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One-sided clothing

We received an email from Graham recently that got us thinking again about one-side clothing that is awkward for us lefthanders to wear and use.


“As a pilot I can get a pilot's pullover with a pocket on the sleeve to stow pencils etc. However as a left hander it is simply on the wrong side (pesky right handed designers). Can you let me know if I can get one with the pocket on the correct side, that is on the right arm so I can reach it with my LEFT hand and go straight to work.”
Graham W.


Pilot pullover designed for right-handersWe have reported before on left-handed underwear and we will be doing some more research on this for the next newsletter, but we wanted to get your initial views and experiences to help us get started. Clothing items that come immediately to mind include:Pants / briefs with the openings going the wrong way

  • Shirts with pockets in the wrong place (left arm or left breast)
  • Trouser with one back pocket (on the right)
  • Zips and buttons that open the wrong way (though there is a whole issue here about mens and ladies clothing and the opening directions being different)
  • Technical clothing such as Tactical Vests and Gun Dog Vests.

Follow up

After our short feature on one-sided clothing last month we got some interesting comments about other items that cause a problem for lefthanders:

  • Coin pockets in men's suit jackets
  • Bras, especially front fastening ones
    [Keith – I don't understand this one so please tell us about it!]
  • Nurse's uniforms seem to be made only in right-handed versions
  • Jacket zippers, for men and ladies, is there something “handed” about zips that is not obvious? Linda has such a problem that she ends up going around in winter with her coat undone!
  • Left handed tool beltsBelts – most are designed with a symmetrical fastening so it doesn't matter which way you start threading them, but some have a “directional” buckle design and can end up being upside down if you do them the wrong way. We have started a Poll on our facebook page to see which way left-handers thread their belts and will let you know the result next time
  • Tool belts – these are clearer and need to be designed as a mirror image so the tools can be hung on the left hip. We have found some suppliers for left handed tool belts in the USA
  • Thomas says his shooting vest has patches on the front of both shoulders but only the one on the right is padded, so shooting left-handed is literally a pain!
  • Jessica tells us that most “scrubs” (sterilised medical theatre clothing) are right handed and cause her lots of problems as a lefthander.
  • And Barbara tells us… I recently found a lovely hair barrette with a butterfly design but when I was trying it out I quickly discovered that the clip was right handed, the butterfly was UPSIDE down. For the life of me, I could not get the barrette straight using my right hand and now it sits in a drawer. Evidently all my life (66 years) I have purchased plain barrettes where their was no upside or downside. We need left handed hair barrettes!

We are sure you have a lot more ideas on this and look forward to seeing your comments – add them below.

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109 comments on “One-sided clothing
  1. roni says:

    clip on front closing bras should be opposite for us

  2. Carolyn Saunders says:

    Shooting is often so difficult you tend to learn to shoot right-handed as a lot of fullbore rifles have a bolt action -as this is on the right it can be a challenge to open and close. I found the same problem with fencing jackets as mentioned by Katie.

    • Dave says:

      I am a left-handed fencer, and never had any trouble finding left-handed equipment (jacket, glove, weapon) when I was buying my own stuff. Though when I was first learning, they didn’t have any left-handed jackets to borrow.

  3. Katie Shea says:

    Several years ago I took a fencing class. While I was able to buy a left handed glove, I was not able to purchase a left handed jacket. Consequently, an epee could come right through the open which is all down the left side. The purpose of the padded jacket is to prevent just a thing from happening, but I was at risk for the entire class.

    Luckily, left handed fencers (at least in my class) were at a distinct advantage. The righties didn’t know what to do when they came up against me, since the target area was on the opposite side. I, however, fenced only against right handers, so I did pretty well in the class.

    • Aileen says:

      Left handed fencing equipment isn’t always as common, but it definitely exists, including swords, gloves, jackets, underplastrons, and even breeches (where the pocket is on the other side). A significantly higher percentage of top fencers are left handed, and even though in an average class there will still always be more right handed people, in competitions etc. there are a lot more of us than in everyday situations 🙂

      My fencing club at university has lots of kit for members to borrow, and though you have to hunt for left handed items sometimes, there are fewer people wearing it so often you’re the only one to use it and can almost consider it ‘yours’!

  4. Linda Chisholm says:

    For the gentleman shooter, left handed vests are available. My husband was also left handed and had some ( unfortunately, I passed them on when he died.) Just look for the manufacturers name and get in touch or find a kind shop which will special order them for you.

