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Keeping Your Collar Sharp: Our Guide to the Best Dress Shirt Collar Stays

Jean-Baptiste

Sev­er­al com­pa­nies and prod­ucts claim to have the best dress shirt col­lar stays.  There are def­i­nite­ly no short­age of options on the mar­ket.  Plas­tic shirt stays, met­al col­lar stays, mag­net­ic col­lar stays — to name a few…   As a cus­tom dress shirt mak­er, we think we know a thing or two about them.  We know that most men take them for grant­ed.  For the most part, they sit undis­turbed in their pock­et­ed slots, rarely requir­ing any care or main­te­nance.

dress shirt collar stays

Col­lar stays are insert­ed through the back of the col­lar point

Keep­ing your col­lar points flat and straight is an inglo­ri­ous job but they do it well and qui­et­ly.  From time to time (typ­i­cal­ly dur­ing a wash), you may lose one or two.  With­out dress shirt col­lar stays, your dress shirt may suc­cumb to the dread­ed curl­ing col­lar (as shown below) — which hon­est­ly looks awful.  Not to fret … in this guide, we’ll out­line the his­to­ry of col­lar stays and review the best dress shirt col­lar stays on the mar­ket.  

One impor­tant dis­tinc­tion — if your prob­lem is that your col­lar points col­lapse under the weight of a blaz­er, the issue is actu­al­ly not the dress shirt col­lar stays but the plack­et, which we cov­er in our guide to Cur­ing a Col­laps­ing, Weak Col­lar with the Mil­lion Dol­lar Col­lar.

With­out dress shirt col­lar stays, you may fall vic­tim to the dread­ed upward curl­ing col­lar

 


The History of Dress Shirt Collar Stays

As we’ve writ­ten about pre­vi­ous­ly with­in our Con­trast Col­lar Shirt guide, men’s shirts in the late 19th / ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry had detach­able col­lars.  No dif­fer­ent than today, crisp and sharp col­lars were a look that men aspired to achieve.  Starch­ing a col­lar with a nor­mal amount of starch is fine and does not change the mate­r­i­al com­po­si­tion or the flex­i­bil­i­ty appre­cia­bly.  Dur­ing this era, an egre­gious amount of starch was used to stiff­en the col­lar.  The whole col­lar was drenched in starch which result­ed in a rock sol­id col­lar which includ­ed not only the col­lar points but the col­lar band itself.   The starch served a sec­ondary pur­pose in that dirt and sweat would stick to the starch vs. the fab­ric which would allow it to eas­i­ly wash away dur­ing laun­der­ing along with the starch.  So, yes the col­lar was sharp and crisp but it was also incred­i­bly uncom­fort­able.

detachable collars

A super starched (uncom­fort­able) detach­able shirt col­lar

Dur­ing this era, there were dress shirt col­lar stays but they were very uncom­mon.  Addi­tion­al­ly, they were sewn in to the collar’s leaf vs. being remov­able.  Before the inven­tion of plas­tic, col­lar stays were actu­al­ly made from strips of met­al as well as brass, moth­er of pearl, cel­lu­loid,  ivory, whale­bone, and dif­fer­ent vari­ants of wood.

As the sto­ry goes, the mod­ern col­lar stay (made of plas­tic, straight, remov­able, and insert­ed into the diag­o­nal ‘pock­et’ of a shirt collar’s points) was invent­ed by Max Rit­ten­berg (late 1910s / 20s), a long­time employ­ee of Alexan­der & Ovi­att, Los Angeles’s finest bespoke menswear hab­er­dash­ery. Mr. Rit­ten­berg designed the stay and the dis­tinc­tive ‘pock­et’ for the dress shirt col­lar stays.   His employ­er (James Ovi­att) was unim­pressed and failed to move for­ward with the idea.  Instead Ovi­att passed the idea to an indus­try friend, who worked for the Van Heusen shirt com­pa­ny — who sub­se­quent­ly filed the appro­pri­ate design patents. This became what is now the mod­ern col­lar stay.

 


The Best Dress Shirt Collar Stays Broken Down by Material / Type

As we men­tioned ear­li­er, there are no short­age of types of dress shirt col­lar stays.  We out­line a few of the more notable mate­ri­als and prod­ucts that are on the mar­ket today, alter­na­tives to dress shirt col­lar stays, as well as a a DIY option that is per­fect if you’re in a jam.

Removable Plastic Collar Stays

Plas­tic Col­lar Stays (100) — $12.95

plastic dress shirt collar stays

Plas­tic Col­lar Stays

Exact­ly as described, remov­able plas­tic col­lar stays are like­ly the type of stays that most men are famil­iar with.  Made of plas­tic, these stays accom­pa­ny most off the rack shirts. These rep­re­sent the most cost con­scious choice for stays.  Most store bought shirts come with flim­sy, thin stays that pro­vide very lit­tle ben­e­fit. You’re best off replac­ing these with thick­er, more rigid stays such as the ones above.

 


Metal Collar Stays

Cuff-Dad­dy 3 Pairs Adjustable Stain­less Steel Col­lar Stays — $19.99

stainless steel dress shirt collar stays

Stain­less steel / adjustable col­lar stays

Met­al col­lar stays, as opposed to plas­tic, are sig­nif­i­cant­ly heav­ier and rigid which will keep your col­lar flat­ter and straighter. Inex­pen­sive met­al col­lar stays are like­ly made from a cheap­er grade met­al such as tin or alu­minum.  Stain­less steel is a high­er grade met­al and will cost a bit more.  The ones shown above have the added ben­e­fit of adjustable siz­ing, so they can be worn with short­er and longer point col­lars.

