We Finally Learned Why Button-Down Shirts Have That Little Loop On the Back

Over the past century, American fashion has changed considerably, and sometimes it’s fun to make a stop on memory lane to learn a bit of history. What you’ll find is that some things have not changed at all.

This is especially true for men’s clothing. One subtle but undeniable detail you may have dismissed is that of the back-of-the-shirt loop. It’s there, glaring at you from the center yoke, daring you to snatch it or use it to spin the shirt around on your finger.

Often called a “locker loop” or “fairy loop”, it is sewn onto most oxford/button-down shirts. The purpose? As you may have guessed, the loops are meant for hanging the shirts up. The origin story of the locker loop is sometimes linked to US sailors who used them to hang their shirts on ships.

They became a regular part of mainstream menswear during the 1960s on college campuses as part of “preppy” gear. Clothing manufacturer Gant is credited with establishing this button-down on Ivy League lawns across the country. The man behind the company first started selling the shirt style to Yale’s shop for male students, and eventually, it spread.

Locker loops made it easy for young gents to hang up their shirts rather than folding them up when they changed for sporting activities. This helped to prevent wrinkling. The loops have since become synonymous with the Gant shirt brand and other dress shirt makers like Brooks Brothers and Wren followed suit.

This handy loop on the back soon served another purpose: being taken with someone. To show their affections were tied to a young lady, guys (or their smitten but slightly possessive girlfriends) would snip the loop as a sign that they were off the market.

According to Today, girls who were more courageous would tear the loops off the shirt of a fellow they were crushing on. Things have certainly changed since those times.

You will hear the loops referred to as different names, and they are still prone to being ripped off as a gag between buddies. And while they’re not really used as a symbol of one’s dating status, people still use the loops for hanging and drying if a hanger isn’t an option.

With so many shirt styles available today, you won’t find these on every men’s shirt, and occasionally you’ll see them on the inside of one. Mystery solved! These loops are not just a decorative accent or a means to drag someone through the house.

Now that this is cleared up, ladies can address those annoying loops that are attached to our nice dresses and tops. Perhaps we can get a subtler option like locker loops for hanging our garments?

Did you already know the history of the locker loop? Do you use them for their intended function? Have you ever ripped or snipped one off a shirt?