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.

40 Comments

  • Reply December 26, 2011

    Cameron

    Great article, I’ve been wondering about this myself, as I tend to wear shirts untucked more often when going out, but I try and go for slimmer fitting ones

  • Reply December 26, 2011

    Rich

    Does those same rules apply if you are not tall ? lol

    • Reply December 26, 2011

      Andrew

      Absolutely. Rules of fit are pretty universal.

  • Reply December 26, 2011

    chris

    sucks if you are less than about 68″ tall and thin though, as pretty much all shirts will be too long, much too baggy in the torso, and if you’re athletic, too tight in the chest in a small.

    Gap smalls are really bad for this. Seems it’s impossible to get slim fit short length shirts that fit a more athletic chest and neck.

  • Reply December 26, 2011

    Rich

    Being 5’6 and a gym rat I fall under big and small lol. It’s always cut here,shorten here, alter here. Super pain in the ass lol

  • Reply December 26, 2011

    Bryan

    So what are some examples of some brands that make shirts that are a good length? What is the blue gingham shirt that’s approved?

  • Reply December 27, 2011

    Andrew

    Chris, Absolutely understand. You may want to look into an online Made to Measure shirt company, most of them are between $30-$90, which is the going rate for a shirt at a place like Gap or Banana Republic, except this one will fit! 🙂

  • Reply December 27, 2011

    Andrew

    Bryan,

    Unfortunately a brand that works great for me may not work great for you due to different body types, fit preferences, etc. I’ve had good luck with Lands’ End Canvas, I have two shirts from them I wear untucked. It also has to do with what the shirt is intended for, for example, most shirts labeled as a dress shirt will be too long to wear untucked.

    The gingham shirt is from Lands’ End Canvas, but isn’t available any longer. They have something close:
    http://canvas.landsend.com/pp/HeritageBuffaloCheckPoplinShirt~217664_-1.html?bcc=y&action=order_more&sku_0=::KL4&CM_MERCH=canvas-search-_-The+Heritage+Check+Poplin+Shirt&origin=search

  • Reply December 30, 2011

    Quora

    How can I tell the difference between button-up shirts that are meant to be worn tucked in, untucked, or either way?…

    I would use a simpler criterion: shirts that look good untucked may be worn untucked; shirts that look good tucked may be worn tucked. As with novels, authorial intent is irrelevant. If it were that easy, you wouldn’t be asking the question, so here a…

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Keith

    You should check out untuckit.com. They designed shirts from the bottom up to be worn untucked. The shirts are awesome and a perfect length. Can only buy online.

  • […] many of your sport shirts untucked, so make sure they hit right below the belt. Take a look at this article from Primer Magazine for where your shirt should […]

  • Reply May 19, 2012

    Rock

    Does those rules apply while wearing a T-shirt?

  • Reply May 22, 2012

    Joe

    What kind of jeans are those in the last photo?

  • Reply May 22, 2012

    Andrew

    Joe, those are from H&M.

  • Reply May 24, 2012

    Jordan

    If I was to be getting some shirts tailored and also wanted to be able to wear them untucked, is there any reason I shouldn’t get them shortened to work untucked? Is that something that people do, or is this a really strange request?

    This will be my first adventure into tailored clothes, so I don’t want to make a stupid request in person (online is fine though!)

  • Reply May 25, 2012

    Grant

    @Jordan Good question. I would not recommend having your shirts shortened. It isn’t worth the time, energy or cost especially since you’re just entering the custom world. I recommend you buy off the rack. Check out a brand called Untuckit which are shirts designed to be worn untucked (pun intended). I’m connected with them personally so let them know I sent you and they will take care of you. Good luck.

  • Reply May 25, 2012

    Jordan

    Grant- Thanks for the heads up! I’m definitely liking what I’ve seen at untuckit. Next shirt I get, I’ll be looking there first -with a name drop, of course. Will those shirts stay tucked in if, by chance, you wanted to tuck it? (I know, blasphemy for a brand called untuckit, right?)

    The only reason I asked about the shortening is because I’m already going to be going to the tailor (I have a rather V shaped upper body) and figured “why not?” -plus to just to try and get that much extra usage out of some of my dress shirts. I feel like I’d wear most of them a lot more often if they didn’t fall so low on me.

