The Ultimate Guide To Shirt Collar Types

When it comes to choosing a shirt, some decisions are easy – loose fit or slim fit? Pale blue or pink-and-white striped? Other decisions, namely shirt-collar style, can cause rather more trouble. While choosing a collar shape is predominantly a question of personal taste, each design has a history and sartorial connotations to consider, and each look complements different outfits in different ways. Here, we have assembled a quick guide to every type of shirt collar worth knowing about – more or less, anyway – and how to wear each one well.

01. Wing collar

When eveningwear is the order of the day, the wing collar offers a traditional, dressier alternative to the turn-down collars found on most contemporary tuxedo shirts. A band collar with starched points that protrude outwards like wings, which give the collar its name, this is an appropriate choice for black-tie dress codes, but is a requirement for the more formal white-tie dress code.

02. Button-down collar

Invented, it’s said, for polo players who needed something to prevent their shirt collars flapping as they galloped around the field, button-downs are also indelibly associated with the casual elegance of the American East Coast, as epitomised by President John F Kennedy and his brothers. Later on, the Italian industrialist Mr Gianni Agnelli popularised the style out and about in Europe. It remains a favourite among men who want to bring a hint of sprezzatura to their tailoring.

03. Narrow-point collar

The tab-collar shirt has a certain Art Deco swagger. The button tab makes a tie flow out from the collar with a proud flourish, adding attitude to otherwise conservative outfits. It looks great with clothes that reference 1930s flamboyance and flair, such as double-breasted suits from Ralph Lauren Purple Label or Kingsman. The tab-collar shirts worn by Japanese street-style star Mr Shuhei Nishiguchi are made from chambray by Beams F.

04. Spread collar

The spread collar is one of the most versatile. It can be worn with a wide variety of business or smart-casual outfits and looks good with or without a tie. Italian brands such as Loro Piana now offer piqué cotton polo shirts with a soft-spread collar, which, while casual, look good next to a softly tailored blazer.

05. Cut-away collar

The extreme version of the spread collar is the cutaway collar, with points angled back towards the shoulders. This design has a clean and contemporary effect. The virtue of the cutaway collar is that it looks as good without a tie as it does with one. When worn with a jacket, the points are hidden under the lapels and when worn with a tie, there’s lots of silk exposed either side of the knot.

The History of the Collared Shirt

The shirt is probably the most common item ever worn by man and any well-dressed man is likely to have several of them in many colours and styles. But where does the shirt come from and how has this simple garment evolved over time?

Where Does the Shirt Come From?

The modern shirt that a typical man wears on an almost daily basis is a garment that dates back into the Middle Ages and before. Exactly when it was invented is unknown. Most shirts were cheap and handmade at home out of wool, but by the 1300s, men started looking for people who made shirts for a living. It was at this time that the shirtmaker started to rise in European cities, manufacturing comfortable shirts out of cotton, silk and linen. These shirts felt much better against the skin than ordinary wool and the demand for comfort meant that the shirt began to spread around the world. The basic shirt remained the same for centuries, as it does today. It was the components of the shirt that changed with the times.

The Rise of the Shirt

Originally, all shirts, as with all other garments, were handmade. If you wanted a shirt, you went to a shirtmaker, just like if you wanted shoes, you went to a cobbler, and a tailor for your suits. In the 1700s and the 1800s, the rise of the Industrial Revolution meant that shirts could now be mass-produced cheaply from cotton, mostly grown in the Deep South of the United States of America and sent to cotton-mills in the northern states, or to England and Europe. While the shirt’s popularity spread, its status remained the same.

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