In an iconic photograph from the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger, Sean Connery wears a white tuxedo with a red carnation neatly tucked into the button hole, cigarette dangling from his bottom lip. He’s the picture of the debonair, roguish man.
The singular floral flourish – usually a carnation, sometimes a rose – tucked into a lapel has been a template in men’s formal attire for years. But the era of the Bond boutonniere is over. Florists say what men want today is far more textured, nuanced, and, frankly, interesting.
If they ask for a single flower, it might be a wildflower (nigella) or more exotic (an orchid). But more often they prefer combinations of fresh herbs, berries, grasses, grains, hops and succulents. They want variety and, as Montreal floral designer Anais Caron says, they are not afraid to try new things. “Men now have very definite ideas of what they want in a boutonniere,” she says. “And they get very happy when we talk about things like rosemary and olive branches."
Some of the new iterations, Caron says, are made with thistle, eucalyptus and evergreen for a woodsy look. Others are more refined and include a single cymbidium orchid with tiny green berries. They can be playful (pussy willow, wheat and sunflowers); organic (rosemary, mint, cinnamon and wild flowers); and earthy (succulents with white hypericum berries, tiny oranges and olive branches).
“The boutonniere used to be something men were happy to let their brides or date choose," she says. "Now they know what they like – and don’t like – and almost to a person they will say, ‘Please make sure it doesn’t look anything like I wore to my prom.’
“It’s all about a careful combination of different colours – often muted – and textures,” she continues. “The men we see are not afraid to be adventurous. They think carefully about what they want their boutonniere to look like because it’s very much a reflection of their personal style.”
Women, too, are embracing the novelty of the well-designed boutonniere. With tuxedos becoming more popular among modern brides, Alison McGill, editor-in-chief of Weddingbells magazine, says many women are wearing one on their collar instead of carrying a cumbersome bouquet. “The pantsuit is having a fashion moment and it’s reached into the bridal realm,” McGill says. “I’ve seen men and women wear subtle tiny flowers mixed with succulents and herbs, and I’ve also seen people go all Sex and the City and wear big, oversized flowers like Carrie Bradshaw used to wear.”
Boutonnieres date back to the early 16th century, but their popularity took off in the 19th century when dinner jackets and tuxedos were designed with a “little buttonhole” for a single flower. Steeped in tradition, they often matched the bride’s bouquet and, as a rule, the groom had a different boutonniere than the ones worn by his groomsmen).
Floral designer Ingrid Carozzi, owner of Tin Can Studios in Brooklyn, N.Y., says non-conformity is the new norm. “The looser, more organic style is what everyone wants. They want asymmetry and they couldn’t care less if everyone matches – in fact they usually don’t," she says. "I also make extra boutonnieres for wedding parties so they can each choose their own. It seems to be really important to them that they each have their own ‘look.'”
Carozzi says some of her favourite boutonnieres are an assortment of different herbs. “I go to the market and choose the freshest I can find, things like ornamental oregano, thyme, or sage. Boutonnieres used to be stiff and formal. Now they’re relaxed.”
Christin Geall, a flower grower in Victoria, calls it the “meadow aesthetic,” and says more of her boutonnieres include dried materials, such as bunny tail grass, cress stems, strawflower and sea holly. For extra impact, she adds rooster feathers or dried contorted willow tips.
“They’re the perfect boutonniere because they’re hardy, they’re sustainable, they don’t need water or refrigeration. And they leave a small carbon footprint,” says Geall, whose company is called Cultivated.
In June, Toronto businessman Kevin Silver is marrying his long-time girlfriend at the Elora Mill Hotel & Spa, a small resort about an hour’s drive west from Toronto. He says he chose his boutonniere with as much care as his tux.
“I’m a pretty low-key guy and I don’t like anything too flashy, so I wanted my boutonniere to be minimalist,” says Silver, who will be wearing single white hydrangea with myrtle. His groomsmen are wearing small clusters of baby’s breath.
“I didn’t’ want anything funky or too frilly,” Silver says. “I hope the flower I chose reflects that.”