The practice of wearing a boutonniere is one that has come and gone, but has never truly disappeared since it’s introduction.
Widely believed to have begun as a way of identifying oneself and one’s comrades on the field of battle, different flowers supposedly indicated different allegiances. This was especially important in the many civil wars of England, when both sides would have sounded and looked quite similar.
As a fashion move, boutonnieres didn’t hit the scene until the early 19th century – which makes sense, as that coincides with the introduction of lapelled jackets (and it’s kind of hard to have the former without the latter).
There is a story that Prince Albert invented the first lapel buttonhole in order to hold the flowers his bride-to-be (Queen Victoria) gave him on his wedding day, but this has been refuted – largely by the lack of lapels or boutonnieres in his wedding-day portrait.
Alternatively, it makes more historical sense that the lapel buttonhole was a result of high-collared jackets being worn with the top few buttons open. Some jackets are still made with a button opposite the boutonniere hole and can be closed to protect your neck and throat from the weather.
Regardless, flowers were already an important part of special occasions, both to symbolically bring good luck and to physically ward off the unfortunate smells that were hard to avoid in those times, and the boutonniere became yet another way to bring floral decor into the situation.
Since then, there were times when wearing a boutonniere became widely commonplace with any suited or semi-formal attire – notably around the same time that it was widely commonplace for men to wear suits at all times (think early-1900s, Boardwalk Empire times).
These days, the practice has once again become reserved for special occasions. To the sartorially unfamiliar, the idea may bring to mind cheesy high school teenagers headed to their senior prom, but a quality florist can put together something far more subtle and classy to fit the moment, whether it be a wedding, a funeral, or anything in between.
Thanks for reading.
He Spoke Style