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Do You Know Why Mens’ Buttons Are Left-To-Right And Womens Buttons Are Right-To-Left?

National Button Day is observed annually on November 16. Founded in 1938, the National Button Society recognized button collecting as an organized hobby. Both novice and advanced button collectors celebrate the enjoyment collecting on this day.

Crafters across the country utilize buttons in creative ways and are some of the best at finding new uses for old items. There are thousands of button collectors in the United States. There is a very large button “club” on the internet called “Buttonbytes“.  It is available at no cost to anyone interested in the hobby.

  • The oldest button ever found was in the Indus Valley Civilization which is now Pakistan. The button is made of a curved shell and dates back 5,000 years!
  • 2600-1500 BCE – Ornamental buttons dating back between 2600-1500BCE have been found in the Indus Valley Civilization, Rome and China
  • 1250 – ​The French established the first collective that designed artisan buttons, making buttons a status symbol.
  • 1300 – ​Europe was so button crazy, the church started calling them the “devil’s snare.” This was probably because most women’s clothing of the time buttoned up the front.
  • 13th century – Buttons with buttonholes used to keep clothing closed first appeared in Germany. By the 13th and 14th centuries, buttons were widespread throughout Europe.
  • 1800s – Until the 19th century, most buttons were used for men’s clothing. Hooks and lacing were the norm for women’s clothes. After the mid-1800s, women became the primary consumers of buttons.
  • 1896 – ​Polo players were the first to button down their collars to stop them from getting in the way during a match; Brooks Brothers copied the look and created a lasting trend in 1896.
  • 1900 – Noting the abundance of pearl mussels in nearby waters, a German immigrant opened a button-making factory in a small town Iowa, which soon grew to be the largest manufacturer of pearl buttons in the world.
  • During the World Wars, the British and U.S. military used button lockets which were buttons constructed like lockets to store compasses.
  • 1938 – The National Button Society, founded in 1938, established National Button Day as a celebration for all who enjoyed collecting and crafting with buttons
  • 2001 – Guinness World Records certified Dalton Stevens’ collection in South Carolina as the world’s largest button collection in the world. His collection of 439,900 buttons contains no duplicates. He was also known as The Button King. His collection is housed in a museum in Bishopville, South Carolina.  Another button collection can be found at the Waterbury Button Museum in Waterbury, CT.
  • 2014 – ​A button that was once part of a Texas Confederate Navy uniform circa the Civil War sold for over $2,000.
  • The word button is from the French word bouton, meaning bud or knob – buttons, as ornaments, date back several thousand years.
  • Left vs. Right: Men’s garments wrap from left to right with the button on the right side. Most men were right-handed and dressed themselves whereas servants dressed women of wealth. Placing them on the left side made it possible to face the buttons while completing the task. Also, most women were right-handed and held their babies in their left arm to nurse. Easy access was essential.
  • BUTTON-DOWN COLLARS: They actually did serve a purpose and horseback riding was the catalyst! Imagine going out for a hack with your shirt collar constantly flapping in your face. Rather annoying, huh? Shirt collars were originally attached separately so buttoning them down was the perfect solution, especially for polo players. In 1896, Brooks Brothers ran with the idea of calling the shirt, as we know it today, “The Original Polo Shirt.”
  • ​Buttons on uniform sleeves were put there to stop soldiers from wiping their noses. ​Widely repeated but never satisfactorily confirmed, it is said that Napoleon ordered brass buttons be placed on the sleeves of all military uniforms so soldiers would be discouraged from wiping their noses on them.
  • Buttons have spawned some awesome phrases:
    • we can call people cute as a button or all buttoned up.
    • Tell people to button their lips, which is oh-so-much nicer than shut your mouth.
    • Hit the panic button
    • be so happy we bust our buttons.
    • some might say, bright as a button.


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