Why the Heck Do Men’s and Women’s Shirts Button on Opposite Sides?

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There’s one kind of clothing, which almost everyone out there has ever owned and that’s none other than the button-up shirt. Notably, there is a vast range of variations as far as the fabrics are concerned such as rayon, linen, cotton, silk, and more. Nevertheless, the buttoning tradition interestingly remains the same even as the shirt styles evolve. Men’s buttons are always on the right side while women’s buttons are on the left.

Apart from shirt buttons, buttons for men’s wear and women’s wear are also attached on the opposite sides in the following applications:
• Suit Buttons
• Pant buttons
• Trouser buttons
• Placket buttons

Though there is no real and practical reason behind the differences in the modern days, this tradition has been there from as early as 1850s. There are little-known theories of course that try to explain the reasons behind these differences.

Even though there is no museum with exhibits devoted to buttons or historical records explaining why a person’s gender would determine buttons placement, most sources of information seem to associate the phenomenon with similar theories. Most of these theories are more than a century old.

Here is a list of the 5 most popular theories.

  • Horseback Riding
  • Dressing Tradition of Upper-class Women
  • Breastfeeding
  • Battle Gimmick and Weaponry
  • Napoleon Order

Let’s now dig dipper into the theories.

1. To Reduce Breeze During Horseback Riding
Back in those early days, women equestrians were riding horses while sited on the left side. To reduce the quantity and strength of the breeze flowing through the shirt of a woman when riding, placing the buttons on the left became handy.

2. Upper-Class Women Were Dressed By Their Maids
One theory suggests that during the Victorian era, upper-class women wore incredibly many layers. A maid or a servant, therefore, dressed them, and so it became imperative to make women’s clothes which were incredibly easier for the right-handed people to button up. On the other hand, clothes for men were left with right-handed buttons as it was a common practice throughout the buttoning history. And of course, almost all men used to dress themselves.

3. To Simplify Breastfeeding
It is without question that a vast majority of people are naturally right-handed. Having in mind that almost all women would practically hold their infants in their left hands, placing buttons on the left hand made it a snap to open up the shirt and breastfeed with the free right hand.

4. Battle Gimmick and Weaponry
Before the use of guns became popular, men usually had swords worn on their left side so that they could be quickly drawn ready for action with the right hand. When drawing a sword, no serious swordsman would want the sword to catch on his shirt or jacket. Placing buttons conveniently on the right side would easily eliminate this problem.

5. Napoleon Order
Napoleon portraits often show him tucking his hand in his coat, and of course the right hand. It is said that he ordered all women’s shirts be designed with buttons on the left side because they always stuck their hands in the shirts as a way of mocking him. Women couldn’t mock him anymore after the buttons were placed on the left side.

Which Trend Do We Expect To See In Future?
We are fortunate today that the differences in buttoning are now an old-fashioned charm relic of the early times. What now remains are the hints of the out of date sartorial dramas. Some clothes manufacturers are now selling unisex shirts and buyers seem not to worry much about where the buttons are placed.

Do you have more factors that you feel would have been included in our post? Do you really mind on which side of the shirt your buttons have been placed? Let us know, and we’ll be proud to hear from you.

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