What Are Shank Buttons? Understanding Their Function and Use

Shank Buttons: Adding Elegance and Functionality to Garments
Shank buttons, a staple in the fashion world, are more than just decorative elements. These buttons come with a small loop or shank on the back, which plays a crucial role in both the aesthetic and functionality of clothing.
In this article, we'll delve into what shank buttons are, their uses, and why they're favored in garment design.
Glass buttons with shanks

What Are Shank Buttons?

Shank buttons are a type of button distinguished by a protruding loop, or shank, on the back. This shank creates a small space between the button and the fabric, allowing for easier buttoning and unbuttoning, as well as reducing wear on the fabric. Unlike flat buttons, which lie flush against the fabric, shank buttons stand out slightly, providing a three-dimensional look.

The Anatomy of a Shank Button

  • Button Face: The decorative part visible on the garment.
  • Shank: The loop or stem on the back that is used for sewing the button onto the fabric.

Types of Shank Buttons

  • Metal Shank Buttons: Often used in jackets and coats for their durability.
  • Plastic Shank Buttons: Lightweight and available in various designs and colors.
  • Fabric-Covered Shank Buttons: Used in formal wear for a seamless look.

Historical Context

Shank buttons have been around for centuries, often seen in historical garments for their functional and decorative purposes. In the 18th and 19th centuries, shank buttons were commonly made from materials like bone, wood, and metal, showcasing intricate designs that added a touch of elegance to clothing.

Modern-Day Applications

In contemporary fashion, shank buttons are prized for their versatility and aesthetic appeal. They're commonly used in:

  • Coats and Jackets: Providing a sturdy closure and decorative element.
  • Formal Wear: Adding a polished look to suits and dresses.
  • Craft Projects: Offering a unique touch to handmade items like bags and accessories.

Why Designers Prefer Shank Buttons

  • Ease of Use: The space created by the shank makes buttoning and unbuttoning smoother.
  • Durability: Reduces stress on the fabric, preventing tears and extending the garment's life.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Adds depth and dimension to designs, enhancing the overall look.
buttons with shank

Sewing Shank Buttons: Tips and Tricks

Sewing shank buttons can be a bit different from sewing flat buttons. Here are some tips to get it right:

  1. Choose the Right Needle: Use a strong, sharp needle that can handle the thickness of the shank.
  2. Secure the Thread: Start with a double thread and knot it securely to ensure the button stays in place.
  3. Position the Button: Hold the button in place and push the needle through the fabric from the back, threading it through the shank.
  4. Stitch Securely: Make several passes through the shank, ensuring the button is tightly secured.
  5. Finish Off: Knot the thread on the back side of the fabric, and cut off any excess.

Choosing the Right Shank Button for Your Project

When selecting shank buttons, consider the following:

  • Material: Match the button material to the garment. For instance, use metal shank buttons for heavy coats and plastic ones for lightweight garments.
  • Size: Ensure the button size complements the garment’s design and functionality.
  • Design: Choose a design that enhances the overall look of the garment. For formal wear, opt for classic designs, while more playful, colorful buttons can be used for casual wear.

Shank buttons are an essential component in the world of fashion, combining functionality with aesthetic appeal. Whether you're a designer looking to add a touch of elegance to your garments or a hobbyist seeking to enhance your craft projects, shank buttons offer a versatile and stylish solution. Understanding their uses and how to sew them properly can elevate your creations to new heights.
Remember, the next time you encounter a beautifully tailored coat or a finely crafted piece of formal wear, take a closer look at the buttons.
You might just appreciate the small but significant role that shank buttons play in making these garments stand out.


Q: Can shank buttons be used on any type of fabric? A: Yes, shank buttons can be used on various fabrics, but it's important to choose the right type of button for the fabric's weight and texture.

Q: Are shank buttons more durable than flat buttons? A: Shank buttons can be more durable because they create less stress on the fabric, which can help extend the life of the garment.

Q: How do I know if a shank button is securely sewn? A: A securely sewn shank button should not wobble or feel loose. Make sure to make several passes through the shank with the needle and thread.

For more insights into the fascinating world of fashion and garment construction, keep exploring and experimenting with different elements like shank buttons. Happy sewing!

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