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
02. Button-down collar
03. Narrow-point collar
04. Spread collar
05. Cut-away collar
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.