  5. M Barcus says:

    Ever since I was little I noticed that certain pieces of clothing (bathrobes, sweaters, some shirts, etc.) only have a pocket on the right side. It’s like your right hand can be warm but not your left? I have never gotten that in all my 50+ years.

  6. Susie says:

    Your comment on the recent newsletter about bras made me laugh, although there is a serious point to be made there – I’ve always adapted to clothing, so have gotten used to undoing my bra with my right hand. Now that was all fine, until I injured my right hand last week! Now I need help for it… What do people do under these circumstances, if they only have one working hand?

  7. Stacey says:

    How funny, about a year ago I bought a belt that is fluorescent color piano keys. . . I JUST noticed I have been wearing it UPSIDE down the past year!!! I obviously start my belt on the left side, NEVER did I even think anything about it! Until this last time I put it on I just happened to notice the piano keys were on the bottom facing up! It was such a challenge to put it on the opposite or “right handed” way!!!! Stay Stong Lefties!!!!!!

  8. Ernie says:

    I agree with Graham about the flight jackets. The pocket for the pens in located on the upper left sleeve. If I need a pen I must reach for the pen with my right hand and then transfer it to my left hand.

  9. Gwen Gallagher says:

    Mine comments are not related to clothing but exercise classes I find that some exercise routines have more movements to the right and don’t balance back to the left, it leave me with a ‘confused’ head. I try to ‘unwind’ myself.

  10. Rhonda says:

    My husband is a nurse who wears scrubs daily. He buys Cherokee brand scrubs which has pockets down both sides of the pants. He’s right-handed but good nurses must be a bit ambidextrous. Pockets on both sides allow the users to separate supplies and keep them “close at hand.”

  11. Liz says:

    I’ve often wondered if there’s a ‘nature versus nurture’ aspect to coping with left-handedness in a right-handed world. I’m not suggesting that left-handers should be forced to change. I know that can be extremely debilitating and I’m very glad my own parents insisted that my left-handedness should not be opposed in school. However, my parents did not have access to special left-handed equipment for me and probably couldn’t have afforded such things if they had been available. So I grew up using right-handed scissors, tin openers etc. and cannot get the hang of the left-handed versions at all, especially scissors! I’ve never had the least trouble with zips or bra fastenings. I agree that a pen pocket on my left sleeve would be impossible to access with my left hand but I would use my right and transfer to the left (pesky but easy enough). What I’m saying is that some left handers seem to be adaptable in a way that right-handers never seem to be. I’m sure that’s partly force of having to. My question is: Are more left-handers naturally able to adapt to using either hand? (As a small child, when offered the biscuit tin, both hands went in!)

    • Derek says:

      This was my experience as well (apart from the biscuit tin!). I do expect a work station to be suited to use of the left hand, although I need the mouse on the right (in front of the document rest) in order to keep the left hand for the pen (shows my age, I suppose).

      Yes, I think we are more adaptable just as, in general terms, we are more creative.

      • Susie says:

        I’ve always used my mouse with my right hand, as it meant that the space on the left is free for notepads, papers and pens, etc. Now I’ve injured my right hand I’ve had to switch it over, but as I’ve always technically been able to use a mouse with both hands I’ve adapted easily. The only annoying thing is that I’ve had to move my notepads and pens over to the right-hand side, which means I now need to stop and lean over to take notes!

    • Kath says:

      I agree! I don’t think my parents even thought about it much – I too can only use right handed scissors – and only style of right handed potato peeler that I buy whenever I see them so I am never without one – tin openers are the same. We are very adaptable. I had a teacher at primary school back in the 70’s who put my inability to distinguish between ‘b’ and ‘d’ down to my left-handedness and she bought all sorts of games etc to help me, quite forward thinking in those days!

    • Ashleigh says:

      I agree. A lot of the things ppl comment on doing left handed actually seems awkward 4 me as I’ve adapted to the fact that i didnt have left handed items and was, i guess, forced to adapt to a right handed world. Recently purchased a left handed sharpener, as I was told this could be the reason my daughters pencils break more easily, and I find it unnatural doing it that way. Guess I’ll just have to get used to doing it left handed lol

    • Irene Power says:

      Liz I do find the left handed equipment wonderful even though I was turned 60 when I discovered it. Best thing is my bread knife I can now cut bread without it being about 2 inches thick at the bottom.

