If you remember NBC's hit faux-reality sitcom The Office, you may recall an episode where Michael Scott (brilliantly played by Steve Carrell) accidentally wears a women's suit to work. His coworkers notice right away, and don't mince words when they let him know. At one point, someone asks him, "Are you wearing lady clothes?"
He denies it at first, as the suit fits him like a glove -- but then he realizes the cold hard truth about his new suit: The buttons are on the wrong side of the jacket. Women's buttons are generally on the left, while men's are on the right.
It made for a hilarious moment on the show, but did you ever stop to think why the buttons switch side according to gender? It turns out that there's a few historical theories on the matter, including ideas about Napoleon, sword-fighting, and breastfeeding. Learn more about this curious trend below.
In all his portraits, Napoleon had his right hand tucked into his coat -- believe it or not, it was a sign of "good breeding" at the time,m and his buttons were on the left. Because Napoleon felt men were superior and was sick of women mocking his signature posed, he allegedly demanded that women's buttons be moved to the opposite side.
Men carried their swords on their right hand, so it was easier for them to unbutton with their left hand.
One theory has to do with babies and breastfeeding: Women held babies with their left hand to keep their right hand free for unbuttoning their top so they could get the job done.
Also, since women were dressed by servants, who were usually right handed, it was easier for them if buttons were on the left.
Women sat sidesaddle to the left, so buttons on the left prevented wind from getting in. Contrastingly, men rode on the left side of the road with their swords on their left hips, so having buttons on the right kept it from getting caught in their clothes.
Even when modern women started wearing pants and more masculine looks, the buttons were still on the opposite side. Hey, they had to keep their clothes slightly different, right?
It's interesting to thing that a trend that used to have a purpose essentially carried on into the new century without much reason. Then again, we'll always have a way to tell men's and women's clothes apart, right?