In the era of metro-sexual men and masculine silhouettes on women, it can be hard to determine what clothing belongs to which gender if you shop in places like thrift stores or flea markets. Jackets, a wardrobe staple, are no different, yet you don’t want to be caught in one that’s all wrong for your look—or your body. Learn how to tell whether a jacket is made for a woman or a man, so you’re always on point with your fashion.
In most cases, you may simply tell which gender the jacket belongs to by glancing at the buttons—men’s buttons are on the right side while women’s are on the left.
Much speculation exists about why button placement varies by gender, but no one really knows for sure. It could be that men’s buttons are on right side because men have dressed themselves for hundreds of years while women were often dressed by servants. This makes sense when you consider that most people are right-handed.
Other theories suggest that the right-side buttons also may have made it easier for men to draw a sword or other weapon while hunting while women needed left-buttoned jackets and shirts to prevent breezes blowing into their clothing during side-saddle horseback riding.
Buttoning position is not 100 percent accurate in determining which gender the jacket is for. Button placement does not translate to zipper placement, either—zippers can be on either side for men’s or women’s jackets.
The way in which a jacket is cut also signals for whom the jacket is designed. Men’s jackets typically have broader shoulders and backs built in to accommodate men’s larger upper bodies. The chests of women’s jackets are more generously cut to accommodate breasts.
Longer sleeves in comparison to the length of the jacket—especially in cropped ones such as leather bombers—are a clue that it’s designed for a man. Men’s jackets typically also have larger lapels.
Women’s jackets tend to have a bit of a cinched-in waist. Take a trench, for example, in which the area where the sash sits is narrower to emphasize a smaller waist. Men’s jackets are cut straight up and down to reflect a boxier body. Women’s jackets may flare slightly at the hips because women need to accommodate curves in the lower body.
The differences in men’s and women’s jackets also depend on the style of apparel. Men’s leather jackets, for example, tend to be larger and longer than women’s. Men’s suit jackets are boxy and, by definition, pair with men’s suit pants; women’s suit jackets are more tailored, fitted and cinched. With blazers, notice the details. Stitching that is curling, quilted or floral may indicate the clothing is made for a woman. Silver or gold buttons are classic on men’s styles.