Why Do Men’s and Women’s Shirts Button on Different Sides?

If you've ever accidentally tried on a shirt intended for the opposite gender, you no doubt figured it out as soon as you tried to button the buttons. Why do clothiers put the buttons for men and women on the opposite side of the shirt?

Everybody has that moment when they realize they don’t know about something that they should probably know about. Whether it’s history, language, science, or cultural phenomena, you’ve felt the stinging personal embarrassment of a moment wherein you realize there’s some common knowledge that isn’t so common. Don’t feel bad; nobody knows everything. Nobody, that is, except me and my sidekick, The Internet!

Somewhere in the world, a confused soul begs the question…

Why Do Men’s and Women’s Shirts Button on Different Sides?

If you’ve ever had to fold the laundry of men and women (or if you’ve ever accidentally put on a piece of women’s clothing in the dressing room at TJ Maxx without realizing it), you’ve invariably noticed that while men’s shirts have their buttons on the right side, women’s shirts have their buttons on the left side. Why is this?

Though there’s no historical record or museum with an exhibit devoted to buttons (and/or factual logic as to why a person’s sex would have anything to do with said buttons’ orientation), most sources seem to cite the same simple rationale that dates back over a century.

Mens’ buttons are on the right side because men have always tended to dress themselves and most men (and women, for that matter) are right-handed.

Womens’ buttons are on the left side because years ago (say, during the Victorian Era), the women that could afford fancy clothing with a bunch of buttons would rely on maids to help dress them. So, if a servant (most of whom, naturally, would be right-handed) is going to routinely buttoning up a shirt/dress for someone else, that servant is going to prefer to have the buttons on their right side (which would be the left side of the garment).

Now you know.

Justin Brown is an artist and writer living in Virginia. He channels most of his enthusiasm into making things for his online art shop, Artness! by Justin Brown. You can keep up to date with him, his worldly adventures, and his dogs by following him on Instagram and on Facebook