Featured | Lifestyle | Menswear | Shirts

Can You Wear a Contrast Collar Shirt Without Looking Gaudy?

Giorgio D'Antonio

The con­trast col­lar shirt (also known as the banker col­lar) is one of the more promi­nent as well as crit­i­cized dress shirt looks.  Pop­u­lar­ized by notable busi­ness­men / socialites such as Robert Kraft and David Beck­ham as well as fic­tion­al movie / tv icons Gor­don Gekko and Nucky Thomp­son — this look can be pulled off if worn cor­rect­ly.  Can it fail mis­er­ably?  Absolute­ly.  More often than not we’re accus­tomed to see­ing a con­trast col­lar shirt look­ing over-styled, gaudy and mis­matched.  With that being said, the most com­mon faux pas men make can be quick­ly cor­rect­ed with a few sim­ple styling changes.

contrast collar shirt Beckham

David Beck­ham sport­ing a clas­sic con­trast col­lar at the 2012 Olympics | Pho­to Cour­tesy: REUTERS/Toby Melville

 

robert kraft contrast collar shirt

Patri­ots Own­er Robert Kraft sport­ing his goto con­trast col­lar shirt | Pho­to Cour­tesy Jeff Haynes/AP

 


What is a Contrast Collar Shirt?

It’s quite sim­ple.  A con­trast col­lar is a shirt col­lar that has a dif­fer­ent col­or than the tor­so of the shirt.  This con­trast­ing col­or is almost always white.  Rarely will you ever see a col­lar con­trast that is a col­or oth­er than white.

blue check contrast collar shirt

The icon­ic con­trast col­lar shirt with a tra­di­tion­al club col­lar  |  Pho­to & Shirt by Deo Ver­i­tas

 


When & Where Did the Contrast Collar Style Originate?

Mens shirt col­lars have remained sim­i­lar in appear­ance to the styles worn through­out N. Amer­i­ca & Europe for the last 100+ years.  Club col­lars (round­ed col­lar points) how­ev­er were more com­mon than sharp­er points (i.e. For­ward Point, Eng­lish Spread) that you’re accus­tomed to see­ing today.  The dif­fer­ence dur­ing this peri­od (mid 19th cen­tu­ry) is that the col­lars were actu­al­ly detach­able vs. affixed as one piece.  As the col­lars were detach­able, they were in fact sold sep­a­rate from the shirt itself.

Col­lars were some­what dif­fi­cult / expen­sive to pro­duce in mul­ti­ple col­ors / pat­terns dur­ing this time which led to them being pro­duced in a sin­gle col­or way (white).  Addi­tion­al­ly, laun­der­ing cloth­ing dur­ing this era was not done as fre­quent­ly as today.  As many men can attest, col­lars in par­tic­u­lar become dirt­i­er than any oth­er part of the shirt.  As a result, men would buy dozens of detach­able white col­lars which they could inter­change on their dai­ly shirts quick­ly.  As a result, mass­es of men began to wear this con­trast­ing col­lar / shirt style as a stan­dard.  The beau­ty of this design is also the fact that it could be attached and worn with any shirt, mak­ing it an incred­i­bly ver­sa­tile cloth­ing arti­cle.

nucky thompson contrast collar shirt

Steve Busce­mi as Nucky Thomp­son from HBO peri­od dra­ma Board­walk Empire (cir­ca 1920s) wear­ing a detach­able / pinned con­trast club col­lar

As the 20th cen­tu­ry emerged (ear­ly 1900s), mens dress shirts became more pat­terned and col­or­ful while the col­lars remained white. As a result of the type of shirts worn, a cou­ple of inter­est­ing eco­nom­ic terms emerged dur­ing this peri­od.  The terms ‘blue col­lar’ and ‘white col­lar’ were used to des­ig­nate the socio-eco­nom­ic sta­tus of the work­ing class.   White col­lared shirts became syn­ony­mous with edu­cat­ed, more high­ly paid, promi­nent pro­fes­sions such as account­ing, bank­ing, finance, etc.  Blue col­lared shirts were anal­o­gous with low­er paid, man­u­al pro­fes­sions such as con­struc­tion and fac­to­ry work­ers.

This detach­able / con­trast col­lar style con­tin­ued until well into the 1930s.  Tech­no­log­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing advance­ments emerged dur­ing this peri­od allow­ing shirt mak­ers to pro­duce shirts as a sin­gle arti­cle with­out detach­able col­lars.  There­after, the con­trast­ing col­lar style began to fall out of style as men adapt­ed the new sin­gle piece shirt design with col­lars that were the same col­or / mate­r­i­al as the shirt itself.

As is the case with all trends, what’s old becomes new and the con­trast col­lar was no dif­fer­ent.  Pop­u­lar­ized by films such as Wall St., big­ger than life char­ac­ters such as Gor­do Gekko (which we’ve writ­ten about pre­vi­ous­ly) emerged, pro­claim­ing “Greed is Good” while wear­ing (almost exclu­sive­ly) con­trast col­lar shirts.  As a result, this style began to be asso­ci­at­ed with busi­ness and wealth.  Aspir­ing and estab­lished entre­pre­neurs, busi­ness­men, and socialites there­after adapt­ed this style as a sym­bol of suc­cess — which is still preva­lent today.

gekko contrast collar

Gor­don Gekko sport­ing his tran­scen­dent look

 


How to Wear the Contrast Collar Shirt Properly

There are a few easy to fol­low guide­lines to prop­er­ly wear the con­trast, banker col­lar cor­rect­ly:

