Once simply ornamental in nature, the button as a means to fasten clothes has been around since 13th century Germany. Since then, a wide variety of materials like wood, clay, shells, and plastic have been used to make buttons in every size, shape, and color. A button jar can morph into a great craft project, extra game tokens, or fashion embellishment. Sure, we have zippers and Velcro now, but buttons are just more fun, interesting, and whimsical. Buttons can even be works of art, so take time to appreciate those useful, pretty little things on National Button Day on November 16.
National Button Day timeline
The French established the first collective that designed artisan buttons, making buttons a status symbol.
Europe was so button crazy, the church started calling them the "devil's snare." This was probably because most women's clothing of the time buttoned up the front.
Polo players were the first to button down their collars to stop them from getting in the way during a match; Brooks Brothers copied the look and created a lasting trend in 1896.
Noting the abundance of pearl mussels in nearby waters, a German immigrant opened a button-making factory in small town Iowa, which soon grew to be the largest manufacturer of pearl buttons in the world.
A button that was once part of a Texas confederate navy uniform circa the Civil War sold for over $2,000.
National Button Day Activities
Upcycle with buttons
Have a shirt you don't wear anymore? Change out the buttons and make it new again. Sew on some shiny metal buttons to give it an on-trend military look, or sew on kitschy novelty buttons to reflect your favorite hobby, animal, or even food. Be unique, original, and eco-friendly all at the same time.
Go on a treasure hunt
Hit a thrift shop, rummage, or garage sale. Be on the lookout for old clothing with unique buttons. Collectors love finding ones depicting mini works of art, that were worn by famous people, or reflect a certain era. Research to see if any of your finds are worth more than what you paid.
Start a button jar
Snip buttons from unused pieces of clothing, claim ones you find lying loose, buy novelty ones when it strikes your fancy, or pick ones up on the cheap when thrifting. Then, the next time you need a button, you'll have a big variety of sizes, shapes and colors from which to choose.
3 Facts To Really Push Your Buttons
What side you button up on is gender-based
Women's clothing traditionally buttons on the right (reportedly because it was easier for maids to dress the ladies they served that way) and men's on the left (they dressed themselves).
Boutonnière means buttonhole in French
Boutonnieres go through a little slit in the lapel of men's jackets that looks the same as a buttonhole, so we repurposed the French word for buttonhole to describe the flower in English.
Buttons on uniform sleeves were put there to stop soldiers from wiping their noses
Widely repeated but never satisfactorily confirmed, it is said that Napoleon ordered brass buttons be placed on the sleeves of all military uniforms so soldiers would be discouraged from wiping their noses on them.
Why We Love National Button Day
Buttons keep everything together
Buttons as a fastener date back to 13th-century Germany. Throughout history, people went so crazy for buttons they became a status symbol for a time. But beyond all that, those little buttons do a great big job of keeping our clothes together. Thank you, buttons!
Button jars double as entertainment
The things you can make out of buttons are endless. Rings, hair ties, preschool learning games, clothes pin racers, tree ornaments, earrings, magnets, picture frames, and whatever else you can think up. Buttons offer inexpensive rainy day fun, imaginative play for all ages, and are a great cure for boredom.
Buttons have spawned some awesome phrases
Without that cool little fastener, we wouldn't have some of the most descriptive phrases in the English language. But since we do, we can call people cute as a button or all buttoned up. Tell people to button their lip, which is oh-so-much nicer than shut your mouth. Hit the panic button or be so happy we bust our buttons. See? Buttons make the world a little brighter. Or as some might say, bright as a button.
National Button Day dates