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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Best, Off-the-Rack Contrast Collar Shirt
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
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.
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