His or Hers: Why Shirts Button on Opposite Sides
By: Brittany Powell
Life is full of funny little mysteries we encounter every day and we rarely ask ourselves "why?" Some things come to our attention at random, then curiosity takes over and we've got to know. This happened for me recently when looking shirts. Some buttoned left, others buttoned right. Why?
While there is no definitive answer, most think it goes back to medieval times. Fancier garments with buttons and trimmings were predominantly the fashion of nobility. It was assumed that the predominant hand for most was the right, so men's shirts are designed to be buttoned accordingly, buttons right and holes left. Women of nobility at the time did not dress themselves. To ease the task of the servant or hand maids dressing them the buttons and holes were reversed, left and right respectively.
To follow this theory, it is also thought this helped facilitate matters sexually allowing a man to better be able to undress a woman. Furthermore it limited women, by similar theory, having to attempt to dress or undress themselves using their inferior hand.
Whether or not this is the truth of the matter it is definitely something to think about. There is a large degree of sexism to the smallest details of clothing if these theories are fact, so what other sexist notes are there to medieval clothing? Do the items that crisscross and tie overlap a certain way? In modern times with changing gender roles it seems there would be a change in fashion to where all buttons were one side.
Whatever the cause of the distinction, it is one that carries forward even today. I don't know if the ladies of the time ever had trouble in the off chance they buttoned their own clothes. I never have.