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Why do women and men wear their buttons on different sides?

For some reason, there are trends that survive over the time and others that not, even in chef's jackets. Have you ever observed in which side the men's and women's buttons fit on?

Men and women do not fasten their clothes on the same side: men's clothes have the buttons on the right and the buttonholes on the left, which seems very logical because the majority of the population is right-handed. But in women's clothing it is on the other side: the buttons are on the left and the buttonholes are on the right.

It is not clear why this happens, so several theories have been suggested.

In which side do the men's buttons go?

One theory for why the men's buttons are on the right is that in the late 16th century, knights wore their swords on the left side so that they could wield them easily, and the buttons on the right prevented the sword from getting caught between them. In fact, many 19th-century portraits, show knights with their left hand in their jacket, which was buttoned on the right.

Other theories, along the same lines, suggest that the shield was carried in the left hand, and the lances or firearms in the right.

Although swords, sabres and lances are not used today, the choice remains.

In which side do the women's buttons go?

Women's jackets and blouses have the buttons on the left side; a traditional usage for which various theories are proposed: 

  1. In the 19th century, women's costumes were so complicated that it was almost impossible for a lady to dress herself, so they needed a maid to do it for them. As most of them were right-handed, it was easier to do it if the buttons were on the left side of the shirt (the right side for them).
  2. Husbands carried their wives on their right arms, so the blouses were closed on the left side. If it was opened, only they would be able to see it.
  3. In the 19th century, women were allowed to ride horses alone, so they sat sideways on the horse with their bodies turned to the right. Buttons on the left side protected from draughts.
  4. Nursing mothers carried the baby on their right arm, so the buttons on the left side allowed them to open the shirt more easily for nursing.
  5. Another theory is that the buttons were not placed on the same side to remind women that they were not equal. There is not much information on this theory; some attribute it to Napoleon, but there is no historical data to support it.

Where do the buttons go on the chef's jackets?

Around 1800, chefs' uniforms were redesigned by chef Marie-Antoine Carême, the father of French haute cuisine. Since then, chefs have worn the white jacket known as "La Filipina", a double-breasted and double-buttoned, to protect them from burns and to hide the stains that accumulate during the work day. This garment is suitable for both men and women.

Double buttoning sometimes raises the question of how to fasten a chef's jacket, as it can be fastened on one side or the other. However, in keeping with the tradition mentioned above, women prefer to button it on the left side, and men on the right.

In addition to looking good, the meaning of the chef's jacket buttons explains his experience and rank: white indicates that the chef is at the lowest level; then they are replaced by black ones, which symbolise having completed his specialisation; blue ones indicate that he is in charge of cold dishes; green ones indicate that he is in charge of garnishes and soups; and red ones are reserved for those in charge of the salons.

Answering questions about chef’s jacket buttons, another question is the purpose of the shoulder buttons. Many military uniform shirts, jackets, tunics or overcoats have a button strip on the shoulders whose original mission was to hold backpacks, ammunition pouches or bayonets without slipping off the shoulder. They were also used to display insignia of rank, regiment or epaulettes.

Although they are no longer as useful today, they remain an aesthetic detail that, despite the years, refuses to disappear.

If you are looking for a company that makes blazers or chef's jackets, please contact us. In Norvil we have more than 40 years of experience producting corporate shirts and all kind of garments, so that the image of your employees transmits the philosophy of your business.