Style Q&A: How Long Should the Front be of an Untucked Button Up Shirt?

The most versatile button up shirt can be worn both tucked in and untucked. But with different lengths and cuts, it can be hard to tell if a shirt fits untucked.

Back to untucked button up shirts — You've mentioned how long they should hang in the back, but what about in the front?Ali A. (a concerned wife)

The quick and easy answer is that it should be the same length as the back of your shirt which as we’ve discussed earlier should fall no lower than the bottom of your back pocket. Dress shirt hems should come in the same length in the front as they do in the back to ensure uniformity.

One exception to this is the polo shirt. Original polo shirts came with a longer back hem than front hem. The difference between polos and dress shirts is that polos come with a flat bottom and are designed to be untucked. Dress shirts come with a curved hem and are designed to be tucked in. Somehow over the years this has been reversed (at least in America). The longer back hem of the polo shirt is intended to cover the rear when untucked and keep the shirt in place when tucked.

We thought we’d bring in another expert on the matter so we asked Mr. Eric Powell of Ratio Clothing his opinion. Ratio makes custom shirts, and Eric had this to say:

“The large majority of dress shirts or button-up shirts these days will hang to the same length in the front and back, or be very close. For the overall length, my general rule of thumb is mid-back-pocket on the length for a shirt worn untucked.

And, while we’re on the topic, I think the most overlooked factor in wearing a shirt untucked is how big around the shirt is in the hips and waist area. If you have a shirt that is much bigger around than your waist, it’s going to look bad untucked even if you nail the length (imagine a poncho). Look for a good slim-fit option that fits snug, but not button-popping tight, through the torso and you’ll be in good shape.

If you really want to get into the minutiae of a great looking untucked button-up, the shape of the shirt tails can make a difference too. We opt for a shallow curve on our shirts so that the length on the sides of the shirt is long enough to fall past the belt-line without the front and rear tails hanging like a dress.”

Grant Harris is Owner & Chief Style Consultant at Image Granted; a Washington, DC based Image Consulting Company dedicated to solving the complex image, style & fashion issues of today's professional man. He has a healthy obsession with socks. Follow him on Twitter & Facebook.