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

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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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13 Responses

  1. Peetreeman on

    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.

  2. Gregory Saavedra on

    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.

  3. Michael on

    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.)

    • Dan on

      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.

  4. Soleful strut on

    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?

  5. Wayne on

    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.