 


Brass Collar Stays

Jos A. Bank — Brass Col­lar Stays — $21.50

brass dress shirt collar stays

Brass col­lar stays from Jos. A. Bank

These stays are essen­tial­ly lux­u­ry met­al stays.  They are sig­nif­i­cant­ly heav­ier than met­al stays but look much more ele­gant.  Brass col­lar stays are also a great gift­ing option for the fash­ion con­scious gen­tle­men.

 


Magnetic Collar Stays

Wurkin Stiffs 3 Pair Pow­er Stays Mag­net­ic Col­lar Stays — $40

dress shirt collar stays - magnetic collar stays

A pair of mag­net­ic col­lar stays from Wurkin Stiffs

A tru­ly inno­v­a­tive prod­uct from Wurkin Stiffs were first intro­duced to us in 2005.  As described, mag­net­ic dress shirt col­lar stays con­sist of a mag­ne­tized (met­al) col­lar stay along with a small cir­cu­lar mag­net.  The mag­ne­tized col­lar stay is insert­ed into the col­lar stay pock­et and the mag­net is placed under­neath the upper chest por­tion of the shirt tor­so.  The col­lar stay is thus mag­net­i­cal­ly affixed to the stay result­ing in a super secure col­lar that will nev­er fly away.  Many cheap­er knock-offs have emerged in the 10+ years that have passed.  How­ev­er, we still remain par­tial to Wurkin Stiffs as the qual­i­ty of the mag­nets used with­in their stays is of the high­est qual­i­ty.

 


Novelty / Multi Functional Dress Shirt Collar Stays

Titan Mul­ti-Tool Col­lar Stays x4 Stan­dard Lengths — $45

Best Bottle Opener Collar Stays

Nov­el­ty / Bot­tle Open­er Col­lar Stays

Nov­el­ty met­al dress shirt col­lar stays that act as rulers, bot­tle open­ers, and even screw dri­vers are also niche stays that you will see adver­tised.  While the chances of using these (suc­cess­ful­ly) for these sec­ondary uses is low, they do present a great ‘gag’ gift offer­ing.  Do they work?  Sure, though the process of remov­ing a stay from an exist­ing shirt you’re wear­ing to say open a bot­tle ardu­ous and a bit ridicu­lous.

 


Hidden Button Down Collars (The Best Alternative)

The hidden concealed button down collar

The hid­den (con­cealed) but­ton down col­lar

The hid­den but­ton down col­lar is sim­i­lar to a clas­sic but­ton down col­lar with the pri­ma­ry dif­fer­ence behind the hid­den but­tons behind the col­lar points. The hid­den but­tons secure the col­lar to the tor­so of the shirt.  Like a but­ton down col­lar, the points will not move at all.  The hid­den but­ton down col­lar has been around for some time but it nev­er gained the noto­ri­ety or pop­u­lar­i­ty of the clas­sic but­ton down. This is not a col­lar that you are like­ly to find on an off the rack shirt as the skill lev­el required to sew the fas­ten­ing and affix but­tons behind the points is quite high.  This is a design that you’re only like­ly to find with a bespoke or made to mea­sure shirt­mak­er.

As a made to mea­sure shirt mak­er, Deo Ver­i­tas offers this col­lar as part of it’s stan­dard col­lar offer­ingDesign a dress shirt with a hid­den but­ton down col­lar on our site today.  You can also use the code COLLAR20 for $20 off your first order.

 


DIY (Do it Yourself) Dress Shirt Collar Stays

For­get­ting a pair of dress shirt col­lar stays while on the road is a com­mon prob­lem that many men can attest to hav­ing encoun­tered.  A great DIY solu­tion that is per­fect should you be in a hotel is to make your own dress shirt col­lar stays from a hotel key card.  The key card itself is made from thick­er plas­tic that is sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter and more rigid than those that come with an off the rack dress shirt.  Hon­est­ly, we like these stays as much as a met­al col­lar stay as the length / width can be cut pre­cise­ly which will give the col­lar a pre­cise and sharp appear­ance.

Step 1 — Gather the necessary materials;  Sharpie, Scissors, Hotel Key Card (or equivalent), existing collar stay (optional)

Step 1 — Gath­er nec­es­sary mate­ri­als for your DIY col­lar stays

Step 2 — Sten­cil out the col­lar stay out­line with a Sharpie. You don’t need an existing col­lar stay however, you can just hack away with a shape that has a triangular point.  Try to keep the stay at / near 3″ in length

Part 2 — Sten­cil out the col­lar stay out­line with a Sharpie.

Step 3 — Using a plain old pair of scis­sors, cut out the out­line of the stay. One thing you’ll notice with these key cards — they’re likely much thicker than the original stays that came with the shirt.

Part 3 — Cut out the out­line of the col­lar stays

Step 4 — You’re done!  Simply insert the newly formed collar stay into the diagonal collar stay slot.

Part 4 — Installing the new col­lar stay is as sim­ple as it would be with a nor­mal pair of stays

 


More Popular Guides…

Cure a Col­laps­ing, Weak Col­lar with our New Shirt Design Fea­ture — Mil­lion Dol­lar Col­lar

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

 

 

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