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Why are men and women’s buttons on different sides?

Fashion Tips By Audrey Masitsa
For years, men and women's shirts have been made with buttons on different sides (Photos: Shutterstock)

Have you ever wondered why your shirt buttons are on the left while a man’s are on the right?

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For years, clothing companies have placed men and women’s buttons on different sides. Buttons are placed on the left for women and on the right for men.

While it is still unclear why clothing manufacturers followed this rule, different theories have come to light. The basis for these theories is that it was assumed that most people were right handed so the buttons and zippers were made in favour of the right-handed.

In Victorian times (the late 1800s), buttons were the preserve of the rich. Thus, only wealthy women had them on their clothes. These women were dressed by their maids. To make it easier for the maid to fasten and unfasten the buttons, they were placed on the left of the wearer. Hence, when the maid was dressing her mistress, the buttons were on her right.

Women's buttons are often put on the left (Photo: Shutterstock)

Another theory that has been put forward has to do with breastfeeding. It was thought that lactating mothers often cradled their babies on the left so having buttons on the left made it easier for the mother to unfasten her blouse. She would cradle the baby on her left hand and use her right hand to undo her buttons.

In the case of men’s clothing, the buttons were placed on the right of the wearer. This was because men dressed themselves so buttons on the right would allow them to easily dress or undress.

In the Middle Ages, another theory says, men engaged in sword fights drawing their swords with the right hand leaving their left hand free. To make it easier for them to dress and undress, their clothes were made with the buttons on the right so they could use their free left hand to easily access them.

Men's buttons are put on the right (Photo: Shutterstock)

As the years went by and clothes were mass produced, clothing companies continued following this trend.

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Zippers started being used around 1925 and they followed the same trend: for men the zipper shield was placed on the left making the zip accessible on the right and the opposite for women.

While these rules have been followed for years, modern day fashion designers are paying less attention to the rules and making gender-neutral clothes. Thus it isn’t uncommon to find zips and buttons on either the left or the right for men and women.

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