Hyperspaced

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
How can you tell the difference between horn and plastic buttons? Sometimes it is quite easy (e.g., thick horn buttons with complex colors). Recently, I saw thin black buttons that are supposedly horn, but I can't tell. Is there some simple way to distinguish? Thanks.
 

AlanC

Sartorial Sultan<br> Moderator, Trad Forum
Look for a casting seam (I don't know what else to call it) around the edge of plastic buttons. And horn buttons will often have a roughness to them. I do use the touch it to your face test on MOP buttons.
 

trims

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Shell is the button that will feel cold against your cheek. Horn, less so. Plastic will not feel cold.

Horn can be polished or dull, either way.

On darker colors, it can be much more difficult to tell to an untrained eye. One of the giveaways would be a 'seam' around the button, indicating it is moulded urea. The seam is where the mould comes together. Polyester however is turned from button blanks and will not have that seam.

I'm trying to think of an obvious indicator, but to the untrained eye it may be difficult. If it looks 'too perfect', it's probably not real.

Check the side edge. If it looks a bit 'chattered', it's probably real. If it's a very smooth clean edge, it's likely plastic. This isn't really 100%, but it's a starting point.
 

trims

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
But if you have too look so hard to tell, it shouldn't really matter.
Some items are blatantly obvious plastic. 10 years ago, it would be much easier to tell the difference. In the last several years there are much better plastic materials available in buttons, and designers taking a lot more care with selecting good looking buttons, so it is now much harder to tell. There are some great plastic pieces that you honestly can't tell from real horn.

The only 'true' test is to burn the item. Take a hot needle or paperclip end and press it against the back of the button. Horn is the same material as your fingernails and hair, it burns and smells. Plastic melts and deforms.
 

red96

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Would it be safe to assume that the high-end suit makers (Kiton, Brioni, Oxxford, etc.) wouldn't use plastic buttons? Not that I'll be losing sleep over this tonight, but certainly curious...
 

I_Should_Be_Working

Senior Member
Some items are blatantly obvious plastic. 10 years ago, it would be much easier to tell the difference. In the last several years there are much better plastic materials available in buttons, and designers taking a lot more care with selecting good looking buttons, so it is now much harder to tell. There are some great plastic pieces that you honestly can't tell from real horn.

The only 'true' test is to burn the item. Take a hot needle or paperclip end and press it against the back of the button. Horn is the same material as your fingernails and hair, it burns and smells. Plastic melts and deforms.

You can always try burning the entire button, too.

Up next, how to tell if your suit is fused.

1. Take a pair of scissors and cut the jacket face open.

2. Look for glue dots.

3. Throw away suit.
 

trims

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Would it be safe to assume that the high-end suit makers (Kiton, Brioni, Oxxford, etc.) wouldn't use plastic buttons? Not that I'll be losing sleep over this tonight, but certainly curious...
Never assume anything. I've seen low-end manufacturers use expensive buttons, and high-end manufacturers use cheap crap. All depends on the designers and production people.
 

a tailor

Honors Member
buttons

plastic buttons are all identical, color, pattern, grain, shape. they are all identical.
although some manufactures can vary the color pattern.

horn all are different. check the grain pattern it should vary. sometimes you can feel the grain especially on the back side. and the color will vary a bit.

plastics are made by injection in multiple molds.

horn is made from blanks stamped from the horn, then turned one at a time on a lathe. then stained and polished.
any wonder they cost so much more.
 

iammatt

Elite Member
There are all sorts of different qualities and shapes for horn buttons. Some tailors even have them cut especially for their shop. Cost will vary.
 

jsprowls9

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
All depends on the designers and production people.
It all depends on the production specifications, which are largely driven by budget, margins and available goods.

Actually, plastic technology has advanced. The highest calibre plastic buttons are cut off a rod and then lathed/turned in much the same way horn buttons are done. I'm not opposed to plastic, even on designer grade RTW. But, I prefer horn for custom clothing.

Sound is one indicator. But, the only real way to know is to burn test. We do burn tests in the shop with each shipment received prior to forwarding them to production. If we get 'switched', we present the goods to the designer/product manager for approval or replacement.
 

David Bresch

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I think the problem is yet more difficult. Most horn buttons I have seen are composites (but not all) of plastic and horn. The horn buttons I have (sent from Savile Row) are the least attractive I have, dull and uninteresting.

I think the best thing (what I do) is just select the nicest buttons based on appearance, rather than material. I have never seen a high-end RTW jacket with anything but plastic buttons, by the way.
 
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