Call The Style Police: The 3/1 Roll


Does this man look guilty to you? Does it look like he’s hiding something?

In fact he is: he has fastened only the top button on his three-button jacket.

Pictured above is Tyrone Power from the fantastic 1957 Billy Wilder film “Witness For The Prosecution,” which features an incredible performance by Charles Laughton as a celebrated barrister who takes one final case, defending Power’s character from the charges of murder.

The film is set in London, but Power plays an American who stayed in Europe after the war. To sartorially separate him from his environment, Power is dressed in an Ivy-cut herringbone sportcoat. It features a hook vent, so likely not Brooks, correct? J. Press? Norman Hilton?

Regardless, I’ve no idea if it was the idea of the actor, director or costumer, but when Power first shows up on screen to plead innocence of the charges against him, his jacket is buttoned in this odd fashion, visually sending a signal to even the least clothes-observant audience member that something is slightly off. Call it a 3/1 roll, and for Power, the “roll” of a lifetime.

“Witness For The Prosecution” is currently available from Netflix streaming and is well worth a view. — CHRISTIAN CHENSOVLD


32 Comments on "Call The Style Police: The 3/1 Roll"

  1. A.E.W. Mason | December 20, 2014 at 3:12 pm |

    Actually, it’s not as uncommon as you think. From shortly after the turn of the century (19th to 20th) it was fashionable to button just the top button on a suit usually worn with a waistcoat. In the series “Parade’s End” the costume people actually got that right. It may also have been a British affectation. After the Great War it fell out of fashion as clothing was updated into the 1920s. This is not, however, a holdover from that period. I think Wilder wanted Leonard Vole (Power) to look disheveled, as if he wasn’t quite thinking clearly having just murdered dear, sweet Mrs. French. The best suit in the movie, in my view, is worn by Henry Daniell, who plays Vole’s solicitor.

    Personally, I like my three button jackets with a high lapel role at, or just below, the top button. I’m sure that says something about my politics and that, no doubt, it will be explored by someone presently.

  2. A.E.W. Mason | December 20, 2014 at 3:20 pm |

    By the way, it is a great “clothes movie.” In the scene when Vole first encounters Mrs. French, he is dressed in Ivy perfection, including tab collar and porkpie hat — and, oh, with the middle button closed (he hasn’t murdered her yet so he’s still thinking clearly). An American (or Canadian, I think) in London who looks like he just walked out of J. Press.

  3. If one doesn’t button the top button on a three-button jacket, why not just wear a two-button jacket instead of the unsightly affectation of an unbuttoned top button?

  4. From memory as I haven’t seen the movie in several years, the fabric on that jacket is incredibly thick and rich. Also, as noted above, a very good clothes movie overall and a very good movie.

  5. Wow,guilty??
    Tyron Power in this picture wear a high quality of sack jacket (probably bespoke).
    The lapels are not a fake three buttons as many 3/2,but full transformables.
    You can buttoned to middle,and in this case the lapel rolls or more high.
    This feature is only on the better jackets.

  6. The Razor’s Edge has Powers in some nice tweed jackets and suits.

  7. Some of us are old enough to remember that wonderful pre-internet era when men were free to button their buttons as they wished. Then the internet arrived and a gaggle of silly twits whose fathers and grandfathers probably didn’t wear ties and jackets (and hats) to work and who probably never wore ties and jackets at school (or anywhere else) started making up a bunch of ridiculous “rules” that had never existed before in the history of mankind.

    The men of the world need to rise up, ignore all these ridiculous “rules”, and regain the freedoms that they had before the internet. Every man needs to be free, like Prince Michael Of Kent, to wear and to tie his tie any way that he wants.

  8. G. Bruce Boyer | December 21, 2014 at 12:31 pm |

    I agree with Mr. Platt, let’s get back to a Less Politically Correct World and dress as we want. There seems to be lots of talk about individuality, but you don’t seem to see much of it.

  9. Reactionary Trad | December 21, 2014 at 1:28 pm |

    Mr. Platt,
    I can asure you that the rules were around long before the internet.

  10. But were rules or advises?
    “I advice you of button up only the middle button of a three buttons jacket; is more flattering”
    is different from:
    “No,no,no,you don’t can button up the high button of a three buttons jacket,YOU DO NOT”!

  11. Mr. Boyer
    Be careful, advocating a ” Less Politically Correct World” can open you up to charges of defending the Patriarchy or White Privilege (something at 63, I’m still waiting for) or even “racism” by the recently well educated. 😉

  12. A.E.W. Mason | December 21, 2014 at 3:55 pm |

    I agree with Mr. Boyer. For example, his book on Gary Cooper has many examples of creativity in dress which is, to me, what developing a style is about. After years of paying attention to rules and such, a man should be free to mix it up a bit. There is some truth in the observation that a man can wear pure, traditional sack suit attire so absent of profile that he looks like a boring “middle manager in a suit.”

  13. Bags' Groove | December 21, 2014 at 4:13 pm |

    @ MAC

    “…open you up to charges…” Oh please! Who doesn’t long for a less pc world?

  14. Bags”
    I happen to agree with Mr. Boyer. No one has ever accused me of being PC. 😉

  15. Now that I think about it, the only “rules” that really matter to me are the ones I picked up from my dad and grandad.

    I also think Carmelo nails it on the head, actual rules exist because following them make most guys look good, but if you can break them and look better, I say go nuts.

