|Functional sleeve buttons on a jacket|
Angolo di Modo's Men's Haberdashery & Style weekly tip kicks off with functional cuff buttons or "the surgeon's cuffs". Cuff buttons on suits may have first been used functionally in Germany around the 13th Century; their origin is unclear. There are various theories behind the practice: surgeons rolling up their sleeves or laborers rolling up their sleeves make the most sense. We have also heard that they were introduced by the Royal Navy to prevent midshipmen from wiping their nose on their sleeves (though that last one screams a Snope write-up).
Today, some suit makers (typically haberdashers specializing in high end bespoke or made to measure apparel) still "work it" into their designs. This practice also extends to men's overcoats. We suspect overcoats ALL had functional cuff buttons at one time for the same reason shirts still do: ease of donning and removal. Once it became cheaper to mass produce coats with just cosmetic ones, that became the norm.
One could argue that functional suit cuff buttons in the modern age is ostentatious. Heck, sleeves buttons real or cosmetic technically are not needed at all - even a snot nosed midshipmen could tell you that! Our position is we would rather have buttons that work and the option to roll up the suit sleeve to keep both shirt and suit clean. A friend of ours who will remain nameless (his last name translates to 'rickety old wagon' in Polish), thinks unbuttoning only the first button as the Italians are known to do is completely unnecessary and showy. We disagree and think of it as spreading the gospel of sprezzatura!
Let's get the functional button back on suit cuffs and not make it an indulgence of the well to do.