Why Do Button-Down Shirts Have Loops On the Back?

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  • Post last modified:April 1, 2024
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Button-down shirts are a staple in many wardrobes, but have you ever wondered about that small loop of fabric at the back of the collar or the center of the yoke? Commonly known as a locker loop, this unassuming detail has a fascinating history that dates back to the mid-1900s.

The Origin of the Locker Loop

  1. Sailors and Space-Saving Lockers: The locker loop first appeared on the garments of sailors. On ships, space was at a premium, and instead of closets, they had space-saving lockers. These lockers were too narrow to accommodate clothing hangers. To prevent wrinkles, shirts were sewn with fabric loops that could hang on hooks inside the lockers.
  2. Gant Shirtmakers and Ivy League Influence: The locker loop made its way from the high seas to dry land when Gant Shirtmakers incorporated it into their line of oxford cloth button-downs. As the official fashion brand of Yale, Gant produced shirts that became a mainstay on the New Haven campus. These shirts influenced popular men’s style throughout the US in the 1950s and 1960s.
  3. Romantic Signaling: Locker loops weren’t just practical; they also took on a romantic twist. In collegiate locker rooms, young women would tear the loops from the shirts of the young men they fancied. Some men even cut off the loops to signal that they were already spoken for. In return, women would wear their newfound boyfriend’s scarf.
  4. Unwelcome Uses and Derogatory Nicknames: Unfortunately, the locker loop’s ubiquity led to unwelcome behavior. Intact loops were yanked and ripped for fun, but worse, they were used to stoke homophobia. Derogatory nicknames like “fruit loop” and “fairy tag” were associated with the intact loop.

The Locker Loop Today

Today, the locker loop is no longer a symbol in popular culture, but it remains an essential element of button-down shirts from makers like Brooks Brothers, Gant, and Gitman Vintage. Whether you use it for its intended purpose (hanging in a locker) or not, you’ll at least know why it’s there.

Remember, this little loop carries a rich history that spans oceans, college campuses, and romantic gestures. So next time you put on your favorite button-down shirt, take a moment to appreciate the humble locker loop.

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