trend ender – the half-tuck

Trend Ender is an irregular feature created to identify, illustrate and investigate the origins of current fashion trends, discuss when they’re fabulous and when they fail, and attempt to predict their demise.

Trend: Half-tuck. This refers to the styling technique of partially tucking a shirt into the waistband of a pair of trousers or a skirt. The shirt may be only tucked at the front, perhaps to display a belt buckle. A partially buttoned dress shirt might be tucked in on one side only. There are a few other quirkier variations that are seen less often – tucking in at the back only, or tucking only one half of a collar into a jumper.

Where it came from: Partially tucked shirts are as perennial as carelessly dressed men. There is very little historical precedence for the deliberate half-tuck, though. Tucking or untucking has centuries of political significance – untucked smocks for the peasantry, exposed belts (and weapons) for the ruling class. The earliest instance of an intentional half-tuck I could find was Morrissey of The Smiths in the 1980s. (Hat tip Catherine!) While some evidence is available for Mick Jagger being the earliest originator, for him it seems to be more of an accidental or gestural tic rather than a deliberate affectation.

Class-mobile hot rockers certainly influenced the way their fans dressed but the half-tuck didn’t hit the runway until 1991, for Calvin Klein Jeans at the height of its sexually suggestive phase. It didn’t become a trendy menswear phenomenon worthy of a New York Times article until 2004, when David Beckham did the undone look best. The look for men is about drawing attention to anatomy.

The undisputed queen of the current half-tuck cycle is stylist Emmanuelle Alt, whose boyish profile rose, along with the popularity of the half-tuck for women, when she became editor of Vogue Paris in 2011.

When it works: I first time remember registering this styling trick was on Balmain menswear Spring 2012. My instant thought was – I could do that! I could never afford a Balmain shirt, but I could surely stick half of my thrift-store shirt into my jeans. I did, and instantly felt cooler, for free. That’s my kind of quick fashion hit.

When it’s wack: The half-tuck is a total contradiction, the ultimate in plausible deniability. The idea is to look put-together and undone at the same time, artfully dishevelled. Successfully pulling off this illusion takes conscious thought, and yet if the contrivance is visible the look fails. The key to this is an insouciant attitude; this look should never be attempted by the sincere.

How it will end: With reluctance, I’ve already started either totally tucking or untucking my shirts, just because it is beginning to feel a bit try-hard to half-tuck. When a trend is as simple as sticking your hand down your pants, it’s easy-come, easy-go.

7 thoughts on “trend ender – the half-tuck”

  1. Let us not forget J. Crew, the current high-end mainstream’s biggest proponent of the trend (in the U.S., at least). It’s gotten to the point where almost every button-down shirt pictured in each gorgeous, aspirational JC catalog is half-tucked — as if it’s become a company principle from which their head stylist never strays. Thinking back, perhaps she was influenced by Alt as well; seems like the half-tuck got far more omnipresent in JC in 2011. I personally think there’s a time and a place for it, but ubiquity does it no favors; it loses its charm and breeziness when it looks purposely done.

  2. I’m pretty sure Kanye West made reference to it in a song a while back. Don’t remember which or how long ago though. I think he says he made it cool. But that’s his views on the subject.

  3. I’ve been doing an intuitive half-tuck for many many years before I even knew who Emanuelle Alt was. It’s the best way to balance out some silhouettes and works out with a boyish figure, like mine. I am so annoyed it ever became a trend. Dammit, Emanuelle.

  4. kate lanphear was doing the half-tuck in 2008, if not before – way ahead of ms alt. no one does androgyny, or “boyish”, better than ms lanphear.

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