NEWS
GOOD PEOPLE
HISTORY
LIFE HACKS
THE PLANET
SCIENCE & TECH
POLITICS
WHOLESOME
WORK & MONEY
About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy
© GOOD Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Interesting reason why men and women have buttons on opposite sides of their shirts

Women's shirts have buttons on the left whereas men's have them on the right and the reason behind this is still not known to many.

Interesting reason why men and women have buttons on opposite sides of their shirts
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels I Photo by Aukid phumsirichat

Fashion has evolved such that both men and women are now free to wear anything they want. Modern-day clothes do not adhere to strict gender-specific styles and have been more about personal expression and comfort. Amidst all changes, one rule of clothing has remained intact: the placement of buttons. The current era still sees women have buttons on their left whereas men have them on their right side - the reason still not known to many.

Representative Image Source: Pexels I Photo by Cottonbro Studio
Representative Image Source: Pexels I Photo by Cottonbro Studio

Interestingly, the vast majority of all humans are right-handed yet only men’s clothing, particularly shirts, have buttons on the right side. However, women’s shirts weirdly have buttons on the left side. This practice has remained relevant for centuries and there are a couple of theories that would give us a clear picture of this clothing rule. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels I Photo by Antoni Shkraba
Representative Image Source: Pexels I Photo by Antoni Shkraba

The first probable theory behind the positioning of the buttons revolves around the way middle and upper-class European women used to dress. During the Renaissance and Victorian eras, women's dresses were densely layered consisting of petticoats, corsets, and bustles. To get out of the elaborate clothing, these women often had to rely on their maids who would assist them to get undressed without much fidgeting. As a result, dressmakers sewed the buttons onto the left side of women’s garments to make it easier for the maid to tie and untie them, per Smithsonian Magazine

The second probable theory could be related to women riding horses. In the past, women used to ride horses sidesaddle. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a sidesaddle was "a saddle on which the rider sits with both legs on the same side of the horse." When women rode sidesaddle, the right sides of their bodies used to face the front. The tops which had buttons on the left would protect riders from the breeze coming through their clothing.

Representative Image Source: German stunt rider Therese Renz (1859-1938), of the Renz circus family of Berlin, riding sidesaddle on one of her performing horses, circa 1895. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Representative Image Source: German stunt rider Therese Renz (1859-1938), of the Renz circus family of Berlin, riding sidesaddle on one of her performing horses, circa 1895. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Another probable theory, reported by Southern Living, suggests that women's clothes had buttons on the left as they were designed for mothers. It was noticed that women used to hold their babies in their left arm, keeping the right hand free. As such, had the buttons been on the right, it would have made it difficult to unbutton the clothes for breastfeeding.

While all these theories suggest why women had buttons on the left, some other theories focus on why men had buttons on the right. One of them suggests that men had their buttons on the right mostly due to the rules of warfare in the past. In an era where there were no guns, pistols, or rifles, most of the fighting was done with shields and swords.

In the book, "The Art of Chivalry: European Arms and Armor from the Metropolitan Museum of Art" the authors explained the relevance of the right side of buttons in old wars, "To [ensure] that an enemy’s lance point would not slip between the plates [of armor], they overlapped from left to right, since it was standard fighting practice that the left side, protected by the shield, was turned toward the enemy. Thus, men’s jackets button left to right even to the present day."

While it is difficult to zero in on the real reason why buttons ended up on the different sides of women's and men's clothes, the theories do make up for good arguments. 

More Stories on Good