anymore.

  17. oxford cloth button down says:

    Anglophile Trad – I appreciate the response. The point I am getting at is that I don’t find the 3rd button anymore decorative than the bottom button.

    Carmelo – Thanks adding so much great information. Very helpful!

  18. Fading Fast says:

    Let’s say that today the third button is merely decorative even though we know there was a time its sartorial antecedent was functional. It doesn’t seem to me that from today’s perspective it is any different than any other decorative detail – why bother with a herringbone weave, a peak lapel, a window pain pattern or non-working cuff buttons other than because it makes the garment look nicer.

    I love the history of how many of these details originated and it is amazing how few were decorative at first – most served some purpose – but there were always some pure style details – color, cut, etc. – to most clothes. Hence, if a something had a functional history at some point or it was always just style, how does that make it less authentic or enjoyable today?

    I have never, ever used the throat latch on my tweed sport coat, but I’m really glad it is there as it looks neat (IMHO) and I love that it is a small reminder of the garment’s more rugged origins as a true used-for-sporting-activities jacket.

  19. Boston Bean says:

    @Fading Fast
    I can hardly agree that the top button “makes the garment look nicer”.
    Quite the contrary, in fact.

  20. oxford cloth button down says:

    Boston Bean & Fading Fast – I don’t know that it makes the garment look nicer, but I do know that it is a detail that I like.

    Carmelo – Fantastic examples of sacks. I would argue that all of the images that you posted except are 3/2 rolls except for the JPress Chambray. If I can see the backside of the button-hole and on the other side of the lapel the button is out of site then I would consider it a 3/2 roll.

  21. Carmelo says:

    Well,3/2 roll mean that the coat with the first button unbuttoned open as a two buttons,with the lapel that roll until the middle button exposing totally the buttonhole and hiding the first button.
    This effect can be obtained in two ways:
    Or with a “fake” three buttons(merely a two button coat with a non-functional button hidden under the lapel, and a decorative buttonhole, or cutting and working the lapels to be “transormables”; with interior stitchings arranged in away that make the lapel “elastic”.

    This is a 3/2 roll (in this case the fake three buttons model):

    This is the “true” 3/2 roll with tranformables lapels (bespoke from Saville Row):

    Then is the type of three buttons that i call “gently roll”, in which when you unbutton the upper button,the lapels make a gently convex roll till just above the buttoned middle button.
    Of course if you want,you can perfectly button up the upper button.

    Here a exemple of “gently roll:

    And another:

    Now these 50s sacks from Chipp and JPress are “gently roll”,not 3/2 roll:

  22. oxford cloth button down says:

    Carmelo – Glad to be having this conversation. I think that we differ in opinion on whether or not a “gentle roll” is a 3/2 roll. I lean towards yes and you towards no. One reason I lean towards yes is that my modern Brooks Brothers is a true 3/2 roll, but it does not always hide the first button or show the whole button hole. Maybe you would call it a “gentle roll?”

    I would be interested to hear how tailors refer to the 3/2 roll?

  23. Carmelo says:

    In Neapolitan tailor’s slang is called “tre bottoni stirato a due” (“three buttons stretched to two” ) ;this pattern is typical of Neapolitan tailoring.
    Roman and traditional North Italian tailoring cut the “gently roll” three button,and call it “Tre bottoni rollato” (“rolled three button”).
    The Neapolitan “three buttons stretched to two” in his more extreme version is very similiat to the 3/2 fake three buttons (and the natural shoulder increases the similarity,…but the Neapolitan have long frontal darts ).

  24. Carmelo says:

    Interesting article on JamesBondsuit blog about the button three lapel roll.

  25. Hollywood Argyle says:

    Great discussion!

    No one has yet mentioned the 3/2.5 roll, which is another way to do a three-button jacket. Will of A Suitable Wardrobe posted about it here.

    It seems to me that the 3/2.5 is the natural intermediary between a true 3-button jacket and the later 3/2 roll.

  26. oxford cloth button down says:

    Hollywood – I think that Carmelo is referring to the 3/2.5 as the “gently roll.” Maybe the 3/2.5 was designed to look more “natural” 😉

  27. Dominik says:

    +1 on the 3/2,5 roll. Very common here in Austria and Germany, too. Btw, the “1890s” lounge suit lapel roll goes back even further in time as those sack suits from the late 1800s were there before the 1890s – I once found a pic of Crown Prince Rudolf of Habsburg in the 1870s wearing a 3/2 roll sack suit. Unfortunately it is impossible to find it again… tjose lapel rolls were fairly common on everyday lounge/sack suits 🙂

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