Here's Why Button-Down Shirts Have Loops On The Back

Many high-quality button-downs have this little feature, but no one seems to know how to use it.

Oxford Shirts Hanging in Closet
Photo: Waldemar Milz / Getty Images

If you picked up a button-down shirt the last time you were at a department store like Neiman Marcus or Belk, you might have noticed a tiny fabric loop on the back of the shirt, below the collar, and where the shoulder blades should meet. Many high-quality button-downs have this little feature, but no one seems to know why. Luckily, Today did a little digging into the story behind the fashion quirk, and it turns out that those little loops are actually incredibly useful.

History of the Button-Down Shirt Loop

According to Metal Floss, the loops may have stemmed initially from sailors in the Navy. They didn't have closets to hang their shirts, so sailor's outfitted their clothing with loops so they could simply slide it onto a hook on the wall.

The sailors weren't the only ones who liked the loops, though. According to Today, back in the 1960s, the collegiate crowd preferred button-downs (how times have changed!) and needed a way to keep their shirts nice and neat while they exercised. To appeal to their Ivy League consumers, the Gant company started adding little fabric loops to the backs of their shirts. They called them "locker loops" because men could hang their shirts by the loop in their lockers and keep their button-downs wrinkle-free.

Button-Down Shirt Loops Popularity

The loops soon started to symbolize a sort of high-status Ivy League fashion. Later, according to Today, the loops became more a part of the collegiate culture, when men would remove the loops as a sign that their relationship status had changed and they were no longer single. Women, who didn't have locker loops on their shirts, would wear their gentleman's scarf to show they were going steady.

Fun fact: Girls used to yank the loops off the shirts of boys they liked and could easily tear a hole in the shirt, which is one way to get a boy to notice you.

From the locker rooms of the Ivy League, the trend spread to other shirt manufacturers, becoming a symbol of good taste and high quality. While most button-downs have the loop where the yoke meets the pleat (that's the technical term), if the shirt has a loop sewn onto the back of the collar, that's a different story. That loop is most likely to keep a bow tie in place. Slip the bow tie through the loop, tie it in the front as usual, and the bow tie will stay in place all night.

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