What the Tuck?

Why – and how – men should tuck in their shirts

One thing you notice about the male models at is that they are all ridiculously skinny. My theory is that this is to defy the stereotype that only pudgy guys don’t tuck in their shirts.


This company is pushing a shirt design (it is shorter) that is intended to be worn untucked. The models are featured in suits, jeans, khakis, shorts, always with the shirt untucked. Therefore, they pick models who are skinny as string beans, with concave abdomens.

“See?” the ads seem to say. “It’s not just for fat kids!”

I have two points to make about this trend. First, to the extent it is successful, it is probably due to the truth the company is trying to avoid. The reason men don’t tuck in their shirts is mostly due to a problem with the gut, a “baby bump” they are trying to hide. Sorry, but it has to be said.

Second, and this is truly crucial, it actually looks sloppy. Sloppy. There’s no other way to put. There is a reason Mom demands you tuck in your shirt. Not to do so is disrespectful to others and to yourself. It looks unkempt and disheveled. You can put all the fashion spin on it you want but, in the end, a man with an untucked shirt is unsightly.

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So you can buy these shortened shirts and go around saying, “I meant to do this.” But you can’t control what people actually see. What they see is a man with a too-short shirt that is untucked in a slovenly way.

My mom would roll her eyes at any man wearing this.

But now that we are on the subject, let’s address the deeper problem. For some weird reason, most men do not know how to tuck in a shirt. They tend to just stuff it in, so that the extra fabric is distributed in random ways around the waistband.

lace shirttails

If you do this, it will look terrible, and creeps around all day, variously sticking out and bellowing in odd places.

This is not how to tuck in a shirt. Previous generations knew this. But as with so much else, knowledge about how to tuck in your shirt has been lost.

There are three steps to the right way to tuck in a shirt:

  1. Once your shirt is entirely buttoned, let it hang freely and loosen your pants around your hips.
  2. Push all the fabric into your pants and lift your pants around the shirt.
  3. This is the critical step. Gather the extra fabric in the back and pull. This operation takes two hands. Fold the extra material neatly into the small of your back, moving one hand over the other. Set your waistline and tighten your belt.

This creates a beautiful look. The shirt turns out flat in the front, not bunched up around the sides, and very nice looking in the back.

When you take off your coat — which you shouldn’t do, but that’s another subject — your shirt will look neat and nice around the sides and the fold in the back will be obvious. It is a sign of distinction and knowledge — really an indicator of class.

Once you start tucking in your shirt properly, it becomes a habit.

It’s not difficult. There is no reason for “shirt stays,” odd waistbands on underwear, and the rest of this nonsense. You only need to gather the extra in the small of your back and tighten your belt. The rest takes care of itself.

There is one more factor to consider. Your shirt will be far better behaved if you wear an undershirt, which itself should be tucked into your underpants. This way, there is less stress on the shirt throughout the day.

Yes, you can be a nihilist and go with trendy nonsense like UnTuckit. Or you can be a gentlemen and look right.

And remember this principle. Dressing well isn’t really about you. It is about your attitude toward others. Every attempt to dress well is like giving a compliment to other people. It is a show of respect.

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