Menswear | Shirts

The Ultimate Guide To Dress Shirt Collars: Styles & Tips

Lloyd Hughes

An Introduction To Men’s Dress Shirt Collars

dress shirt collars | Italian Spread Collar

Deo Ver­i­tas Ital­ian Spread Col­lar

Dress shirt col­lars — there’s a ton of dif­fer­ent styles to select from, whether it’s ready-wear shirts or if you’re build­ing your own cus­tom dress shirt.  Mak­ing the right choice can be an easy choice if you’re armed with the right info.

Per­son­al tastes aside, there are sev­er­al vari­ables to con­sid­er in order to make the best of your shirt, name­ly: con­struc­tion, suit­abil­i­ty to your face type and the col­lar style itself.

The shirt col­lar deter­mines the over­all style for a dress shirt, dic­tat­ing its appear­ance and for­mal­i­ty. It also serves as an exten­sion of the face so there needs to be a bal­ance between the col­lar and the wear­er.

And final­ly, the col­lar deter­mines the type of tie and knot that should be worn. More on that in a fea­ture post on the blog soon.

Dress shirt collars: Ties and shirts

Construction of Collared Shirts.

All dress shirt col­lars are com­prised of two iden­ti­cal pieces of fab­ric sewn togeth­er with an inter­lin­ing in between, the lat­ter bears a strik­ing influ­ence in the final aes­thet­ic and feel of the shirt col­lar. The type of inter­lin­ing and its fix­a­tion method are often-over­looked details that can com­pro­mise the shirt alto­geth­er.

I would risk stat­ing that about 80%-90% of the shirts avail­able on the mar­ket fea­ture fused inter­lin­ings, mean­ing they are glued and heat pressed onto the col­lar. The rea­sons why it’s wide­ly adopt­ed have to do with the ease and speed of appli­ca­tion, low­er pro­duc­tion costs and over­all sat­is­fac­to­ry result – a fused col­lar is like­ly to look its best dur­ing the shirt life cycle and is eas­i­er to care for, espe­cial­ly when it comes to iron­ing.

Dress shirt collars: Fused Collar

A fused col­lar being attached to the shirt body

The oth­er option is the lux­u­ri­ous non-fused inter­lin­ings, which are stitched instead of glued, resem­bling what tai­lors do in bespoke suits.

A non-fused col­lar pro­vides superb com­fort and soft­ness, being eas­i­ly iden­ti­fied by rub­bing the out­er and inner lay­ers of the col­lar against your fin­gers tips and feel­ing the flow­ing inter­lin­ing.

Albeit a high­er qual­i­ty detail, one must know how to appre­ci­ate it since these col­lars will look less sharp due to the mov­ing inter­lin­ing: the eas­i­est way to sport them is on more casu­al shirts, but if you’re a real con­nois­seur who can con­fi­dent­ly pair them with a suit, they will add a rak­ish non­cha­lant feel to the whole attire.

Also, be aware that non-fused col­lars are hard­er to iron and will require some prac­tice to do so prop­er­ly.

Find the right dress shirt collars to suit your face.

As with so many oth­er gar­ments, suit­abil­i­ty to one’s body type and shape plays a cru­cial role when choos­ing a col­lar: mind you, these are not innate restric­tions to the styles you can choose, but depend­ing on the shape of your face, some will accen­tu­ate or com­ple­ment your best fea­tures:

Round, Oval and Square Shaped Faces.

If you have rounder shaped face, you should com­ple­ment its wider traits with a point­ed col­lar. Longer col­lars will elon­gate your face mak­ing it visu­al­ly bal­anced.

Tak­ing this into con­sid­er­a­tion, suit­able col­lar styles for wider face types include:

1. Point Col­lar

2. Tab Col­lar

3. But­ton-Down Col­lar

Diamond, Oblong and Heart Shaped Faces.

If on the oth­er hand your face has elon­gat­ed fea­tures, spread col­lars will widen your face, mak­ing it more visu­al­ly appeal­ing. Any vari­ety of spread col­lar is a suit­able option and the longer the face the wider the spread.

Long Faces 1

If you have an elon­gat­ed face types, your best options include:

1. Spread Col­lar

2. Cut­away Col­lar

3. Club Col­lar

Still on the sub­ject of facial anato­my, do con­sid­er the height of the col­lar itself, as it should match that of your neck. Longer necks are able to with­stand high­er col­lar stands such as two-but­ton ver­sions, where­as short­er necks should pair with low col­lar stands to show a bit more skin. 

A look at the most popular collared shirt styles.

Tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion all the above men­tioned infor­ma­tion, it’s time to review the most pop­u­lar shirt col­lar styles in detail, allow­ing you to make the most con­sci­en­tious choice pos­si­ble.

