This is part three of a multi-part series (with no real end) called Back to Basics. You can find part one here, and part two here. I wanted to cover some typical questions I get on a regular basis.

Part three is about deciding which shirts should be tucked in, and what you can get away leaving untucked.

Back to Basics: The Art of The Tuck

( Not big enough? Download the FULL IMAGE – right click and Save As…)

Quick Tip: In general, if the front placket of your button-down shirt aligns with your wrists (arms down at your side), you’re okay to leave untucked. The more casual your button-down, you’re okay to leave untucked.

If your shirttails are longer (i.e. the back practically covers your butt and you could wear it like a really short dress), you must tuck. If you’re wearing a dress shirt with a structured collar, you should tuck.

  1. T-shirt — T-shirts in general don’t have to be tucked, assuming you wear t-shirts that fit you correctly. How do you know if your t-shirt fits you correctly? The shoulder seams should hit your shoulders and not hang halfway down your biceps, and the bottom of your tee should hit at the hip. The tee should be slim fitting and conform to your shape. Avoid billowy shirts, and shirts that look like sausage casing around your torso.
  2. Polo shirt — Longer Polo shirts (like Ralph Lauren’s classic fits) should be tucked in, but if you’re going for a more modern look (which you should be), try RL’s Custom Fit Polos. They form better to your torso and don’t have all that extra fabric like the classic fits do.
  3. Rugby shirt — Rugby shirts can be worn casually and untucked. They don’t vary much in length (unless you buy one that’s three sizes too big for you, or a tall size when you’re of normal height) so wear this untucked.
  4. Casual button-down (any fabric) — The casual button-down can remain untucked. The exception to the rule would be if you have a longer button-down. Remember the wrist rule. If the longest part of the shirt (usually the front placket) aligns with your wrist, you’re okay to keep it untucked. If it goes past your wrist, it’s best to tuck it in. If you’re wearing a sport coat, tuck it in. You’re not Ted Mosby.
  5. Dress shirt — Standard dress shirts are made with longer shirttails and are meant to be tucked in. Wearing these shirts untucked just looks sloppy.

While you’re at it, if you’re wearing a suit jacket or sport coat, please keep that collar in, no matter the shirt. Please.

Does this clear things up at all? Do you have any questions? How can I help?

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PUBLISHED March 28, 2011

Barron is a Lean Wardrobe Advocate and Founding Editor of Effortless Gent. He's from San Francisco but currently living in New York. Connect with him on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or Tumblr.

  • Peetreeman

    I love the wrist rule. It’s very clever and easy to remember. I’ll be passing it along to those friends of mine who come to me for style assistance. Thanks for sharing.

  • You talk about tucking in your collar points under a jacket or sport coat, but what about sweaters? Personally, I hate the collar-out look with a sweater but I know there must be a counterpoint.

  • Nice image, and the tip says it all. It’s amazing to see guys in shirts low enough to be dresses, but not tucking them in because they want to seem ‘hip.” I’ve got a shorter torso than the off-the-rack shirt sizes fit, so I’ve had shirts hemmed up in order to wear them untucked.

    No comment on popped collars? (Mine: blech.)

  • Barron – with these visual charts you are really making it easy and memorable! Great job.

    You’ll have to start selling posters soon!

    • Dan

      I’m all about the visuals for this kind of stuff. Since it’s the Effortless Gent, after all, it makes sense too. Plus there are a lot of us less stylistically-inclined peeps who really appreciate someone spelling it out for us.

  • What the term or word when a guy tucks the front of his shirt in and leaves the back hangout out?

    • Hmm, “contrived” maybe? I’m not sure, but that’s what I would call it.

      • tomster1960

        But every one of the polo shirt guys used as an example has the front sort of tucked in and the back untucked.

  • Soleful strut

    I am not the coolest guy on the block by a long shot, but I don’t see what’s wrong with leaving a button up untucked (proper length, of course) under a sport coat.  Is it too sloppy in your eye?

    • Usually. If you’re going the extra mile wearing a sport coat, why wouldn’t you just tuck your shirt in?

  • Wayne

    I think the pants matter with the button down shirts as well. If your wearing jeans untucked is fine but with khakis it doesn’t look right unless it is tucked.

  • Fletch

    Thanks! A tuckin’ good article.

  • Run

    Runner’s World brought me here