Yesteryear: Plenty in store for men at Button Brothers in George Street

Button Bros fashion parade 1957.
Button Bros fashion parade 1957.

Menswear business Button Brothers was a household name in Luton and for miles around after it came here 110 years ago.

But strangely this was a misnomer as there were never any brothers! There was only ever Alfred Ebenezer Button.

It was clear that to get on in Luton you had to appear well-established and give an impression of solidity and a good bank balance.

So 22-year-old Mr Button, a young man with sufficient capital provided by his father, felt that the introduction of this imaginary brother added at least another ‘0’ to his wealth in the eyes of his customers. It was not just one man starting up, but a firm...Messrs Button Brothers.

He opened a small shop at Park Square on Saturday, October 28, 1905 and as a growing and loyal clientele was established, he found bigger and better premises right in the middle of George Street.

The building opposite at the bottom of George Street West became vacant shortly after the First World War and these premises were acquired.

Then, in the 1930s, the council purchased the property as part of a George Street widening scheme, setting back the new building line, and the Savoy Cinema (later the ABC) was built on the site.

Following a closing down sale which lasted many days, with long queues forming, the final Button Brothers premises in George Street opened in 1937.

The Second World War made its impact when, on September 1, 1939, Buttons was given two hours notice to clear its large basement for conversion into an air raid shelter for 200 people.

It was a very personal business, with customers treating the staff as friends. The gentlemen’s barber’s shop had five staff and a chiropodist.

In the mid 1950s, a highly successful fashion parade was held in Luton Town Hall, with audiences of more than 250 at each showing.

Bespoke tailoring was an important part of the business and there were display areas for hats and caps, hosiery, gloves and ties and dressing gowns and pyjamas.

The shop was sold to Fairdales in 1978 and the Button Brothers name was kept before it was taken over by Moss Bros. The building now houses fashion store Bonmarche.

Mr A. E. Button, who died in 1968, said his family business was part of the English way of life and always offered something for the well-dressed man to wear, “apart from a flower and a smile”.

> Information for this article was supplied by Bob Norman’s book Were You Being Served?, remembering 50 Luton shops of yesteryear.