Recently in class I was asked “why do the lapels of jackets and coats have a buttonhole on them when there is no button for it to button to?” Although I had a few theories of my own I thought I should verify my thoughts and research the question. To my surprise, There were several explanations of this common practice.
“The left jacket lapel of a custom suit jacket or sport coat today, more often than not, has what looks like a large buttonhole near the top of the lapel, below the collar. What confuses fashion neophytes is the lack of a button on the opposing lapel, even on the rear side. Didn’t we need to button up our lapels back in the days before overcoats? Yes, we did, but the reason for the hole in the jacket lapel as we know it today isn’t because of this old function. The most popular story is of Prince Albert being presented with a small bouquet from Queen Victoria on their wedding day. He made the splendid gentlemanly gesture of cutting a hole in his lapel right there, and put the flowers in the lapel. Thence he had his tailor put the hole is all of his jacket lapels and society followed.”
I also read that in the 1920s men would have a string attached to their hats with a button on the end, on really windy days they could button their hats to their lapels keeping them from flying off.