As fashion takes on a metrosexual approach and the cut of men’s and women’s clothing is increasingly indistinguishable, how can you tell the difference between men and ladies shirts and suits?
While colour and where you buy it from is often enough information to go on, what happens if it’s a black suit in a thrift store? Could you tell at a glance whether it’s for a woman or a man?
The answer is a simple one – it’s all in the buttons.
A garment for men has the buttons on the right. Whereas a garment for women has the buttons on the left.
It’s a subtle difference, but one that can be very telling to those in the know. What we can’t be sure of, is when and why this tradition began.
Men’s shirts were designed with combat in mind
For men, it’s been suggested that the buttons are on the left to due to military tradition, when a sword would be held in the right hand, leaving the left free to unbutton the waistcoat and shirt for ease of movement. It’s unclear whether many men would think to unbutton their shirt before striking their enemy in close combat, but there’s another military convention this could stem back to.
As the shield would be held on the left side, plates of armour would overlap from left to right preventing a lance point from striking the chest. It’s believed that this tradition made it into everyday menswear and is why men’s jackets button from left to right.
While men went to war, women stayed behind at home
And looking after the children is a common theory for the placement of women’s shirt buttons on the left. With women commonly right-handed and typically holding their babies in the left, it’s believed this allowed the right hand to undo buttons for quicker breastfeeding.
Another theory put forward is the custom of riding side saddle for ladies. The saddle would be on the right of the horse, so putting the buttons on the left, it’s assumed, prevented the breeze from flowing into the skirts/dress while riding.
There’s another explanation.
It was the wealth of the day that established fashion trends and customs. As women from the upper classes would have a maid to dress them, who would typically be right-handed, the buttons are on the left with them in mind.
What we can be certain of, is that these gender differences of shirts and suits are set to continue
While gender differences continue to blur, and the days of fighting and side saddle riding are behind us, button placement has been the norm for centuries now, and it’s unlikely the convention will change anytime soon.
We offer a range of shirts here for both sexes, with the correct button placement, of course, be sure to check them out before you leave.