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Those of us that are blessed enough to live in places that have cold weather will be familiar with leather jackets. Jackets or hoodies are the standard wear for people that need to button up to face the cold outside.
However, if you’ve ever noticed, the zipper is always on one side of the jacket. If you’re a woman it’s always on the left. But if you’re a man, it’s almost always on the right.
So what’s the deal?
What side is the zipper on a man’s jacket?
Short answer – the Slider (the metal thing that you move up and down) of the Zipper is generally on the right side of a man’s jacket.
Popularity of zippers and jackets
Outerwear which used zippers became very popular in the United States and became a staple in the 50s and 60s. Biker gangs and high school students began sporting them. They became a staple of the anti-hero or the tough guy image.
James dean famously sported a jacket in the film “Rebel Without a Cause”. However, all these jackets made after the Second World War in the US began to sport the zipper on the right. This has remained set in stone for over 70 years and will remain thus for many years to come.
Origins of the jacket zipper
The zipper was the last in a series of increasingly-convenient inventions that began in the mid-1800’s, culminating in something similar to what we know as the “zipper” in the early 1900s. They appear to have first been patented in Germany, but through an inventor working for The Universal Fastener Company in Hoboken, NJ. More inventions helped to perfect this original design into what we know now through the first half of the 20th century.
These include the Slider, an integral part in the “ease” of zipping up a jacket. The Slider works in tandem with the retainer box (that piece of metal at the bottom of the zipper) which parts the 2 sides of the zipper hook in two. The retainer box is usually placed on the left and the Slider is placed on the right.
For women’s jackets there is a difference. The slider is usually placed on the left side on women’s jackets. The retainer box is on the right. The script is flipped in most cases.
However, there is a little secret that you should be let in on.
This obsession with positioning zippers on the right for men’s jackets is an entirely American phenomenon. If you find yourself with a zipper on the left side on a men’s jacket, that shouldn’t alarm you. It’s common enough in jackets that are made outside the US to have sliders on either the left or the right.
The only specificity in the designer clothing world for sliders is in the military. The choice of the left or the right zipper is a matter of choice for the people placing the order. However, even here, there is a standard choice. Most military orders have the slider placed on the left side of the jacket.
The Right or Left Choice is Completely Arbitrary
You may think that the choice to place the jacket zip on the left or the right is a standard; however, it’s a choice.
This is a pretty prevalent myth out there, but it’s easily debunked. In 2013, someone asked GQ (a bit of an authority on men’s style) whether placing the zipper on the right side of the jacket made it for men. They also asked whether placement on the left made it a women’s jacket.
The answer was very ambiguous since it was based on the arbitrary survey of the answerer’s closet.
The answerer’s closet was filled with a lot of jackets which had zippers. They said that two had the zipper on the right and four had a zipper on the left. They did tell the questioner that they weren’t the ideal shopper or the consumer.
However, they did specify that the jackets in their possession included a Hermes, a Gaultier, and the motorcycle jacket. Based on this evidence, they said that zippers could be placed on both sides for either gender.
They didn’t even put the blame of choosing sides on nationality. The only consistent logic that they could find was that it mattered which side the buttons were on. If you have a jacket that has buttons on one side, then the zipper will most likely follow.
They did put a disclaimer at the end, though. Usually men’s zippers are on the right and women’s on the left. The reasoning they gave was that the buttons on the left are easier to open for women that are breast-feeding. If this sounded absurd, then they invoked a similar legend about switching sides.
Napoleon apparently switched traffic from left to right on the road. This was so that horsemen approaching from the opposite directions would have difficulty hacking at soldiers with their sabers.
The Historical Context
Men were usually dressed for war or for ceremony in the Victorian era. That’s when clothing really took off and designs and patterns became more common in clothing. Hence, that is where the cue for the right handed zipper may have been taken from.
Men in the military were often favored because of their dexterity with the right hand. Rifles, ammunition, and other big guns were also made for right-handed use. Even sabers were often hung at the left side of the belt to draw from the right hand.
This encouraged military uniforms to be made which would encourage right handed use. The left hand was left for more defensive use while holding a shield.