About Buttons

Buttons have been around for a long time – archeologists have unearthed fired soapstone buttons in the Indus Valley civilization, bronze buttons in Shang-dynasty China, as well as a range of buttons in ancient Rome. But buttons in those early days were primarily used for ornamental purposes and not as fasteners. As a fastener, buttons real breakthrough occurred in Europe during the middle ages with the arrival of a new more slim-fit fashion that needed something to keep fabric tight around desired areas. In France the first button-makers guild was established in 1250, and buttons really became highly functional as well as highly fashionable.

Throughout history a wide range of natural materials have been used to make buttons, for instance: animal horn, bone, shell, nut, wood, fabric, leather, metal and more, and still today natural buttons like these are fairly commonly used. Metal is still the favor of choice for denim garments, but the majority of buttons nowadays are made from a range of plastics, and within this category polyester is the most common one. Many times polyester and other plastic varieties are used to create imitations of their natural predecessors. The main reason for using the substitute is cost – natural buttons are generally a lot more expensive. But also in some instances, like with ivory and certain tropical trees and animal horns, an imitation might be preferred for ethical reasons. Plastic buttons have of course also allowed for a lot of freedom; colors and design can easily be made to match fabrics, and even though fabric-matching imitations are very common, more and more buttons have little or nothing to do with their natural counterparts as designers explore their creativity.

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