let it all hang out

The shirt tail that is.  To tuck or not to tuck?  That’s been a question some, especially guys, have had for several years.  Women have long recognized the virtue of untucking.  But it depends what we are tucking about; long sleeve button down, short sleeve, polo shirt, tee shirt, and various other tuckables.   A key factor is the cut.  And perhaps the gut.

For years, I’ve been frustrated with the tucking custom.  Therefore, when I arrived in the Middle East in 1997, it was sort of a relief to freely untuck, especially around men who wore robes as their work dress.  Let’s face it, men tuck generally to conform.  Because we’ve grown up and been conditioned that tucking looks neater, untucking appears very casual, almost sloppy.  Fact is, if we would have grown up untucking, then tucking would look un-conforming, weird and more than a tad illogical.

What was it, I thought, about tucking all that fabric down inside one’s pants?  Of course most men still do that.  Right now I’m sitting in a packed airpot lounge in Colombia and 99% of the men (and women) are tucked.  Yep, out of the perhaps several hundred here, I can barely find another untucked one. Still, I think I’m presentable at most conference room meetings.  But maybe I’m unhinged as well as untucked.

bogota airport lounge, the pic didn't capture the hundreds in the room

One tucks for one or more of the following reasons:

  • tucking is all you’ve ever done and you wouldn’t think of untucking.  untucking is too casual.
  • tucking simply looks and feels neater to you.
  • to conform.
  • to show off your belt, which would be otherwise covered by untucking.
  • to hide your shirttail.
  • your shirttail would cover a physical asset you want exposed. (definitely no pun)
  • your shirt has an irritating tendency to crawl up your torso.
  • it’s cold weather and tucking helps capture body heat.
  • you are simply more comfortable with extra fabric inside your pants.

If you don’t tuck, it helps to be wearing shirts that lend themselves to be untucked.  Oxford dress shirts with the tail and body cut to be tucked may have you sporting the tent look if you let tail hanging.  Tails have been cut down in size recently and are slightly more trim.  But in general, dress shirts are cut to tuck.

Many knit shirts of the past, i.e.. polos and the like, were made in a way that they actually expanded after several washes — making them odd to tuck or leave untucked.

It just makes more logical sense not to tuck.  Why stuff fabric inside your trousers when that fabric could tastefully cover (at least partially) the front and back of the lower torso? (unless, as mentioned above, that would be covering up an asset you want exposed).  Why wrinkle up fabric by stuffing it inside other fabric when it could hang free?

But if you decide to start your day tucked, it’s better to stay tucked.  It’s more appropriate to go from untucked to tucked then the other way.  If you untuck after the bulk of your day, you are exposing yourself to be a frustrated tucker.

Some even go so far as to tuck the tail into their briefs.  Or perhaps more common is an undershirt tucked into the brief and the outer shirt into the pant — a double tuck.

Central American men have been untucking for decades.  Many of them wear and have worn short sleeve button down shirts with a straight hem front to back, hanging just a few inches below the waistline.  Tasteful and practical.  Why more of us don’t do that is a mystery.  But like wearing knee socks or a tie, some customs remain important to club membership.

The other day I had a meeting with the owner of a large garment factory.  He was untucked and he looked well dressed and appropriate.  Untucking is much more mainstream now though, although not quite as mainstream as tattoos.  And tucking is more industry specific.  Bankers, lawyers, more formal officer workers tend to tuck.  The apparel and computer industry/social media companies tend to be untuckers.  And as a percent, there are slightly more tuckers on the East Coast than the West Coast.

Thinking about this post, I took two pictures right before I went to a convention center show in Bogota this week.

front untucked prior to convention center show in bogota

If you’ll forgive the personal shot, the point was only to show a frontal and side view of a normal (untucked) day.  As it happened, later that day during the show I was at a table minding my own business filling out a form and two women who said they worked for a magazine, blah, blah, asked if they could take my picture.

side view of untuckedness (Bogota hotel room)

I said yes and then asked why.  They said for the look.  I scratched the inside of my head and wondered why they would have wanted my picture, a nearly 59 year old dude with a frigged up neck, then I realized it was only because I was not a tucker.  But the joke may be on me as they could be doing a piece on sloppy fashion.

For those tuckers reading this, don’t get me wrong.  I like the tucked look.  It’s neater.  I’d tuck if I had a job interview or was preparing for a situation where I had to show tuck respect.  I’m simply not inclined to be a routine tucker, perhaps for the industry I’m in.  Or perhaps because out of all the good manners my mother taught me, tuck respect was not one of them.

Bottom (hem) line — tucking is the safer presentation.  In most circumstances, it’s better to be a tucker.  And if untucking is where you are, then just let it all hang out.

2 thoughts on “let it all hang out

  1. Mother

    There once was a guy named, Steve-
    who never worried about sleeves.
    He pondered shirts tucked-
    but chose shirts (un) tucked.
    In the end he did what he pleased.

    No pun intended ~,~


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