Why Do Men's Shirts Button Differently?

The historical origins of shirt button placement go back two centuries, gender rules of the time marking the reason for differences in the designs of attire.

  1. 19th Century Origins -- Women

    • Wealthy women in the 19th century had servants or handmaids who would dress their mistresses for them. Subsequently, dressmakers conformed their designs to make it easier for handmaids to assist their mistresses, putting the buttons in the position easiest for them to secure.

    Button Positioning

    • Most people were traditionally right handed two centuries ago, making left over right the easiest way to button clothing. Female attire with buttons was therefore made right over left in order for servants to dress their mistresses with ease.

    19th Century Origins - Men

    • Men, on the other hand, dressed themselves despite having servants and had the buttons fashioned in order to do so comfortably, assuming right handedness as well -- buttoning left over right.

    Armored Inspiration

    • Another theory is that the first jackets made for men that buttoned were designed with a suit of armor in mind, being that armor was designed to stop a right-handed enemy from stabbing through the seam. Additionally, a man could more easily unsheathe his sword with his right hand while unbuttoning their coats with his left.

    Feminine Facilitations

    • Alternately, left-sided buttons on female attire have been traced back to the easy facilitation of nursing babies on the left breast, closest to the heart.

    Modern Standards

    • Today, the designs behind shirt buttons has lingered. Despite a lack of servants in most households, not to mention armory and swords, men's shirts have continued to be designed as they were traditionally.

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