  • […] likely your shirt won’t be very stiff, probably worn untucked (though make sure your shirt is designed to be worn untucked, and if a standard collar, without collar […]

  • Reply July 16, 2012

    Kevin

    One thing to watch out for is the differing length of the fly on pants. I have some twill/chinos that have a fly about 1.5″ shorter than my jeans so what looks pretty good with jeans (falls within the guide) looks way too long with the twill pants.

  • […] it’ll probably be long enough to cover your butt, and well, do I have to link you to that Primer article again? The one that illustrates appropriate untucked shirt length? Leave the shirt dresses to the […]

  • Reply September 26, 2012

    Style Girlfriend

    Love this. Having the images for reference is so useful!

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    Paul

    I think I have the same problem as Rich.
    I am proportionally wider in the chest and shoulders compared to my height.
    Also, my preferred style for going out is an untucked button up.  It seems like all the shirts I try fall farther than desired.
    For a guy that really does not like shopping, it is very annoying to just find a shirt I feel comfortable in.

    • Reply December 28, 2012

      Andrew

      Hey Paul, You should consider a Made to Measure service like Blank Label, Indochino, etc. These will be made from your measurements, so they should address the proportion problem.

  • Reply June 28, 2013

    Luis

    I am on the shorter side and I have a whole bunch of really nice shirts that I would like to wear untucked but…. I always thought they were too long and this article confirms it. What are the options? Do people take their shirts to the tailor to shorten to the right length? Thanks

  • Reply August 17, 2013

    shirttailsout

    Personally, I much prefer the longer length, fully covering the zipper.

  • Reply September 29, 2013

    HowYerDurrin

    Good advice but the guy writing the article wears fedora’s so i’d take it with a pinch of salt.

  • Reply February 11, 2014

    Arvin

    Can anyone tell me if my shirt is too short (see the attached image).

    • Reply February 11, 2014

      Andrew

      Hey Arvin,

      I’d say it’s a tad short. You could probably get away with it if you tucked it in.

      • Reply February 11, 2014

        Arvin

        Wow, thanks!

    • Reply March 24, 2015

      Jake Awake

      Too short. Looks camp.

  • Reply April 8, 2014

    Truleyblessed

    can you wear a polo shirt with a button up shirt

    • Reply March 24, 2015

      JAKE AWAKE

      You can do whatever you like.

  • Reply May 4, 2014

    Oz

    I’m exactly 6 feet tall and yet I only find shirts that are either too small or too long, and the majority of them are baggy.

    • Reply March 24, 2015

      Jake Awake

      You are the same height as MOST models. Look harder and stop complaining! Most clothes are based on your height. If you are fat, lose the weight. You are better off than most other guys.

  • […] also important to make sure the shirt is short enough in the front and the tail to wear untucked, as this shirt will be worn in largely casual situations. And moving up the arms, the sleeves […]

  • Reply January 19, 2015

    Norman Kings

    Rich, I know your plight. I sail the same boat, though at 6′. What adds to the pain is the cycles of bulking and shredding. And alterations sometimes spoil the shirt (and the trousers) beyond the point of salvage. Here’s a solution that’s been working for me – Tailor the shirts to keep a margin of 7-8″ around the chest and 5-6″ around the waist. Keep the sleeves at 2-3″ margin at 10″ to 15″ down from the shoulder. Try this and you’ll be good.

  • Reply November 7, 2015

    Imistu

    unless you’re super tall

  • Reply December 6, 2016

    Ben

    Odd question that I have always wanted a definitive answer to: Where should the last button of your shirt fall in relation to your belt when tucked in?

    I know that in the past a different color thread was used on the last button since it was to be “covered” by your pants but I’m not sure if this is still the standard or not.

    Do most of you wear your shirts with the last button above, under, or below your belt when tucked in?

    Thanks!

  • Reply April 3, 2019

    Muzammil Majeed

    For more Dressing related tips visit Mr.Hamid Saeed Official Page.
    https://www.facebook.com/hamidsaeeddesigner

  • Reply August 20, 2019

    Ashley Johnson

    I thought that it was interesting when you said that one thing to consider when you are looking to buy a new men’s button-up shirt is to make sure that the shirt length falls at the middle of the back pockets when it is untucked to make sure that it fits correctly. I have been trying to buy my husband new dress shirts but I have been unsure as to what to look for in the store to make sure that it fits right. I will be sure to use this trick to find the perfect fitting dress shirts for him.

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