Friday, 31 July 2009


As buttons seem to be the red-hot blogging theme of the moment (see Leah and Baino), I thought I'd get in on the act. Buttons, after all, can be quite controversial.

Some people (like me) hate buttons. They're a nuisance to fasten and unfasten. They impede our romantic manoeuvres. They slow up doctors and paramedics. They make changing duvet covers a pain in the bum.

In fact it's amazing that such a clumsy idea as buttons has survived for 900 years* without being superceded by something more practical and efficient, something that enables us to dress and undress (and change duvet covers) with the minimum of fuss and bother.

Well, actually there are viable alternatives we can call on - like zips and velcro. They're much easier to use than fiddly, laborious buttons. They don't fall off and roll away under the sofa. Unfortunately they have negative overtones that limit their appeal.

They're seen as crude substitutes for the dainty, eye-catching tininess of buttons. They're seen as nasty, modern contraptions with as much frisson as a clothes peg. And velcro of course is still associated with numb-fingered oldies.

But as Leah has pointed out, the real reason buttons are still the favoured fastenings is their tantalising sex appeal. Let's face it, they're not just buttons, they're fetishistic delights.

Women soon discovered the seductive potential of buttons. They realised both undone buttons and tightly-fastened buttons set male hearts racing helplessly, and they adjusted their clothing accordingly. Female newsreaders with a loose blouse button too many get their viewers into such a lather they have to be taken off air for hasty rearrangement.

So I don't think buttons are going to disappear any time soon. Not if men have anything to do with it, anyway. Though personally I think the eroticism of zips is sadly under-rated. The endless temptation of a shiny zip fastener....

* Buttons have a long history as ornaments but it was only in Germany in the 13th century that they were first used to open and close clothing.


  1. Yay Nick! Fantastic post. It's just so funny.

    I have actually given some thought myself to the question of why buttons have survived this long--and I think you have come upon what is really one of the only possible explanations (and I guess couturiers would argue for aesthetics as well), because the truth is they are "fiddly and laborious."

    You have so many great lines here, but you made me laugh with this one: "...personally I think the eroticism of zips is sadly under-rated."

  2. I actually like buttons, from the very old to the ones I made myself.

    Are you telling me that you never enjoyed undoing buttons....? ;)

  3. I've made my own share of button Nick.
    Buttons are erotic.
    And in an I'm so old moment: I remember when 'fly' was pluralized and there were buttons on them.
    Zippers are way too speedy my good man. Slooooow is best.
    And there is nothing like the teethgrinding sound of velcro screeching apart to whet the romantic appetite. NOT.
    Go with the buttons. The smaller the better.

  4. Nah, don't like zips. Velcro can be practical. What about poppers? The fasteners now, not amyl nitrite. I like poppers.

  5. Thanks for the great post. My vote: Buttons, lots of tiny buttons...

  6. A pity I cannot include a picture here. I have sent you an email showing that men are no less involved in this unbuttoning and baring torso business!

  7. Leah - That's true about the aesthetic reasons, should have thought of that. But are you saying zips are not erotic?

    Grannymar - I suppose fumbling with buttons was quite exciting the first time, but when you've struggled with them umpteen times....

    www - Slow is best? Not necessarily, depends on your mood, I would say. And I'm sure it would only take one fashionable writer to eroticise velcro overnight....

    Thrifty - Poppers are sort of in between, I guess. Easier than buttons but still a bit fiddly.

    Brighid - Lots of tiny buttons? For romantic or aesthetic reasons?

    Ramana - That's true, men do the same thing, as many women faced with unattractive thickets of chest hair would no doubt confirm....

  8. Nick, Every time should be like a first time....!

  9. Grannymar - Of course it should. But lengthy fumblings tend to become irritating rather than romantic....

  10. Oh yes, zippers are good too! something about the way you said it...

    But I'm on a Victorian kick now, sartorially speaking, and in that case it's all about the buttons.

  11. Yeh Thrifty likes riding his bike over bubble wrap too! Welcome aboard Nickers. You should visit which is where all this inspiration comes from, they post the Thursday topic on Sundays. It's fun to see everyone's take on just one word and great blogfodder.

    Actually, I don't have much in the way of buttons but since I've been wearing 'corporate' clothing and business shirts, you're right, they're quite erotic in a secretarial kinda way!

    Oh www . .the younglings still prefer Levis with buttons rather than zips . .especially the lads. Zips are 'gurly'.

  12. Leah - I look forward to more updates on the Victorian kick. It sounds VERY exciting....

    Baino - Oh yes, I gathered this theme had come from elsewhere. True, corporate clothing can be quite sexy in its own way. Nothing like a woman in a well-cut suit. And why zips are girly I shall never understand.

  13. don't like buttons - never have - velcro is a bit noisy - zips tend to get caught - what's wrong with sticky tape?

    p.s. neck ties - another pet peeve of mine - for your next post pls

  14. p.s. that was me above - forgot to logout of the wifes account

  15. Quicky - Ah, I was wondering who the mystery visitor was! I don't think sticky tape is so aesthetically pleasing somehow. Neckties are hideous and totally unnecessary, why were they ever invented?

  16. Yeah neckties are useful as bibs but that's about it

  17. Quicky - Not even bibs unless they're those enormous kipper ties (remember them?)! Useful for strangling people of course, if you don't have a pair of tights handy.

  18. When I was changing our bed on saturday i was pondering this very question: why buttons on duvet covers? It can't be for sex appeal!!

  19. Liz - Nothing very sexy about duvets full stop, never mind the buttons. So why don't duvets have zips?

  20. Because zips can be hard and cold but poppers are fine.

    By the way, I meant to say, James doesn't speak for anyone except himself!

  21. Liz - But zips would be so much easier. And my warm, sensitive little feet wouldn't need to touch them.

    Don't worry, I assumed James was speaking only for himself.

  22. Mmmmm. Button fly levis. Mmmmm

    I might have enjoyed undoing a few of those.

  23. Meno - I suspect a lot of women (and men) feel the same way. But a zip is more user-friendly, I find.