    Dutch Uncle: Disparaging another classic Ivy detail are we? No collar roll, no 3/2 roll, is there anything you like about Ivy style?

  16. Bags' Groove | December 21, 2014 at 4:48 pm |

    @ MAC

    I should hope so too…

  17. @DCG:
    Things I like, to name but a few:
    Grey flannels (cuffed, uncuffed, pleated, unpleated)
    Navy blazers
    Tweed jackets in discreet patterns
    Bass weejuns
    Regimental stripe neckties
    Solid knit neckties
    Polo shirts (in white or navy only)
    In short, anything that is not an affectation.

  18. I was pleased to see that Power was wearing a tab collar, a Trad detail that, to the best of my knowledge, has been ignored on this blog. Personally, I would only wear a tab collar shirt with a suit or a navy blazer, not with a tweed jacket.

  19. Sadly, this was Tyrone Power’s last completed film.
    He died, at the age of 45, the very next year.

  20. I can’t see why a 3/2 roll is any more of an affectation than regimental neckties,but I suppose everything is relative, what passes for conservative in Palm Beach can look pretty garish in Maine. Count yourself lucky that you aren’t subjected to New York-style affectation…

  21. @Etymologue

    You are correct that the tab collar hasn’t been explored here. Coincidentally the other night at the Brooks Brothers Christmas party, Richard Press and custom-shirt guy Tom Davis talked about them, with Richard claiming they represented half the shirts in his prep-school yearbook.

    I’ll have to ask him to explore that in a column.

  22. Over a lifetime, I have had the occasional dry cleaner improperly press a blazer, sport coat or suit coat and eliminate the 3/2 roll. This looks like that may have happened here but more likely was to convey the impression that the Power character here was not thinking all that clearly.

    On the other hand, some military people do not dress that well when in mufti as they are out of their element; perhaps that is what was being conveyed here.

  23. I was wearing a tab collar in my high school graduation photo (1961).
    Switched to OCBDs in college.
    Now at the age of 71, I I’ve started wearing them again.
    Looking forward to Mr. Press’s column.

  24. DCG & Dutch Uncle,

    Or why leaving the the bottom button of your blazer/sport coat isn’t an affectation? I am honestly interested in your perspective Dutch Uncle. If wearing a 3/2 sport coat is just a personal preference is it really an affectation?

  25. Charlottesville | December 22, 2014 at 1:28 pm |

    Please bring on the tab collars. Truly a great look. Currently I think I am down to 2 or possibly 3 in white and 2 in blue, all from Brooks and all in pinpoint. All but one were off the rack, but I don’t think I have seen one in regular stock in a while. I would like to add a blue hairline stripe, which was not available the last time I asked Tom at Brooks (mentioned above). I believe my elder brother wore one in the 60s.

  26. Another ’57 movie that deserves mention as a “clothes movie” is “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter”. Costume design for the male characters seems to have consisted of a trip to Brooks Brothers. In fact, there are several jokes about Brooks Brothers in the script.

  27. Re: tab collars. Darn near extinct in ready-to-wear. The BB ones are non-iron, and if I get another one, I’ll have to try a collar size a full inch smaller. The last ones I had would not shrink at all to the correct size.

    I took a chance on Paul Frederick pinpoint, must-iron tab collars. (I was a customer of theirs in the late 80s, when they made everything themselves). Trouble was, the tabs were so short, only the tiniest of tie knots would fit, and the points were much too close together. The shirts just looked weird. (Not too mention the 36-inch sleeves were really 35-inch, even before laundering.

  28. Was unaware tabs ever went out of fashion. RL makes some nice ones occasionally. Gitman made the best in the very early 80s, along with some even better club (round) collars.

  29. Charlottesville | December 23, 2014 at 2:04 pm |

    Thanks, MAC. I will keep my eyes peeled for tab collars at the Polo Shop when I am next in the city. Generally, I think the Brooks made-to-order shirts have been good, but mine are probably 6 or more years old and are not non-iron. I am fond of their made-to-order club collar in regular oxford as well, which works well with a collar pin. I have not seen either on the ready-to-wear shelf in years, but perhaps they are available occasionally. I’ll keep looking and asking.

  30. Charlottesville | December 23, 2014 at 2:36 pm |

    Update: I took a quick look at Brooks’ website in response to an e-mail regarding their 25% off sale. The good news is that they have a tab collar (in blue only).,default,pd.html?dwvar_E551_Color=LTBL&contentpos=3&cgid=0203 . It is different from the snap-tabs I have, but is probably quite nice. The bad news is that it is listed under “Novelty Collars.” It sounds like it should be worn with a tie that lights up and clown shoes. I recall that Jeeves referred to one of Bertie’s purchases as a “novelty” item. Monogrammed handkerchiefs? White mess jacket? Purple socks? I can’t recall, but he most definitely was not expressing approbation of the young master’s choice in clothing.

  31. @Don
    I would agree that getting the tab collar right is hard. Even harder than getting the buttondown collar right. The collar can’t be too long or too short and both the length of the tab and the distance between the top of the collar and the tab determine the width of the space between the collar points and the size of the knot that the collar will accomodate. My experience with BB was that the tab was too long and you could see the tab sticking out behind the knot.

  32. Perhaps we ought to consult the geniuses over at FNB on this one.

    The current theoreticians appear to be Anthony Armchair and Boop.

    Here’s the latter opining on the architecture of the dandy:

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