A shirt is a shirt, right? Not necessarily. Menswear may seem pretty simple at first glance, but it’s the myriad of little details that make it interesting. When it comes to the dress shirt, the most basic item in any man’s closet, collar style plays a big role in the overall image of an outfit. Let’s explore a few of the more common styles found today.
The Point Collar
The simplest and most direct of styles, the point collar is easily the best go-to option. The best examples of this style keep the proportions classic, with points about three inches long and equal spacing between the points. It’s the easiest collar to wear with a suit, appropriately dressy without being flashy, but also looks completely natural when worn without a tie. The classic point collar also has the advantage of being flattering to almost any face shape, and will always be a good and correct choice in any situation where you want to look your best.
The Spread Collar
Close cousin to the point collar is the spread collar. Basically, the points of the collar are cut so that the collar “spreads,” resulting in a much larger space between the tips of the points. This collar is generally considered a bit dressier than the standard point collar and is often paired with French (double) cuffs closed with cuff links. It can add a bit more flare as it is English in origin and tends to be favored by European men, particularly British and Italian, as well as the fashion-conscious crowd. While generally appropriate in most situations, its wide set points can be less than flattering on men with very wide, round faces.
The Button Down Collar
One step down the ladder of formality is the button down collar. Originally worn by English polo players over a century ago to keep their collar points from flapping in their faces in the heat of a match, they made their way into the American wardrobe around the turn of the twentieth century and have been a stalwart ever since. Devotees of this style will tell you that the best examples have what is called a roll to them, meaning that the buttons at the points are placed in such a way that the collar won’t lay flat, but rather curves in a unique way. Perfectly at home with khakis and tweed jackets as well as jeans and a sweater, this collar works equally well with or without a tie. In some circles it’s acceptable with a suit, but not many, so pair this one with less formal looks.
The Club Collar
The club collar is less common these days than it used to be, but can be a nice occasional alternative. Basically, it’s a short collar with rounded corners, often seen in contrasting white on a colored or striped shirt. Reminiscent of old time detachable collars like the ones pictured at the top of this post, these lend a distinctly retro vibe to any outfit, and are great for 1920s themed events or Great Gatsby parties. Stick to wearing a tie with this one or risk looking a little incomplete.
The Pinned Collar
The pinned collar isn’t exactly a type in its own right, but rather another way of wearing the standard point collar. A collar pin is worn under the knot of your tie to pull the points closer together and “arch” the tie, giving a bit of old world panache to your look. A pinned collar is a bold enough choice, so pair with relatively simple combinations of shirt, tie and jacket and let it speak for itself. If you do opt for this look, commit to a real pin, one that needs to be stuck through the cloth of the shirt. Slide-on options exist but never look as good, and the small holes created by the pin will typically come out in the wash anyway.
This is by no means a compressive list, but merely a run down of the kinds of collars you’re mostly likely to find today. By experimenting with different types and combining different collars with different outfits, you can easily add interest and versatility to even the most minimal closet.
What’s your favorite shirt collar and how do you wear it? We’d love to hear from you.
Photo Credits: Vintage Clothing Catalog, An Affordable Wardrobe