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Can You Wear A Boutonniere Without Jacket? (Explained)

While modern dress codes have become more and more relaxed over the recent decades, there are certain traditions that still hold up strong. So, can you wear a boutonniere without a jacket? 

In general, a boutonniere should never be worn without a jacket as it is traditional to wear it in a jacket buttonhole. Pinning it to a shirt would usually look awkward and it would also be unlikely to stay in place. 

Although that’s the short answer, there’s more to it. 

After going through the main reasons why it shouldn’t be done, I’ll go through a couple of exceptions where it may be OK (just about). 

Let’s get to it. 

pocket square and boutonniere
Image From Deposit Photos

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Wear A Boutonniere Without A Jacket

These reasons should be enough to convince you not to do it. Consider all of them before making your decision. 

1. It Isn’t Traditional 

Traditions don’t need to be upheld at all times, but there are some that are so tough to shake off that defying them usually comes across as a faux pas or “a little awkward” at least. 

Most people would say that this is one of those traditions – one that isn’t meant to be broken. 

It’s traditional to wear a boutonniere over the left lapel of a suit or tuxedo jacket. It slips into the buttonhole and is secured using a silk latch or thread to the rear of the lapel. 

In fact, “boutonniere” is actually the French word for buttonhole. Even the name dictates where it should be placed, but perhaps even more importantly where it shouldn’t be placed. 

If the jacket you’re wearing doesn’t have a buttonhole, it would definitely be worth getting one put in by a tailor. That would simply be the “correct” way to do it. 

While it’s true that people do sometimes choose to pin a boutonniere onto their shirt, suspenders, or vest, it’s completely out of tradition and often looks awkward or out of place for that very reason. 

It’s unlikely to draw widespread criticism, but it would usually indicate a lack of knowledge of traditional style to the more style-conscious people you come across at the event. 

This general principle would hold true no matter where you’re going – whether it’s a wedding or anything else. 

In general, it’s best to steer clear of this potential faux pas and stick to wearing the boutonniere on your jacket and your jacket only. 

2. It Looks Immature

There’s just something about wearing a boutonniere onto a shirt or vest that looks pretty immature. 

It just has a high school prom vibe to it that’s tough to shake off no matter what angle you’re looking at it from. 

When going to the effort of dressing formally – whether it’s a 3-piece suit or a tuxedo – you don’t want to ruin it with an accessory. 

At the end of the day, a boutonniere isn’t an essential part of the outfit. In many ways, it’s best to avoid wearing one altogether if for whatever reason you aren’t able to wear one on the jacket. 

A common scenario would be a wedding couple trying to coordinate their groomsmen with boutonnieres despite them not wearing suit jackets. 

While it wouldn’t be a complete disaster, a set of groomsmen with boutonniere clipped to their shirts is unlikely to look great in photos. 

It’ll look less like a wedding and more like a prom photo. 

3. Boutonnieres Are Often Too Heavy

Finally, boutonnieres can be surprisingly heavy. It’s another reason why it’s usually placed on the lapel of a jacket and not the thin fabric of a dress shirt. 

There’s a good chance that trying to pin the boutonniere onto a shirt is unlikely to be successful due to the weight. 

It’ll often lose its original position as the night goes on, eventually becoming lopsided. 

Overall, it’s not a great look. 

While suspenders or a vest are likely to be sturdier, they still don’t give you the same security that a buttonhole with a silk latch or thread behind it would. 

2 Exceptions Where A Boutonniere May Be OK Without A Jacket

Take these “exceptions” with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, it would still be way better to wear a boutonniere on a jacket in these scenarios. 

But these are settings where it may not be as offensive to do it as it would be in others. 

Casual Outdoor Summer Weddings

There are “casual” summer weddings that take place in the scorching heat. The dress codes for these weddings usually aren’t truly casual, because they’ll still expect a minimum level of formality from their guests. 

But it wouldn’t be unusual for a combination of a dress shirt, chinos, and dress shoes to be considered appropriate. 

Suits wouldn’t be necessary as they would simply be too hot. 

You wouldn’t have a suit jacket to place the boutonniere in, to begin with. 

In these circumstances, pinning a boutonniere without a jacket wouldn’t be as bad, because most people won’t be wearing a jacket in the first place. 

You could argue that it may be better to skip out the boutonniere altogether, but it may be a nice way to make it clear that it’s a special occasion. 

I’ll give you some tips on how to try and make it work later on. 

A Very Modern, Non-Traditional Wedding

These are weddings where anything goes, to an extent. 

It’s quite unusual to have this sort of freedom to wear what you want, even by today’s standards. 

But at the end of the day, if the couple has made it clear that they’re going for an ultra-relaxed and non-traditional vibe, wearing a boutonniere without a jacket is likely to go unnoticed in any case. 

How To Wear A Boutonniere Without A Jacket (If You Had To)

Once again, try not to do it. 

But if you were intent on doing it, the following tips should reduce the risk of it looking terrible. 

The Smaller The Better

Keep the boutonniere as small as possible. 

A single rose bud pinned to the dress shirt or suspenders may not draw too much attention. 

The smaller it is, the more likely it’ll look like an embellishment of the shirt/suspenders and less like you’re wearing a real boutonniere incorrectly. 

Small buds are also more likely to stay in place on a shirt, suspenders, or vest, without the benefits of a sturdy jacket buttonhole. 

Strongly Consider Suspenders

Pinning a boutonniere on suspenders will usually look less awkward than trying to do so on a dress shirt or vest. 

It’s unclear why this is – it just works better. 

It may be because you’re able to pin the boutonniere a little higher on suspenders than you could on a shirt or a vest. 

Trying to keep it at the same level where a jacket buttonhole would be is usually a good idea. 

It may also be because the boutonniere is more likely to stay in place on suspenders than it would be on a dress shirt. 

Either way, if you weren’t going to wear a pair of suspenders, strongly consider doing so if you’re planning on wearing a boutonniere without a jacket. 

Breast Pocket Would Be Essential

If you do decide to pin a boutonniere onto a dress shirt, a breast pocket would usually be essential. 

The benefit of having two layers of fabric here shouldn’t be underestimated. 

Pinning the boutonniere over the breast pocket will be more comfortable and also make it more likely to stay in place. 

Conclusion 

There you have it – plenty of reasons why it just shouldn’t be done. 

At the end of the day, it wouldn’t be the most serious of style mistakes but it’s definitely not one worth making.