Tucked Vs Untucked | 3 Rules On Tucking In Your Shirt
Seems simple – yet mess this up and you’ll feel out of a place at a party and worse than that…….you’ll not be as confident as you should be.
Seriously – this small detail can make you go from an A-player to “that guy who looked like a slob”.
So how to avoid this mistake?
Where to learn the rules?
We have you covered here at RMRS – here are the 3 rules every man needs to know about tucking in his shirt.
In about four out of five dressing situations, I recommend that a man tuck his shirt in.
That sounds like a lot. But it’s based on the assumption that well-dressed men have a heavy salting of collared dress shirts in their wardrobe, which look better tucked in. Most good looks for guys involve at least one tucked layer.
What about that other one time in five, though?
It’s not “bad style” to wear an untucked shirt — so long as you do it right.
First – What Type Of Shirt Are You Wearing?
Is It Meant To Be Tucked or Untucked?
It’s pretty easy to tell whether a shirt was made with the assumption that the wearer will tuck it into his trousers or not.
Look at the bottom hem. Its length and shape will tell you what the default for the shirt is:
- A short, even hem like that seen on polos and T-shirts is made to be worn untucked
- An uneven hem with “tails” in the front or back, meeting on the sides by your hips, is meant to be tucked
You’ll see a few other variations — longer in the front but shorter in the back, and so on — and you’ll see some awkwardly long even-hem shirts that can be a little confusing, but most shirts for men can be judged at a glance.
Stick with what the hem implies and you’ll generally be good.
Are there going to be exceptions? Sure. But they’re mostly limited to subculture-specific styles, rather than general fashion (country rockers with tucked-in T-shirts and big belt buckles, for example — it’s a look, but it’s probably not your look, unless you’re a part of that scene).
Here’s a quick run-down on how the most common types of men’s shirt are usually worn:
Shirts Traditionally Worn Untucked
- polo shirts
- rugby shirts
- henley shirts
- short-sleeved, button-fronted sport shirts (but check the hem)
- tank tops and other sleeveless shirts
- Breton tops
- Hawaiian and other vacation shirts
- undershirts (but tuck ’em if the alternative is having the hem poke out)
Shirts Traditionally Worn Tucked
- dress shirts
- long-sleeved, button-fronted sport shirts
- flannel and chambray work shirts
- wool “lumberjack” shirts
Second – Does The Design Of The Shirt Dictate It Being Tucked Or Untucked?
Getting the right fit is very important for an untucked shirt.
They have a looser look than a tucked-in shirt, for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t mean you want a looser fit. If anything, it makes a baggy fit harder to correct for, since you don’t have the option of stuffing extra cloth into the back of your pants and belting it tight (not an ideal solution, but at least a short-term fix for a badly-fitted dress shirt).
So what are the key points to look for?
This is the big determining factor in whether a shirt can be worn untucked at all.
As a basic rule of thumb, if it doesn’t fall to at least your belt, the shirt is too short. Move the wrong way and it’s going to flash your belly at everyone.
At the other extreme, something that covers your body all the way down to your crotch, so that the point where your trouser legs meet is hidden, is basically a short dress instead of a shirt.
If you’re in between those two you’re probably all right.
For most looks, shorter is ideal — down far enough to cover the belt, and not much beyond that. Certain shirts, like the Guayabera, are meant to be a little longer, and can come down a few inches below the belt.
Shirt Waist and Chest
Very few casual shirts are tapered at the waist (and basically all shirts meant to be worn untucked are casual, apart from the Guayabera’s traditional role in South and Central American political and business dress).
That means you want a close fit throughout the torso, so that the shape of your body isn’t completely drowned in fabric.
Most shirts won’t have numeric measurements, meaning you’re stuck finding the “size” (S/M/L etc.) that works best for you in every brand you try. They won’t all be the same — you’ll find yourself fitting better in the “Medium” of one brand, but swimming in it and needing a “Small” from another.
Err on the side of a closer fit, as long as it’s not so tight your nipples are poking through. Because the hem is untucked, you’ll get some billowing and breeziness even with a close fit.
Shirt Shoulders and Sleeve
It’s an often-overlooked point, but shirts with shoulders that don’t fit you look incredibly silly.
If the shoulder seam is long enough that it’s coming partway down your bicep, don’t wear the shirt. If the sleeves are crowded almost all the way up your bicep, ditto. Go sleeveless if you really feel the need to show the guns off.
Wearing Tailed Shirts Untucked
One last consideration: from time to time, you will see men (particularly younger men) wearing dress shirts with tails in the front and back untucked.
It’s common enough that models in catalogs do it from time to time, and you’ll definitely see it all over if you visit any major university campus in America.
Here’s all we’ll say on the look: it’s sloppy. It’s deliberately sloppy, and people do that to achieve a kind of sexy “I don’t care” look — and sometimes that works and they look good doing it. But more often they just look like a lazy college kid.
There’s no rule saying you can’t do it. Check it out in the mirror and see if it’s a thing you want to do. Just be aware that the burden is on you to make it into a “look” that people can tell is deliberate, rather than looking like you don’t care about your appearance and throw on any old thing in the morning.
And that’s all there is to untucking your shirts. Not so hard, really, when you get down to it.
Third – How Formal Is The Event
Simply put, never wear an untucked shirt to a formal event UNLESS it is a style designed to be worn formally and untucked (the guayabera being an example). Formal equals tucked in, plain and simple.