Inspired: Removable “Butcher” Buttons
We appreciate an obsession-worthy object, and these removable “butcher” buttons fit the bill. We expended a fair amount of time and energy scouring the Internet for a purveyor and found a couple, but there’s a catch.
The quest started innocently enough. I purchased Nigel Cabourn’s Hospital Jacket, see below, and, true to form, he is a master when it comes to economy of design and flawless execution in the construction of his garments. His sport jackets, including the Mallory, Tenzing, and the Hospital, utilize what Mr. Cabourn refers to as “butcher” buttons. Butcher buttons, I believe, are made from animal horns and would’ve been a classic element in traditional sporting, read hunting and fishing, garments produced for wear in, say, rural England. I say “were” because I doubt that one routinely finds this style of button on modern garments due to their high production cost. The buttons are designed to be removed to avoid potential damage when laundering the jacket. Hence, they are amazingly simple and functional.
After a bit of sleuthing, I discovered the firm of Knopf und Knopf International located in Schemmerhofen, Germany, who were very responsive to my inquiries. I asked them to price the above buttons in tagua nut (corozo) as opposed to animal horn as I’m relatively certain that the animals were in fact harmed in the harvesting of their horns and probably eaten afterward. In addition, Tagua nut or corozo buttons can be produced with any finish and dyed any color imaginable, and we already use them on our F1 M1980, Urban jackets. In due order, Knopf und Knopf provided us with a couple of pricing options which also included all of the hardware, specifically the metal shank and split key ring. While the price was relatively steep, I could still envision moving forward with the purchase except…..
Ideally, this style of button is affixed to the garment by removing the split key ring, inserting the metal shank through a sewn, round eyelet, and secured in place by re-attaching the ring. The “rub”, as it were, is the sewn, round eyelet or, more specifically, finding a sewing contractor that has such a machine. Simple enough – surely. I scurried over to the industrial sewing machine repair shop in San Francisco because they’re likely to know “who has what” in the Bay Area. As it turned out, no one but no one still has a machine capable of sewing round eyelets. Once upon a time, there were shops that made baseball caps, but they’re long gone and the machinery has all be sold off to be transported to parts unknown. Fair enough, but perhaps it might be feasible to locate and acquire said machine.
Apparently the Reece Button Hole Machine Company formerly of Boston, Mass and now AMF Reece of Prostĕjov in the Czech Republic is one of the few manufacturers of industrial eyelet sewing machines. I was assured that one would be dreadfully expensive, but you never know. After would 60 minutes of research online and an exchange of emails with AMF Reece’s US distributor, I located a new/old stock Mechanical Eyelet Buttonhole Machine Model S-100-052 RDE Small in Hopkinsville, Kentucky ready for immediate delivery for a mere USD $5,000 plus shipping.
I was initially quite pleased with myself for locating these exotic buttons and the equally exotic machinery in relatively short order. I was stoked, and then I did the math. While I’m not a cost accountant by trade, it was readily apparent that these would be some very, very expensive eyelets. No doubt the presence of a largish industrial sewing machine in one’s work/living space would eventually transition from a conversation piece to a bone of contention – better not to yield to temptation. We shelved the idea for now, but I still routinely marvel over the elegant simplicity of these buttons. We’ll find a way one day.