Why Do Men Have Buttons on Their Jacket Sleeves?

The buttons on the sleeves of men’s jackets serve no real purpose today. But there are many stories explaining how they came to be there.

One story involves Frederick the Great, who was King of Prussia in the 1700s. Frederick’s armies were involved in a great many wars, and he was often on the field of battle with his troops. One of his concerns, so the story goes, was the appearance of his men.

Once, as he went about inspecting his soldiers, he became quite upset at the dirty sleeves of their uniforms. When he asked why the sleeves were dirtier than the rest of the uniforms, he was told that the soldiers wiped the sweat from their faces on their sleeves.

Frederick refused to have this habit continue, so to stop it, he ordered metal buttons sewn on the top side of all soldiers’ sleeves. That way, if the men wiped their faces, using their sleeves as a towel, they would get badly scratched.

Eventually these buttons were put on civilians’ jackets as well, but only as decoration. So if you notice buttons on your father’s jacket sleeve, don’t think that your mother put them there to stop him from using his jacket as a towel. The buttons are only for decoration!