All those extra buttons are a waste of money

There’s a lot of redundancy in this world. Let me say that again: There’s a lot of redundancy in this world.


I thought of that a couple of times recently after I lost a button from my shirt.

Say what you will about cheaply made garments manufactured by underpaid workers in countries most of us will never be able to visit – is Irregular a real place? – but I’ve noticed over the years that they seem to hold up pretty well. Until a couple of weeks ago, I had not lost a button in a long, long time.

It was a casual shirt, not a dress shirt that might have earned its Purple Heart at the dry cleaner’s, so I can’t blame anyone for the loss of the second button from the top. (Well, third, if you count the collar button that never gets used on a casual shirt except by guys who work in Silicon Valley and have permanent pocket protector indentations because they carry three ball-point pens, two pencils and perhaps a calculator.)

Have you ever been walking down stairs and missed a step? Or felt your heart skip a beat, reminding you that millions of times before, it had not missed a beat and had labored away unnoticed? That’s the feeling I got as my hands automatically maneuvered down my shirt, buttoning as they went, and skipped down to the third button. Something didn’t feel right.

Years ago, that would have posed a problem. I would have had to rummage through drawers in search of a button of roughly the same size and color, or gone to the closet to steal a button from a rarely used shirt. That isn’t necessary anymore, though, because shirts (and slacks) come with extra buttons.

The extras are usually tucked away at the bottom of the shirt, sewn on backward where no one will see them but where they will irritate your delicate skin if they hit the wrong spots. Other times they’re tacked onto the sleeve, out of sight.

There are usually a couple of shirt-front buttons and a smaller collar button waiting on the bench in case they’re ever called into the game. That’s where I found my spare recently to replace good old No. 2.

While I was mourning the loss of my button, a co-worker walked over and pointed out his shirt, which had just returned from the cleaners. One button did not match the others. He figured the shop had ripped off a button and replaced it with the first one they found. Too bad they didn’t look for the standbys.

I had no trouble sewing my standby button on. If there’s one thing the military teaches, it is to sew up your uniform when needed. In little time, my old, old shirt was as good as new.

My point is, the garment industry must spend a fortune on buttons that are never used. Wouldn’t those extras be the obvious place to cut costs during these hard times? Maybe, just maybe, some sharply dressed politician will take up my cause at the conventions.