What's the Origin of the “Sometimes, Always, Never” Rule?

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ThinkStock

Sometimes, always, never. If you’re a man wearing a three-button blazer, those are the only three words you need to know. The middle button should always be fastened. The top button is up to you. But the bottom button? Don’t even think about it.

But where did this fashion edict originate? In the grand scheme of things, it’s a rather new rule. Over a century ago, there were no hard-and-fast buttoning guidelines. Some jackets had five or more buttons, and you could fasten them in any combination you pleased. That all changed when England’s King Edward VII—then the Prince of Wales—started growing a belly in the late 19th century.

Edward liked to eat. A lot. On a typical day, he’d mow down a plateful of bacon and eggs for breakfast, a tower of roast beef and shortcakes for lunch, and a 12-course dinner. A 48-inch waist—the same bulge Henry VIII flaunted when he first sat on the throne—was a little too big for the future king to handle. Edward grew so quickly that he couldn’t fasten his waistcoat’s bottom button. Deciding that he liked the look, he kept it unbuttoned.

In an age before models and TV stars, royals like Edward influenced most fashion crazes. So when Edward kept that bottom button undone, people noticed. A trend caught on, and men of all sizes have been leaving that bottom button open ever since. Nowadays, blazers are designed to keep that bottom button undone. Buttoning it can cause a well-fitted jacket to tighten too closely, making it uncomfortable and unsightly. So although the rule has arbitrary origins, over the years it has become both practical and fashionable.

Incidentally, this isn’t the only fashion trend Edward started. You can thank him for the tuxedo, too! When Edward was still a prince, he wanted a slightly more casual alternative to the extremely formal dinner attire of the day. He opted for a blue jacket, black trousers, and a bowtie. In 1886, his American friend James Brown Potter brought the style to Tuxedo Park, NY, from which it has spread to wedding parties and proms everywhere.

Are Any of the Scientific Instruments Left on the Moon By the Apollo Astronauts Still Functional?

Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first footprint on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first footprint on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images

C Stuart Hardwick:

The retroreflectors left as part of the Apollo Lunar Ranging Experiment are still fully functional, though their reflective efficiency has diminished over the years.

This deterioration is actually now delivering valuable data. The deterioration has multiple causes including micrometeorite impacts and dust deposition on the reflector surface, and chemical degradation of the mirror surface on the underside—among other things.

As technology has advanced, ground station sensitivity has been repeatedly upgraded faster than the reflectors have deteriorated. As a result, measurements have gotten better, not worse, and measurements of the degradation itself have, among other things, lent support to the idea that static electric charge gives the moon an ephemeral periodic near-surface pseudo-atmosphere of electrically levitating dust.

No other Apollo experiments on the moon remain functional. All the missions except the first included experiment packages powered by radiothermoelectric generators (RTGs), which operated until they were ordered to shut down on September 30, 1977. This was done to save money, but also because by then the RTGs could no longer power the transmitters or any instruments, and the control room used to maintain contact was needed for other purposes.

Because of fears that some problem might force Apollo 11 to abort back to orbit soon after landing, Apollo 11 deployed a simplified experiment package including a solar-powered seismometer which failed after 21 days.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

What Makes a Hotel Breakfast 'Continental'?

Hotels often offer a complimentary pastry and fruit breakfast.
Hotels often offer a complimentary pastry and fruit breakfast.
tashka2000/iStock via Getty Images

The continental breakfast, which is typically made up of pastries, fruit, and coffee, is often advertised by hotels as a free perk for guests. But why is it called continental, and why don’t patrons get some eggs and bacon along with it?

The term dates back to 19th century Britain, where residents referred to mainland Europe as “the continent.” Breakfast in this region was usually something light, whereas an English or American breakfast incorporated meat, beans, and other “heavy” menu options.

American hotels that wanted to appeal to European travelers began advertising “continental breakfasts” as a kind of flashing neon sign to indicate guests wouldn’t be limited to American breakfast fare that they found unappealing. The strategy was ideal for hotels, which saved money by offering some muffins, fruit, and coffee and calling it a day.

That affordability as well as convenience—pastries and fruit are shelf-stable, requiring no heat or refrigeration to maintain food safety—is a big reason continental breakfasts have endured. It’s also a carryover from the hybrid model of hotel pricing, where American hotels typically folded the cost of meals into one bill and European hotels billed for food separately. By offering a continental breakfast, guests got the best of both worlds. And while Americans were initially aghast at the lack of sausages and pancakes on offer, they’ve since come around to the appeal of a muffin and some orange juice to get their travel day started.

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