The spread collar:

Fea­tur­ing a wide gap between col­lar points, the tra­di­tion­al ver­sions sit in between the point and cut­away col­lars, pro­vid­ing a con­tem­po­rary alter­na­tive. Due to its design, it is best worn with thick­er tie knots such as a full or half Wind­sor.

Its ver­sa­til­i­ty makes it a go-to choice for con­tem­po­rary men as it pairs as beau­ti­ful­ly with a suit and tie as it does with a sports jack­et with the top two but­tons undone.

Dress shirt collars: Spread collar

The Spread Col­lar

Dress shirt collars: Spread collar with jacket

The point collar, also known as the straight-point or forward-point collar.

Undoubt­ed­ly the most pop­u­lar style to this day, the point col­lar is an essen­tial sta­ple in any man’s wardrobe. This clas­sic design makes it appro­pri­ate for most occa­sions and it’s one of the most com­mon offer­ings on the mar­ket.

The nar­row dis­tance between points makes it per­fect to wear with small­er tie knots such as the four-in-hand; ide­al­ly it should be worn with a tie at all times since it doesn’t look as sharp as the spread when unbut­toned.

Dress shirt collars: Point collar

The Point Col­lar

Dress shirt collars: Point collar with pinstripe suit

 

The button-down collar.

A trade­mark of Amer­i­can style immor­tal­ized by prep­py Ivy Leaguer’s, the but­ton-down col­lar is a sym­bol of its gen­er­a­tion. As the name sug­gests, the But­ton Down dis­plays two but­ton­holes at the col­lar points, meant to be fas­tened by two but­tons care­ful­ly placed at the shirt front.

The pro­por­tion between point length and but­ton posi­tion­ing varies from brand to brand, lead­ing to a more or less pro­nounced roll.

Orig­i­nal­ly meant to be worn with a tie and a sports jack­et, mak­ing it more casu­al, new trends have seen styl­ish indi­vid­u­als ditch­ing the neck-wear and sport­ing them unbut­toned.

Recent ver­sions have been con­tin­u­ous­ly increas­ing the point length to make them suit-appro­pri­ate, thus replac­ing in some cas­es, the time test­ed hid­den ver­sion (where the but­ton­ing is invis­i­ble with the fab­ric loops placed under the col­lar).

Dress shirt collars: Button-down collar

The But­ton Down Col­lar

 

Dress shirt collars: OCBD

The cutaway collar.

This extreme ver­sion of the British spread col­lar deliv­ers an even wider dis­tance between points, exud­ing a pow­er­ful state­ment for the pow­er suit look. Due to its large gap, it is best worn with a bulki­er knot and a qual­i­ty tie, which will show part of the blades rolled around the col­lar band.

Worn sans-tie, the col­lar points slide under­neath the jack­et lapels mak­ing it look casu­al­ly pol­ished when done right. Its visu­al impact sug­gests you know your share when it comes to style moves.

Dress shirt collars: Cutaway collar

The Cut­away Col­lar

 

Dress shirt collars: Cutaway collar with FIH knot

The tab collar.

British in essence, the tab collar’s most dis­tinc­tive fea­ture is a fab­ric tab with but­ton or snap fas­ten­ing, that bridges the two points togeth­er and ele­vates the tie knot in a beau­ti­ful arch, much like a col­lar pin.

With its ongo­ing ups and downs in men’s fash­ion, it is cur­rent­ly expe­ri­enc­ing a much-need­ed come­back due in large part to its star role in shows like Board­walk Empire or Mad Men. Usu­al­ly pre­sent­ing a stan­dard gap and short­er point length, it should be used with a tie at all times.

Dress shirt collars: Tab collar

The Tab Col­lar

 

Dress shirt collars: Tab collar James Bond

The club collar.

An icon­ic style devel­oped as a uni­form for Eton Col­lege, the club col­lar result­ed as an alter­ation to the tra­di­tion­al point col­lar.

Its most dis­tinc­tive trait is the round­ed edges which pair beau­ti­ful­ly with the much sought col­lar pins and tie. As such, it should be worn with a tie at all times, being able to adapt to vari­ety of ensem­bles, from prep­py to for­mal (in this case opt for a con­trast­ing white ver­sion).

Dress shirt collars: Club collar

The Club Col­lar

 

Dress shirt collars: Club collar in action

The tuxedo / wing collar.

Also known as the winged col­lar due to its unique design, this is the pri­ma­ry choice for for­mal events. Think black or white tie.

