Patriarchal Fashion

Mandy\'s avatar

Usually, men’s shirts have buttons on the right, women’s on the left (there’s a few theories as to why). I grew up a tomboy, wearing as many hand-me-downs from Dad as from anyone else, so my closet’s always been a mix of men’s and women’s clothing, and I frequently forget which is which.

I’ve gotten it wrong before, but it’s the primary reason I usually “cheat” and draw only the seam with no buttons. 😀

Fox\'s avatar

Remember kids: No one cares why shirts are buttoned like they are.

28 comments on “Patriarchal Fashion

      1. I learned that the hard way a couple of times over the years – dressing in the dark from a basked of clean but unfolded/unhung laundry.

        I still periodically manage to hang clean shirts before realizing they are inside out (poor basement lighting).

        1. You my good sir, are infinitely better than I am. I managed to put on a T-shirt backwards, and inside out with good lighting. I was also completely awake. And I have done this several times.

  1. Women’s buttons are on the opposite side from men’s so the men don’t embarrass themselves (too much) by fumbling when trying to UNbutton them while facing the wearer of the blouse. 😉 🙂 🙂

  2. I have heard (from a person I considered knowledgeable) that the reason is that a maid would button her mistress from the back, while a manservant would button his master’s shirts from the front.

    1. The maid dressed her mistress from the back because the buttons were on the back of the outfit, usually a dress. There are many reasons given for why the buttons are on different sides but my personal favourite is because of how horses were ridden. Since men sat astride the horses, they needed to be able to draw back their coats with their left hand and draw their sword with their right. therefore the left side had to overlap the right for their coats. Whereas women rode sidesaddle and the wind would get into any gap in their clothing so the right side had to overlap the left. Sounds as good as any other reason.

  3. Supposedly, the reason a mans shirt buttons up from that side stems from back when wealthy males carried swords and wealth females didn’t dress themselves. Swords were usually drawn out of the sheath across the body and would get caught if the shirt buttoned the other way. The females shirts buttoned the other way to make it easier for their primarily right handed maids. Or at least that is what I was told.

    1. I carry a 96G Elite II, so I know the benefit of having a firearm specifically designed to prevent snagging. At the same time, I’ve not the same level of experience having drawn swords from sheaths, but trying to pull a three or four foot stick of metal out of an equally inflexible scabbard from your hip across your chest seems a stretch. That’d have to be a hell of a flexible attachment point on the belt, and worn very forward, at a cant. So far I’d question it hitting the middle of the body, especially when the crossguard is parallel to the gap in the fabric.
      *shrugs* I never took any fencing, so maybe a rapier or something, but we’re already getting way too far down the ‘Actually Squad’ level of pedantic shit nobody cares about.

      1. After reading this I tried Google-ing ‘how to draw a sword’, and was somehow surprised to get a lot of art guides back.
        I did know a couple of guys used swords when I was in, what you would call, high school. I’ll try get an answer out of one of them, and get back to you.

        1. Ok. The guy who got back to me reckons that it may be possible, but unlikely. I imagine that an unskilled user, drawing in a small space, and a bit of a hurry, could potentially catch the lower part of the crossguard, if he twisted his wrist enough.

      2. Rapiers are rigid. For the French / Italian designs, more so than cut and thrust swords. I’d say there’s no way you could draw one and get it caught on the center of your shirt.

        1. It’s not the sword, it’s not the scabbard – it’s how the scabbard is hanging. Having a perfectly rigid object attached rigidly to your side makes it impossible to sit/get through narrow spaces/etc. Most swords are hung from a ‘frog’, a piece of leather that lets the sword hang from the belt at an angle good for drawing while letting it move out of the way if the wearer pushes it around.

    2. I don’t see how a sword could get caught to your shirt unless you rub it on your tummy.
      And if you were to rub sharp deadly things on your own body parts, you’ll have far more serious concerns than buttons.
      Just saying.

  4. It wasn’t shirts that set the standard but coats. Shirts didn’t have buttons until the last couple hundred years (too much labor). Shirts were pull-overs like Tee shirts. Waist coats (vests) and full coats were the first to have button closures, and they determined the custom. The buttons themselves had little to do with it. it was whether the fold was right over left or left over right. With the left side on top for men, it proved advantageous for men when drawing weapons on horse back and showing off their waist coats while dancing, so buttons on that side became traditional.

  5. I work at Goodwill and when I’m production hanging things to be tagged, I am constantly remembering the “mens are right” reason for whether shirts are mens or womens when sorting. However, I still sort them wrong when I am given a unisex polo shirt without underarm seams. Why? Due to the fact I keep forgetting if they are supposed to be on the right when you’re looking at them, or if they are right when you have the shirt on and you are looking down to button them.

  6. All of the button-handedness explanations, of which all or all but one are wrong, could have been avoided if people had just clicked the link in the OP.
    Incidentally, it states that the distinction became fixed around 1860, about the time sewing machines became popular, which militates against the sword-drawing explanation.

    1. Personally, I read that article more as speculation than presentation of fact. Also, I kinda like the sword idea, if only for It’s potential comedic value.

    2. If you google for an explanation you get that article and several others, some of which state the distinction became fixed in the early 1900’s. What it comes down to is that no one really knows nowadays and so there is much speculation on the subject. It really doesn’t matter why it has become the fashion, it’s something we accept and live with.

  7. Eureka! I’ve got it! It’s a marketing ploy–any shirt having buttons on the left side is called a “blouse” and costs three times as much.

        1. I now be a YouTube butthole and make fun of your grammar

          Anyways yeah it’s too bad we didn’t come up with it before

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