What is a button? This might seem like a straightforward question to which anyone could give a straightforward answer. But there’s more to buttons than you might think.
If you’re interested in finding buttons for your store or for a design project, you’ve likely realised that buttons come in huge variety. They come in different types, they’re used for different things and there’s a wide range of prices to boot. So finding the right one isn’t always as easy as you’d like it to be.
For that reason, we’ve created this guide covering the different types of button available. Here goes:
How Many Different Types of Button Are There?
There are countless different types of button. We list the most common shapes, sizes, materials and styles below. You’ll need to make decisions about all of these button characteristics before you find a supplier or make an order.
Buttons come in a wide variety of materials. There are metal buttons, pearl buttons and fabric buttons.
Natural buttons can be made from natural materials like wood or coconut. Bone and horn were also popular natural options in the past. But as the ethical design movement grows they’ve fallen out of favour a little.
Enamel buttons are made by applying an enamel or epoxy resin to cover the surface of the button (epoxy tends to be a bit more durable).
And plastic buttons can be made from acrylic, resin, ABS plastic, nylon or a combination of these materials. They all have slightly different characteristics. But generally you can expect a plastic button to be light and strong.
There are two main button types to choose from.
Shank. A shank button comes with a loop on the underside. You can sew through this loop to attach the button to a garment. Metal shank buttons and plastic shank buttons are probably the most common varieties.
Flat button. A flat button has two or four holes in it. You sew through these holes to attach the button to a garment meaning the thread will always be on show.
Buttons come in a wide variety of shapes. Round or geometric buttons. Square, flower-shaped or heart-shaped buttons. There are endless possibilities.
However, it tends to be that more elaborately shaped buttons will be made from some form of plastic. That’s because plastic is easier to heat and mould than other button materials.
You need to have a clear idea of the style of button you’re looking for before you dive into ordering anything.
If you’re going down a classic route, check out the buttons on garments similar to the one you want to create. Garments like men’s dress shirts have a very standard approach to buttons. Different types of shirt buttons are very noticeable.
However, if you’re going more creative with your design there are plenty of button styles that have the power to make a statement. Colored buttons, jewelled buttons and rhinestone buttons can bring a sense of fun and glam.
Buttons come in a wide variety of sizes. And sometimes those sizes are standardized. To use the example of man’s shirt again, you tend to get 11mm buttons along the placket.
If you have a button at home that you think would work for your garment and want to know how big it is, check out our article on button measurement. It explains everything about ligne, millimetres and choosing the right size of button for your project.
Understanding how and where you are using your buttons will help you to make decisions on all of the button characteristics listed above.
Sometimes a particular type of button is associated with a particular garment. Men’s shirt buttons are usually small and made from resin. The buttons on winter coats are big and heavy duty.
A uniform might require a military button. And kids’ buttons will bring color or pattern to children’s clothing.
Otherwise, it’s up to you to use your judgement. If you need buttons for a garment, consider the style of the finished item and the material you’ll be using. An elegant silk blouse and a chunky, woollen cardigan will have very different button requirements.
And if you’re using buttons for crafting – to decorate bags, make jewelry or embellish hair bows, for instance – different priorities come into play. How do you want to attach the buttons? What look are you going for? Would rhinestone buttons offer the variety you need for your designs?
How to Choose Good Supplier when Buying Buttons
When you have a clear idea of the kind of button you’re looking for, it’s time to look for a button supplier. If you’re looking for just a few pieces, you might be able to source them in a small local or online store.
But if you’re planning on buying in bulk, you need to think differently. You could head to a trade fair to meet garment accessory suppliers and talk to them about their products. You can also search online. Or take a look at the SUNMEI online button catalogue.
Once you’ve found a supplier or manufacturer you’d like to work with, you should ask the following questions to determine whether they can meet your requirements:
- Does the manufacturer have the buttons in stock? Or do they make buttons to order?
- How are their buttons packaged and delivered and how long will delivery take?
- Is there a MOQ (minimum order quantity)? Some manufacturers have a high MOQ. Some have a low MOQ. You need to find the right manufacturer to avoid having to order more buttons than you actually need.