Shirts with tuxe­do col­lars usu­al­ly fea­ture a pleat­ed or bibbed front and con­trast­ing but­tons that can be made from a vari­ety of pre­cious mate­ri­als. Orig­i­nal­ly, the col­lar points were starched and fold­ed resem­bling wings. It is meant to be worn with a bow tie.

Dress shirt collars: Winged collar

The Winged Col­lar as seen on Matthew Zor­pas a.k.a The Gen­tle­man Blog­ger

The mini-point collar.

A more fash­ion­able approach to tra­di­tion­al col­lars, rem­i­nis­cent of those seen on run­ways, the mini col­lars are sim­ply small­er ver­sions of their tra­di­tion­al coun­ter­parts.

Their con­tem­po­rary feel por­trays a more min­i­mal­ist approach to men’s fash­ion while pre­sent­ing a small­er gap between points that looks opti­mal when matched with a thin­ner tie and small knot.

Also bear into con­sid­er­a­tion that due to their pro­por­tion, they should be paired with suits or jack­ets sport­ing nar­row lapels.

Dress shirt collars: Mini-point collar

The Mini Point Col­lar

 

Dress shirt collars: Mini-point collar seen in film

Other considerations.

Final­ly, there some non-tech­ni­cal details worth con­sid­er­ing when choos­ing the right col­lar, name­ly in regards to aes­thet­ics and com­fort. For one, mak­ing sure you know your accu­rate col­lar size is para­mount to achiev­ing a flaw­less look­ing (and feel­ing) shirt.

As obvi­ous as it may seem, most men over­look col­lar size in favor of the over­all fit of the shirt, result­ing in odd look­ing and uncom­fort­able shirts. On a more aes­thet­ic approach, there are two oth­er aspects worth men­tion­ing: the rules of pro­por­tions between col­lars and jack­ets’ lapels and the use of col­lar stays as a means to ensure a per­fect look­ing col­lar at all times.

Below are some tips regard­ing each of the above men­tioned vari­ables.

Knowing your collar size.

Most men com­plain about the dis­com­fort of wear­ing a tie sim­ply because they don’t choose the right size: over-sized dress shirt col­lars will result in a large gap between the shirt and neck, por­tray­ing a slop­py look, where­as under­sized col­lars will pres­sure your Adam’s apple and become unbear­able to wear.

To make sure you’re choos­ing / mea­sur­ing the right col­lar size, fol­low the instruc­tions on the videos below:

Mea­sur­ing for the col­lar on the body:

Mea­sur­ing for the col­lar from an exist­ing dress shirt:

 

 

Pairing with suits and jackets.

As a rule of thumb, the wider the col­lar the wider the lapel and vice-ver­sa: a spread col­lar per instance looks its best with wide lapels, where­as a mini-point col­lar should be paired with nar­row lapels.

These small details are eas­i­ly missed by an untrained eye, but when you’re among your peers, trust me, they will know.

Dress shirt collars: Narrow lapel jacket

A nar­row lapel jack­et should be paired with a more “closed” col­lar

 

Dress shirt collars: Wide lapels jacket

Jack­ets with wider lapels pair per­fect­ly with spread col­lars. Source: Beck­ett & Robb

Collar stays.

As the col­lar is such a promi­nent ele­ment of the dress shirt, shirt­mak­ers have con­tin­u­ous­ly focused on mak­ing it look impec­ca­ble at all times. One of the addi­tions they came up with was col­lar stays: flat, rigid pieces of plas­tic or met­al that are insert­ed (or sewn) on the under­side of the shirt col­lar, ensur­ing the points look sharp and crisp.

High qual­i­ty shirts fea­ture small pock­ets on the under­side, allow­ing you to remove the stays before wash­ing, where­as low-tier shirts have the stays sewn inside or none at all.

Col­lar stays vary accord­ing to the col­lar they were design to fit, so make sure you don’t lose or mis­match them. Stan­dard stays are made of plas­tic, but as with many oth­er men’s acces­sories you can find lux­u­ry ver­sions made from sil­ver, gold or moth­er of pearl.

Dress shirt collars: Shirt stays

Details on a col­lar stay insert­ed into the under­side sock­et.

Final thoughts.

Now that we’ve cov­ered the essen­tial dress shirt col­lars and pro­vid­ed an insight regard­ing their back­ground and his­tor­i­cal rel­e­vance, we hope you give it a sec­ond thought about the col­lar on your next dress shirt acqui­si­tion, but also, that you make the most of the ones you cur­rent­ly own.

For now, we invite you to browse through our var­i­ous dress shirt col­lars and cus­tomize your shirt to your lik­ing!

Custom Dress Shirts

STAY IN TOUCH

EXCLUSIVE OFFERS WITH NEWSLETTER SIGNUP