sustainably sourced & plastic-free

British-Made Natural Buttons

People tried to put us off.

They told us about the trouble and expense of using British made buttons.
We ignored them.

It turns out they were right… Our buttons are about 50 times more expensive than a plastic mass-produced button from overseas. They are also 50 times better.

The Backstory

There once was a time when Britain was globally revered for its expertise and mastery in button making. Creating beautiful buttons was more than a process, it was an art form perfected through generations of makers.

The rise of cheaper global imports was not forgiving on this age old tradition, and like many of our other manufacturing mights, the number of button makers soon dwindled until eventually the industry had all but gone.

We’re pleased to say the story doesn’t end there. It does get better.

Corby-based button makers Courtney & Co are the source of all our British-made natural buttons. We use them across our range, from shirts to trousers. Basically wherever you’d expect to find a plastic button, you’ll find a natural one. You can browse all these products at the bottom of this page.

Despite being established very recently in 2016, Courtney & Co have built up their operations from machinery and historical materials acquired from 155-year-old button manufacturer, James Grove & Sons, which ceased production in 2012.

Their origin story doesn’t sound too dissimilar from our own. We created HebTroCo to enjoy, celebrate and support clothing and other stuff that is Made Right Here, in Britain. Courtney & Co were founded to save what was left of British button manufacturing and then give it the reboot it deserves. We’re very glad they did.

Corozo Buttons

Nutty & nice

Harvested from the South American rainforest floor, the fallen nuts of the Tagua palm tree are dried, cut and carved to make deliciously smooth Corozo buttons. These nuts aren’t your standard peanut or cashew, they’re known as ‘vegetable ivory’ because of their likeness to elephant ivory and its natural decorative qualities for carving.

A sought-after nut is good news for the rainforest. A single Tagua palm can yield enough nuts to produce thousands of Corozo buttons every year. That’s a monetary incentive for the local community to protect the living Tagua palms and the rainforest that surrounds them. By using buttons made from Tagua nuts, you are indirectly contributing to the protection of an area of rainforest.

Courtney & Co import their Tagua nuts from Ecuador. Even though Corozo is without a doubt one of the most ecological materials from which to make buttons, they admit that Ecuador is a long way from Corby. So, to offset their carbon footprint, Courtney & Co work with an established grower right here in the UK to plant nut trees around the country. No, you won’t be seeing any Tagua palms sprouting locally anytime soon, but cobnuts and walnuts (they love the British weather) are definitely on the list.

Codelite® Buttons

Made from milk. Yes really.

Codelite® buttons are a natural alternative to polyester buttons. They are robust, hard-wearing and machine washable. But that’s where the similarities end. Unlike their polyester counterparts, Codelite® buttons are bio-degradable and sustainably produced.

Turning freshly squeezed udder juice into a cured, hardened sheet of Codelite® begins with separating the solids (curds) and liquid (whey) using a naturally occurring enzyme. A magical solution called formalin is then added to slowly transform the substance into a solid material.

Nothing is wasted in the production process. The leftover whey is sold (it’s very useful) and sent off to be used elsewhere.

Horn Buttons

Honk if you like them

Sourced from the noggins of oxen and water buffalo, horns are a by-product of the farming industry. In fact, for many of the farmers who ‘harvest’ them, it’s a vital source of additional income for what would otherwise be a waste product.

Courtney & Co import their horn as ‘blanks’ from India. The blank is the result of the first stage of processing. The horn is removed from the bone (think empty Cornetto cone) and separated into two parts: the solid tip (the chocolate part of the cone) and the hollow section (the bit where the ice cream goes). This hollow part can be pressed flat and divided into blanks of various diameters. Horn tips make great toggles and can also be sliced up into round blanks. It’s also the best part of the horn and thus is the source of our horn buttons.

Finishing the buttons is a process to perfection. Each blank is rectified using state-of-the-art machines to ensure they are perfectly round and the same diameter (within 2/100th of a millimetre) before being turned into various button sizes, pierced, and finally polished in rotating barrels for 4 days.

Horn is made from keratin, the same substance as your hair and nails, and is fully biodegradable. Using this material is a great means of putting a waste product to use and reduces the need for a plastic substitute. Buttons made from horn also look top notch. Each button is unique in its appearance thanks to the natural colour variation and grain which runs the length of the horn.

The origins of British horn button-making goes back to the end of the 19th century. As we mentioned earlier, Courtney & Co rescued the machinery and archives of the collapsed button maker James Grove & Sons. Making buttons from horn was their jam. So much so that at its peak in the 1920’s, James Grove & Sons were producing upwards of 20 million horn buttons a year, employing around 600 people.

It has taken Courtney & Co a full decade since JG & Sons fell to start producing horn buttons, and we’re pleased to be able to put them to good use on our HebTroCo garments.

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A by-product of the farming industry. Ensuring nothing goes to waste.