Women’s and Men’s Shirts Have Buttons on Different Sides

Once upon a time long ago, your sex determined your fashion choices—women wore dresses and men donned pants. But the evolution of fashion has progressed to a less patriarchal mindset, and nowadays, men and women are free to wear anything they please. (Here are 51 fashion tips personal stylists won’t tell you for free.) Except for one gendered fashion trend that has stood the test of time—buttons sewn on the right of men’s shirt and women’s shirt buttons on the right. There are many different theories circulating, but it’s most certainly not because one sex writes with their right hand more than the other.

Some historians suggest that this ancient fashion trend may originate from the days of daring sword fights and knights in shining armor. “I think it’s important to question which time period we’re talking about, since shirt and jacket buttons are a relatively new phenomenon,” Chloe Chapin, costume designer and fashion historian told Today.com. “But as a general rule, many elements of men’s fashion can be traced back to the military.” Throughout history, men often tucked their swords or firearms into the left side of their jacket so they could easily access their weapon with their right hand in case of a dual and quickly button up with their left without sacrificing the use of their often dominant right hand in a fight.

As for women’s shirts, the elite may be to blame for the right-sided button fashion statement. Buttons were once deemed a status symbol that only the wealthy could could afford in the 13th century. Since most affluent women paid maids to dress them, it only made sense for buttons to be sewn onto the left side so the servants could button the dresses up with their right hand. (By the way, here’s how you can spot a piece of quality, well-made clothing.)

Whatever the reason may be, it looks like the left-sided and right-sided buttons on men and women’s shirts are here to stay.