Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A: A look at men's and women's clothing and button placement

The gender button question

Maybe you can answer this question: The other evening we were discussing why men's buttons are on the right side and women's on the left. Why is that?

This is one of those questions that has a lot of possible answers, none of them definitive.

The most common explanation is that the tradition dates from the 17th century. In those days, buttons were mostly on the clothes of wealthy people. The custom was that rich men dressed themselves, and because most people are right-handed, the buttons were on the right side because they were easier to hook.

But rich women were dressed by servants, who would stand in front to fasten all of the buttons for their employers. Putting the buttons on the left side for women's clothes made it handier for the servants, assuming they also were right-handed, to do their jobs.

And since wealthy women influenced fashion, other women copied them. So buttons on the left for women became the norm.

Other theories:

• Men's buttons were placed on the right so that they could draw a sword from the left hip and not snag in the process.

• Women's buttons were placed on the left to allow easier access to the left breast for nursing, since it's closer to the heart.

• Women didn't want to be seen as wearing men's clothes, so they changed the button placement.

Whatever the reason, that tradition continues today.

Fight on flight sparked concern

A trans-Atlantic United Airlines flight recently returned to the United States because of two unruly passengers. This plane was in contact with controllers, and the problem was known. Why did the U.S. Air Force scramble jet fighters to escort the plane to its landing?

Here's what we know: On May 29, a United Airlines flight took off from Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., at about 10:44 p.m. bound for Ghana with 144 passengers.

Shortly after takeoff, a passenger reclined his seat, and the man behind him took offense and smacked him in the head. A flight attendant and another passenger intervened, the pilot was notified and he decided to turn back and land at Dulles. Meanwhile, two F-16 fighter jets from nearby Andrews Air Force Base were sent up to shadow the flight until it landed. No one was charged, even though the plane dumped about $50,000 worth of fuel and the flight was delayed for a day.

Homeland Security and airline officials aren't commenting on the incident. But there are indications that the pilot was concerned about terrorism, and disturbances on planes, especially in the Washington area, are bound to get a quick and forceful reaction even nine-plus years after Sept. 11, 2001.

Q&A: A look at men's and women's clothing and button placement 06/09/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 5:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New World Brewery is closing. Where will all its concerts go now?


    Ever since it was announced that New World Brewery was closing its beloved Ybor City location and relocating to a spot farther north, there’s been an outpouring of nostalgia from artists, promoters and fans throughout the Tampa Bay music scene.

    Allison Weiss performed at New World Brewery in 2015.
  2. Farewell, New World Brewery: 11 Tampa music scene regulars toast a beloved venue


    It's hard to put into words what New World Brewery has meant to the Tampa music scene over the past 22 years.

    Matt Burke and Have Gun, Will Travel, shown performing at New World Brewery in 2009. Burke credits the venue with shaping how the band wanted to develop.
  3. Betsy DeVos rescinds Obama-era rules on campus sexual assault


    Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has said over and over again that sexual assault on campus is an issue she wants to get right.

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
  4. In dollars: How valuable are Florida's university football programs?


    The University of Florida football program is valued in a new study at $682 million, making it the most valuable university team in the state but still worth far less than several college programs topping $1 billion. Four years ago, UF's program was valued at just under $600 million.

    The University of Florida football program is valued at  $682 million, making it the most valuable by far in the Sunshine State. Pictured are UF cheerleaders leading the crowd in a Gator cheer on Clearwater Beach last December during the Outback Bowl Beach Day on Clearwater Beach. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. After 22 years, it's last call for beloved Ybor venue New World Brewery

    Music & Concerts

    YBOR CITY — Steve Bird spreads his tools across a patio table. He has awnings to unbolt and paraphernalia to unpry, from the busted Bop City neon by the stage to the Simpsons "El Duffo o Muerte" mural in the courtyard. He'll uproot a fountain and dismantle a roof and attempt to keep his bar intact. The …

    Various decor and memorabilia fill the walls and shelves at New World Brewery in Ybor City.
Long time music venue and hangout New World Brewery in Ybor City will be closing it's doors and moving locations. Patrons enjoy one of the last events before New World Brewery changes its location to Busch Blvd in Tampa.  [Photo Luis Santana | Times]