Button Crushing

Since I’ve started to wear suits and sport coats and button-down shirts and ties to the office again–just because I have a lot of suits and sport coats and shirts and ties, and feel like I might as well wear them and maintain what I consider to be a professional appearance–I’m using the dry cleaners again. That has the advantage of supporting a part of our economy that got hit hard during the pandemic, and also providing me with crisp, fresh clothing.

This disadvantage of using dry cleaning, of course, is the fatal button impact. Dry cleaning is the mortal enemy of all buttons on men’s clothing. Eventually a garment is returned from the dry cleaners and the buttons have met their maker. They’ve been smashed. Crushed. Destroyed. Splintered. Pulverized. Shattered. Atomized. Ground to a sad collection of fragments and powder, barely clinging to their home clothing.

On suit and sport coats, it’s the sleeve buttons that usually bear the brunt–as was the case with the sport coat above. With button-down shirts, it’s typically the collar buttons that get crunched. That’s irritating, incidentally, because you don’t notice the button failure until you’ve donned the shirt, put on your tie, and started to button down the shirt, only to realize that one of the collar buttons has gone to the great beyond, leaving only a pathetic nub behind so that the shirt can’t be buttoned down and you have to find a new shirt and start all over again.

What is it in the dry cleaning process that causes buttons to look like they’ve been in a combat zone? That’s not entirely clear, but it appears that the chemicals used in dry cleaning, the tumbling, and the pressing weaken the buttons to the point where they break–which is why some high-end dry cleaners specifically advertise that they will pay special attention to your buttons and, if the buttons are shell and bone, remove them before the outfit goes into the dry cleaning process and restore them after dry cleaning is done. I don’t have any buttons that fall into such exalted categories, so I endure the crushing.

The button mangling impact of dry cleaning makes me groan, but I expect that button manufacturers aren’t unhappy about it.

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