When You Should Give A Tuck

This is a beautiful picture of Killaloe. Oh and my shirt is tucked in.

This is a beautiful picture of Killaloe. Oh and my shirt is tucked in.

Like deciding on what colour tie you should wear or choosing brown shoes over black, knowing whether to tuck in your shirt or not seems like a fairly simple proposition, when in fact, for a lot of guys, it's not. How often do you see someone sporting a billowy, unkempt-looking shirt?


On the one hand, you don't want to look like a nerdy dad, and on the other hand, you don't want to look like an unmade bed. Most people will want to look good and feel comfortable, and a cold breeze blowing up the back of your shirt or the appearance of bunched fabric under the beltline of your trousers will get in the way of that. This article aims to teach you a few tricks and tips that might eliminate the great tuck debate once and for all.


To Tuck Or Not To Tuck


The first thing to consider is the garment itself. Shirts that have an even or flat hem are generally meant to be worn untucked. But if your shirt has visible tails ( or a hem that varies in length) it should always be tucked in. Wearing a shirt with an uneven hem is not forbidden but it's risky and looks a little juvenile. With nothing else on the upper body, it can leave you looking like a teenager rebelling against his school uniform. Under a blazer or a jacket, an untucked tailed hem makes you look like you're trying too hard to look like you don't care.


The ideal length for an untucked shirt is something that reaches the zipper of your pants and the middle of your back pocket. Also, pay attention to the fabric. Casual shirts in fabrics like denim and flannel feel right when worn untucked, white poplin shirts feel more appropriate tucked in.


If your shirt doesn't have visible tails, there's much more leeway on the tuck or no tuck decision. An undershirt can always be tucked, and probably should be if there's a chance it'll start peeking out from beneath your other layers. Polo shirts have an even hem and can, therefore, be worn untucked, but are often worn tucked for a dressier look. Rugby shirts are almost always worn untucked. Roll necks, when worn on their own, are usually untucked but when worn under a blazer, are often tucked so that the belt is visible. Printed/pattern shirts should never be tucked and t-shirts are a matter of opinion and occasion. If you visit Italy, you'll see a lot of stylish guys rocking the tucked tee with trousers and a visible belt buckle look. Around these parts, it's a lot less common but can still look great if you have the confidence to pull it off. In general, though, don't tuck a tee unless it's a deliberate style statement.


Consider the Venue


Meeting the president? Going to an interview for your dream job? Meeting the girlfriend's parents for the first time? Tuck your shirt in. If you're wearing a casual shirt with an even hem then you're probably underdressed. The same is true on the opposite end of the spectrum. Going to a rugby match, stag do or just doing a pub crawl with your mates? Untuck that bad boy.


Consider The Rules Of Formality


I'm pretty sure this goes without saying but just in case – if you're wearing a tie, you need to tuck in your shirt. If you're wearing a Hawaiian shirt or a soccer/GAA/rugby jersey, do not tuck in your shirt. In both examples, you've already committed to a certain level of formality and you should just let your choice of shirt exist in that space.


Consider Your Layers


If you're wearing a blazer or a jumper over your shirt and that shirt has a collar, tuck it in. I've seen this look with the shirt peeking out from beneath the jumper and it can look good but there's a higher chance that it'll make you look sloppily dressed. If you're wearing a t-shirt or a henley, you can go either way but pay attention to the fir of the shirt. If it's baggy, it's best tucked in. You want your layers to look strategic – rather than looking like you're wearing every item of clothing you own. Never ever tuck your jumper into your trousers!


When It's Time To Tuck...


Do it right. A good tuck should make the front of your body look flat and smooth. If you are lucky enough to have a waist that tapers below your ribs then people should be able to see that. There shouldn't be any muffin-topping going on. You should also have a clean gig line (a military term for the invisible line straight down the front of your body) from your chin to your crotch. A well-tucked shirt should sit so that the rectangle of fabric where the buttons are located – called the placket if you're interested – lines up with the fly on your trousers. Your belt buckle should also line up with these two things. A crisp, vertical gig line divides your body cleanly, emphasizing evenness of proportion. It also tells people that you pay attention to details.


The better a shirt fits you, the better it will look tucked in. The less fabric you have to deal with around the waist, the less that has to be secured inside your trousers. A tailored formal shirt is sure to be long enough for an effective tuck, while a shorter casual shirt will always be likely to sneak out no matter how well you tuck it in.

Patrick McLoughney