A new challenge for Evolutionary Psychology!


The berry-picking stuff has been done to death — and I haven’t even gotten to blueberries and tubers — but here’s an idea that ought to be pursued. What is the evolutionary and genetic basis of different ways of buttoning shirts? It’s a consistent pattern, has been that way for centuries, so by EP logic, there is surely a button-handedness module or gene.

Once they’ve figured that one out, they should get to work on pockets. That’s an infuriating sex difference.

Comments

  1. cartomancer says

    I have a theory!

    My theory, which is mine, is that the fashion industry has always been run by left-handed gay men. Hence putting the buttons on that side makes it easier to undress other men in a hurry. This makes perfect sense to me as a left-handed gay man, and covers every eventuality I can think of, so obviously it is completely and profoundly right.

  2. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Once they’ve figured that one out, they should get to work on pockets. That’s an infuriating sex difference.

    Have you ever tried stuffing berries in your pockets? It’s not a pretty sight.

  3. chigau (違う) says

    from the linked article

    …Paula Poundstone noted, jokingly taking on the button differential in Salon: “Some costumers speculate that at one time, both men and women held animal skins over themselves with their left hand, making a right-over-left closure, in order to free up their right hand for more important tasks, such as signing their Discover card receipt at the belt store.”

    That about covers it.

  4. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin points out her feathered tuxedo is welded on, and cheese is better ate than pocketed. The real mystery is why peas come in cans, jars, bags, and pods, rather than incinerated.

  5. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    @cartomancer, why just gay men? It’s so everybody can undress their partner without fumbling.

  6. says

    Of course the different side thing for men and women doesn’t work with traditional Japanese clothing. It’s worn, male or female, with the left side wrapped over the right side. If you wear it right side wrapped over left side you’re wearing it the same way as a corpse is dressed.

  7. says

    timgueguen@#8:
    If you wear it right side wrapped over left side you’re wearing it the same way as a corpse is dressed.

    Oh, now, wiseguy answer me this: how did corpses evolve that behavior? Is it horizontal gene transfer?

  8. Scientismist says

    While I like Paula Poundstone’s answer (heck, I LOVE anything Paula has to say, especially when Peter Sagal can get her off-topic), I always thought that, like driving on the left, it had to do with jousting and the flagon with the dragon having the brew that is true. Or is it the vessel with the pestle? Or the chalice from the palace? No, that one broke. There’s only one true answer, right? Ah forget it. I’m headed to Oregon to pick wild blackberries during the eclipse.

  9. davidc1 says

    Where’s me shirt ?.Ah bet you Americans won’t know what i am on about .
    The answer is nothing to do with Ken Dodd.

  10. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    (heck, I LOVE anything Paula has to say, especially when Peter Sagal can get her off-topic)

    My favorite Paula Poundstone line is her contribution to the “You know you’re getting old when…” genre, which I use constantly, even though I’m not getting old any more:

    You know you’re getting old when you’re bending over to pick up something off the floor and you say to yourself: “Let’s see…is there anything else I can get while I’m down here?”

  11. robro says

    The old saw is that women (of privilege, of course) had ladies-in-waiting to dress them, and men did not. That’s kind of preposterous because men of wealth often had a man servant to help them dress. And of course, most people didn’t have anyone to dress them.

  12. KG says

    Have you ever tried stuffing berries in your pockets? It’s not a pretty sight. – What a Maroon@4

    Huh. Have you ever tried stuffing a mammoth in your pocket?

  13. Tethys says

    If you are manufacturing button down shirts, it would be very handy to have a construction detail that makes it easy to determine which are mens and which are womens . According to the phhttt of knowledge, buttons did not become common in Europe until the 13-14th century.

  14. robro says

    Tethys — I have no idea if this is valid (cites no sources), but this history of the button says peasants weren’t allowed to wear them in France in the mid 13th century. I believe I’ve read before that buttons were an aristocratic status symbol in the middle ages.

    Buttons were also a religious issue. At some point the Church condemned them, as did Puritans later.

    In any case, buttons didn’t become common until the mid-19th century when mass production made them cheap.

  15. Dunc says

    If you are manufacturing button down shirts, it would be very handy to have a construction detail that makes it easy to determine which are mens and which are womens .

    Why? If you’re doing bespoke or made-to-order, then you are working on individual shirts that need to be kept separate. If you’re doing mass production, you’re running an entire line dedicated to a particular model and size at any one time. There is no case where the question “is this a man’s shirt or a women’s shirt?” is of any significance.

  16. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Huh. Have you ever tried stuffing a mammoth in your pocket?