  • Select a stan­dard col­lar such as a Point, Eng­lish Spread, Full Cut­away, or Ital­ian Spread, Club col­lar.  These types of col­lars have a nice spread and look ele­gant with a con­trast col­lar shirt.  Inter­est­ed in a some­what bold option?  Try a tab col­lar or pinned col­lar.
  • Select con­trast­ing cuffs to go along with the col­lar.  The type of cuff doesn’t real­ly mat­ter, just make sure it match­es the col­lar.
  • Pick com­pli­men­ta­ry col­ors and pat­terns, i.e. sol­id blues, pinks, striped, win­dow­panes, etc.…  These are clas­sic col­or ways and pat­terns that con­trast nice­ly with the white con­trast col­lar
  • Wear a sol­id or light­ly pat­terned tie to accom­pa­ny the shirt, i.e. navy, pink, brown, bur­gundy, etc…  We pre­fer a dark­er col­or as the light / dark con­trast looks ele­gant.  We also believe a sol­id or light­ly pat­terned tie look bet­ter as the look itself is quite bold and requires a more mut­ed tie to tone the look down a bit.  Also, as long as you’re wear­ing a suit / blaz­er, you should be able to pull this off with­out a tie (though we pre­fer it with a tie) for a slight­ly less for­mal look.
blue pinstripe contrast collar shirt

A per­fect exam­ple for how to wear a con­trast col­lar shirt

 


How to NOT Wear the Contrast Collar Shirt

  • Do NOT wear this look for­mal­ly if you’re under 25.  This may come across as a bit ageist, but noth­ing screams “look at me, I’m suc­cess­ful” then a recent col­lege grad with lit­tle to no real world expe­ri­ence dress­ing 20 years his senior.  This is real­ly a look that should be worn by men that are 35 or old­er.  Can you pull it off if you’re younger?  Sure, but it would be the excep­tion rather than the rule.  Based on it’s his­to­ry, this look tends to sig­ni­fy con­fi­dence and pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence, which is why we rec­om­mend it for guys 30 and old­er.
  • Do NOT select a con­trast col­lar oth­er than white.  Even if you can find a non white con­trast col­lar shirt, you shouldn’t do it.  It presents a very gaudy, “out there” look that may look great if you’re at a night club but less so in a board room.
  • Do NOT select a but­ton down col­lar.  Quite sim­ply, it just doesn’t work with this style shirt and looks odd.
  • Stay away from super dark or heav­i­ly con­trast­ing col­or-ways and tones, e.g. green, black, red, etc…  As we men­tioned ear­li­er, this is a very bold look and a stark con­trast can be a bit much.
  • Do NOT wear this shirt casu­al­ly, i.e. with jeans or khakis.  It’s just not a casu­al look and will look off if you wear it as such.
the worst contrast collar shirt

Every­thing here is just wrong

 


Where Can I Buy Contrast Collar Shirts?

Whether you’re look­ing for off the rack or cus­tom, Deo Ver­i­tas has got you cov­ered.  Below are some of the best options for those in the mar­ket for con­trast col­lar shirts.  If you have an out­lier size or want a spe­cif­ic cut not avail­able with reg­u­lar store siz­ing, check out Deo Ver­i­tas’ shirt design­er, which allows you to cre­ate a 100% cus­tom dress shirt online, with style options such as col­lar and cuff con­trasts amongst a dozen oth­er cus­tomiza­tion options avail­able (e.g. col­lars, cuffs, plack­ets, but­tons, mono­gram­ming, etc…).  As the siz­ing is cus­tom, you’ll receive shirts that are made to fit your body pre­cise­ly.

deo veritas contrast collar shirt

Select fab­ric con­trast as an option through our Shirt Design­er to select con­trast­ing col­lar and cuffs

 


The Best, Off-the-Rack Contrast Collar Shirt

Brooks Broth­ers — Non-Iron Con­trast Ains­ley Col­lar French Cuff ($92)

blue contrast collar shirt

A light blue con­trast col­lar shirt from Brooks Broth­ers

This non-iron dress shirt from the icon­ic Brooks Broth­ers is craft­ed from pure Amer­i­can-grown Supi­ma® cot­ton end-on-end broad­cloth and is fin­ished with the con­trast Ains­ley col­lar to ensure a sleek, pro­fes­sion­al look.

 


The Best, Custom Contrast Collar Shirt

Deo Ver­i­tas — Non Iron Blue Pin­stripe w/ Eng­lish Spread Col­lar & French Cuffs ($100)

blue pinstripe contrast collar shirt

A cus­tom blue pin­stripe con­trast col­lar shirt

Our favorite con­trast col­lar shirt is a bit bold­er than that of Brooks Broth­ers.  We start­ed with one of our uber pop­u­lar non iron twill fab­rics from Sok­tas and paired it with clas­sic French cuffs and our goto Eng­lish spread col­lar.  We love this look as it’s just a bit con­tem­po­rary and will assured­ly draw a num­ber of stares.  Try pair­ing it with a dark blaz­er and a sol­id navy tie for a per­fect ensem­ble.

 


Special Offer for First Time Deo Veritas Customers

First time cus­tomers, can use the code UNFUSED20 for $20 off your first order on all cus­tom dress shirt orders (excludes sale items).  Addi­tion­al­ly, all first time orders come with our per­fect fit guar­an­tee.

 


Check out some of our other Popular Guides…

The Men’s White Dress Shirt — A Defin­i­tive Buy­ing Guide on our Favorites

The One Piece Col­lar — The Great­est Col­lar You’ve Nev­er Heard of

Untucked vs. Tucked In — A Guide to Dress Shirt Length

Wall Street Style — Fea­tur­ing the Icon­ic Gor­den Gekko

 

CUSTOM DRESS SHIRTS BY DEO VERITAS

 

 

STAY IN TOUCH

EXCLUSIVE OFFERS WITH NEWSLETTER SIGNUP