Why Do Men's Shirts Button Opposite From Women's?

by Carolyn Simpkins ; Updated October 06, 2017

Why Do Men's Shirts Button Opposite From Women's?


Did you know that men's shirts button left to right, while women's shirts button in the opposite direction? There are several theories behind why buttons are sewn in different directions for men's and women's garments.

Prehistoric Evolution

One theory behind this phenomenon stems from the use of weapons. As stated in "Accessories of Dress," by Katherine Lester, a man's role as hunter required that he pull a weapon from left to right. Fastening a garment from right to left would impede the movement of our ancestors.


In a Mother Jones article, Paula Poundstone noted that medieval armor and use of swords influenced left-to-right buttoning on men's shirts, in order to facilitate the use of a sword.

Assumptions of Strength

Nineteenth century sexologist Havelock Ellis declared that women were inferior to men in strength, rapidity and precision. From this logic, men's garments were fastened left to right because they had the strength to dress themselves without aid.

Famous Ties

Portraits of Napoleon often depict him with his right hand tucked into his coat, which is only possible because of left-to-right buttoning.

Unisex Clothing

Most clothing that is considered unisex, such as the button-down shirts available at American Apparel, buttons left to right.

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About the Author

Carolyn Simpkins is a freelance writer and editor specializing in food, history, health, pet care and gardening articles. She currently works as a writing center coordinator and tutor at a small liberal arts college in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and women's studies from Agnes Scott College.