  12. Julie says:

    My daughter is left handed and her school uniform skirt always has the (zipped) pocket on the wrong side for her, other items too.

  13. Darren Stephens says:

    Zips: the zips on, say, trousers are not the issue. But the flap that covers them is. It is designed to access the zip with the right hand. You have to do your flies right-haned – it’s uncomfortable otherwise

    • Dave says:

      Surely the worst thing for left handers was the short period when they made the button trouser fly fashionable, which started with Levis 501s in 1985. Awkward enough for right handers, but surely a nightmare for left handers in a rush for the loo. Thank goodness such jeans are nowadays generally only worn by Top Gear presenters ( All right handed of course!) and middle aged dads trying to ape them.

      • Derek says:

        When I was a boy, zip flies were coming in for men’s trousers but by no means universal. In school uniforms they were still unknown.

        I suppose this could have been why I was so often late, when getting dressed or changing was involved, with 1950s consequences (themselves carrying a left-handed aspect). I can elaborate, if anyone is that interested.

  14. Teresa says:

    Ladies handbags are designed for right-handers and specifically to be shoulder / tote bags area laid out to be carried on the left shoulder.

    This means that the zip does up the wrong way for a leftie in that it’s at the back of the bag. Then inside, the phone pocket is harder to get to when you’ve got the bag on your right shoulder and any zipped compartments go the wrong way too.

    It would be easier if the bag didn’t have a front or back but most bags have something on them to mean that if you wear it on your right shoulder, it’s the back of the bag that’s visible rather than the front.

    • Susie says:

      That’s actually one reason why I always use a rucksack or a small drawstring bag, as it’s not only more secure but also less annoying!

    • Ashleigh says:

      See i find that strange as i put my bag on my left shoulder! I tend to favour my left side for most things, dont know why :/

    • Lee from Australia says:

      HANDBAGS: Because I have knee problems and sometimes need a walking stick (which I use with my right hand/arm), I need to have a ‘handbag/purse/bag’ on my left side as I walk along. I’ve taken to using (as much as possible) bags with [one long] shoulder strap, which can be slung over the left shoulder and moved forward a bit so it sits somewhere between my left side and my front. I can get to it with my left arm/hand ESPECIALLY if I wear it with the BACK of the bag facing outwards; that puts the zipper (when closed) at the front/right side, making it easy to unzip with your left hand. If you choose your bags carefully (so that they don’t have any clunky/uncomfortable closures etc on the front), this is very comfortable and do-able.

  15. Fran says:

    Not strictly clothing, but I like costume pendant necklaces. The first thing I usually do on getting a new one is rethread the chain / cord to fasten the correct way (they always have the clip on the right when they come). However some have fixed chains, so I end up having to fasten the necklace at the front and swivel it round. Plus, on my half-asleep days, I have been known to get half way through the day before noticing I have fastened a necklace with the pendant facing inwards!

  16. Steve Lockley says:

    Re Jacket Zippers – if you have an open-ended zip then you have to mfeed the open tag into the zip with your right hand. I find it very difficult to get the end in the tight position to pull the zzip up with ALL of the teeth at the bottom engaged. Very frustrating!

  17. Barbara says:

    I thought I would pass this idea along to you. I was recently looking for a fancy hair barrette. I finally found one with a silver butterfly that would have been perfect for my needs.

    When I was trying it out I quickly discovered that the clip was right handed, the butterfly was UPSIDE down. For the life of me, I could not get the barrette straight using my right hand. Needless to say the beautiful silver butterfly sits in a drawer. Evidently all my life (66 years) I have purchased plain barrettes where their was no upside or downside.

    We need left handed hair barrettes!!!!!!

    • Ashleigh says:

      I find this a problem more with my daughter. I’ve had hair clips made specifically for her and obviously the maker is right handed. Any clips i put in my daughter, the design, patterns etc are upside down 🙁 And yes i could ask the person making them to turn the clip the other way but this then confuses my daughter who is right handed! I cant win lol

  18. Phil says:

    The most annoying thing I find is when buying a suit “of the peg” the coin pocket inside is always on the left & because of my disability I cant use it.Hip pocket on trousers on wrong side;breast pocket(jacket or shirt) on wrong side.Wish they `d make them like pilot shirt with 2 pockets.

  19. maggie says:

    Bras! especially front fastening ones are very tricky!