    Dammit, I wish you had reminded me before I put my pants in the laundry.

  17. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Male indigo evolved to dye cotton pants with a watch pocket. Female indigo evolved to dye cotton garments with no watch pocket. It’s been that way for hundreds of years. We can speculate that what most likely occurred was that in the original Indonesian savannah enviornment of the I. sumatrana a particularly male bit of Indigofera pollen was tumbling along a beach when it suddenly encountered a watch, lying there on the ground, with no innate proteome at all. It is this encounter that statistics show was the introduction of the male Indigofera to the design industry. Once ensconced in the design industry, the industrious male Indigofera churned out sample after sample of blue cloth that could be easily assembled into ever more complex forms that were ever more adapted to their watch-bearing environment. Over many generations, cigars, glasses of whisky, and sexual harassment lawsuits (that were all somehow related to “art” of constructing an ad campaign), these heroic Indigoferamen eventually were able to bring home to their wives perfected blueprints for one “Levi Strauss”, complete with cotton cladding.

    No one in the Evopsych literature has produced a competent competing theory, therefor we can confidently assert with all the finality of True Science that a watch pocket needs a swatch maker like an Indigostamen needs an Indigostigma.

    Though outside the scope of the original study, the authors wish to note that this also provides a sound biological justification for why the right to bare pistils should not be infringed.

  18. EigenSprocketUK says

    If there is insufficient toilet-to-urinal ratio, why are there still female architects? Must be magnets, I reckon.

  19. Tethys says

    Dunc

    There is no case where the question “is this a man’s shirt or a women’s shirt?” is of any significance.

    I assure you that mens and womens button down shirts are patterned to different body proportions. I frequently purchase mens shirts and alter them to fit my female self. The fabric and construction are generally far better quality for a reasonable price. The arms are always long enough too, which I consider a plus. :)

    I can think of several scenarios in manufactering/shipping/ or retail display where the difference would matter. You have two racks of white button down shirts that need their tags attached. One rack is mens small, and one rack is womens large. Its far faster and easier to check the button placket than it is to haul out tape measures to make sure that the differently cut and sized shirts will get the correct tags.

  20. Chaos Engineer says

    How does Evolutionary Psychology explain Evolutionary Psychology?

    Since the race and gender roles that existed in the US in the 1950’s are optimal for human survival, Evolutionary Psychology evolved as a way of justifying and reinforcing those roles.

    I’ll grant that this sounds a bit far-fetched, but the alternative is to believe that people just spout Evolutionary Psychology for no good reason! Where’s the survival value in that?

  21. Dunc says

    I assure you that mens and womens button down shirts are patterned to different body proportions. I frequently purchase mens shirts and alter them to fit my female self.

    Yes, I know the patterns are different, in a lot of ways. (FYI, I make shirts.) However, during production, you don’t need to know whether a given pattern is a man’s shirt or a women’s shirt – you just need to know what pattern it is, what size it is, and what fabric you’re using.

    You have two racks of white button down shirts that need their tags attached. One rack is mens small, and one rack is womens large.

    But there are so many more parameters you need to take into account – you need to know the pattern (which has lots of subtle variations), the fabric (since the same patten will often be made up in different fabrics, many of which are only very subtly different) and the size. So you need to be able to tell the difference between pattern #3515A and #3515B, between #3515A in a 2/100 white poplin and #3515A in a 2/120 white poplin, and between #3515A in 2/120 white poplin, size 15 and #3515A in 2/120 white poplin, size 15.5. None of those questions are going to be resolved by looking at the button placket.

    In retail, you know which tags to attach from the labelling on the carton that you’re taking the shirts out of. During production, you know what pattern / fabric style combination is assigned to a given production line for the day. If you ever loose track of exactly what a shirt is, then “is it a man’s shirt or a women’s shirt?” isn’t going to be much help in answering the question.

  22. Tethys says

    Oh good grief Dunc. Why are you nitpicking about the details of mass shirt production? Human error means that the label on the carton could be completely wrong. Luckily, the button placket being on the left or right is a very hard to miss visual indicator of which gender shirts are in the box. Thrift and re-use stores frequently get clothing with the tags cut out. Again, that placket makes sorting them into mens and womens shirts fast and simple. It is silly to claim there is no difference between men and womens shirts, especially after you wrote a paragraph detailing some of the differences in patterning and cutting them.

  23. Dunc says

    I’m obviously not claiming that there are no differences between men’s and women’s shirts. I’m saying that the idea that the difference in buttoning is to enable manufacturers or retailers to tell the difference doesn’t make any sense to me, given what I know about the industry and the history of garment production.

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