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Why do men's and women's shirts have buttons on opposite sides?

March 23, 2018


The button-down design has been a staple in fashion for as long as we can remember. However, while fashion trends have evolved over the years, some strange traditions have remained.


If you're a woman, you'll notice the buttons on your shirt are on the left, and if you're a man, on the right. But why are they on different sides? Honestly, no one is really sure.


Some have suggested we have to look at the time period of when the button was invented. The button was introduced in the 13th century, a time when most wealthy women weren't dressing themselves. Instead, their lady's maid dressed them, and since most people were right-handed, having buttons on the left would make it much easier for them to button your dress. 


Another theory is babies. Most individuals are right hand dominant and so women would carry their babies with their left arm to keep their right free for other tasks. It's believed that perhaps the buttons were on the left so that the women could easily unbutton with her right hand in order to breastfeed.


But what about men? Obviously they weren't breastfeeding, nor did they have maids dressing themselves. Instead, it's believed it comes down to weaponry. Chloe Chapin, fashion historian and Harvard University Ph.D. candidate in American studies told Today that "access to a weapon ... practically trumped everything." 


Men would often carry their rifles or swords inside their jackets on the left side and again, the right-handed theory comes into play. Chapin notes that reaching for weaponry would be much easier from the dominant side, meaning the buttons should be on the right. 


There are plenty of other theories circling around online as to why the placement of buttons is different for men and women, but what's more interesting is that we have continued on with this strange tradition despite answers.





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