  20. Ruth says:

    I am a dental nurse, so have to wear a standard nurses uniform with the pen pocket on the left!
    I suppose I (being a seamstress) could unpick them and re-stitch on the right side, but why don’t they -Alexandra Fabrics- make them to suit lefties as well?

  21. Val Banton says:

    As a nurse, the uniform pocket for pens, keys etc was always on the wrong side. School blazer inside pocket for pens, wrong side (the other side of this is that the zipped inside pocket I used for bus pass and money etc was on the correct side). I usually put a belt on upside down! I think the button problem is a whole different matter – men and women are the opposite. It’s not a right / left handed thing.

  22. Linda Graham says:

    Most of my jackets have zippers. I have become extremely frustrated, as I cannot zip 90% of them. Apparently they are all made for the right-handed person. I hate going around in the winter with a coat unzipped. Are there coats made for lefties?

    • Elise says:

      Yes, they’re called men’s jackets. Buttons of men’s and women’s jackets are on opposite sides. Unfortunately, makers of separating zippers only make them in one direction. I can’t even get separating zippers at the fabric store that open for the left hander–and most fabric stores wouldn’t carry them anyway because 90% of sewers wouldn’t think to buy or ask for them.

    • Lee from Australia says:

      ZIPS: At least on jackets, I THINK that reversible jackets; (one that can be worn either ‘right’ side out, or ‘inside’ out) usually different colours each side – have duel-sided zippers so that the nub (part that fits down into the zip part) so that one side/colour fits to the left side of zip, and one the other/right side of the zip. Check it out in your country for availability in jackets as well as possibly other items of apparel.

  23. Kees says:

    Belt buckles: I wear my belt with the buckle on the right-hand side. My belt has the possibility to change the buckle for a different one (say a novelty or souvenir item), but then the buckle would be upside-down. So I’m convicted to using a plain buckle that can be used in either direction.

  24. Derek says:

    jackets: breast pocket and inside pocket, unless there is a full set each side

    coin pocket

    phone pocket

    comb pocket

    ticket pockets, especially those within main pockets

  25. Roberta says:

    I bought a quite expensive leather jacket with zip front opening recently. I am finding it really awkward as the zip closer is on the wrong side. I know I will break it in frustration sometime soon. What frustrates me even more is when I mention this to friends they look at me like something from another planet having no idea what I am on about.

  26. Dave says:

    Most City type shirts do not feature a breast pocket and I prefer this look aesthetically as it makes the shirt look symmetrical, and the decline in smoking means that what was generally a ‘cigarette packet pocket’ is largely redundant anyway. As regards trousers, I choose ones which feature twin hip pockets which are ideal for both right & left handers and again the symmetry means they look better than those with a single hip pocket.

  27. Sarah says:

    I don’t know if this really counts, but I hate when I have to put a name tag on. I always attach it to my left side of my shirt (not sure if this is a lefty thing or if it’s just me). It doesn’t always illicit a response, but I have had adults (when I was in high school) and colleagues now chastise me, saying that’s it is only correct to have the name tag on the right, since that is the hand you shake with. And don’t even get me started on that! It took me years of training not to extend my left hand.

    • susan says:

      me too! I hadn’t twigged that they were “supposed” to go on the right…so that’s why people make a show of searching for my name….
      i have this thing with envelopes too…always upside down..

  28. Thomas Paffett says:

    Worst one sided clothing for me is my shooting vest where despite their being two shoulder patches for mounting the gun, only the right side is padded, and as a lefty who mounts the gun the left, it’s a pain, literally 🙂 Also on my medical dress (BRCS) the pockets are on the wrong side for inside pockets and the trousers for pens etc. hence my practice to wear a pen holder on my belt.

  29. Jessica Wilson says:

    Scrub tops and pants are mostly right handed. Aside from the few styles that have pockets equally on each side, scrubs are right hand catered. I can’t tell you how many times I had to reach awkwardly into my lower right shirt pocket for a pen or utensil. It’s complicated, frustrating and a little embarrassing when I realize I have my hand full and then realize a key is deep into the wrong pocket. Ugh! And don’t get me started on the pen I had to carry in my RIGHT thigh pocket. Like that was an easy feat to conquer.

  30. Percy says:

    I never thought about that but it is a good idea; having shirts with pockets on the right side. I remember when they use to make shirts with pockets on both sides. now some shirts don’t have any pockets and I hate that. I carry a fountain pen and memo pad with me every day in my shirt pocket; Have been doing this since I was in the Army ’62-‘64.76Vr

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