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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 rounded club collar (also known as the penny collar) is regarded as a casual option, with its youthful and relaxed look. It remains an element of the school uniform at England’s exclusive Eton College, albeit as a starched separate collar that has to be fixed to the shirt with two studs. The style’s more laidback connotations come partly because it lacks the harsh lines of more formal collars and partly because it doesn’t lend itself to wearing a tie. There’s a nicely old-fashioned feel to the design that puts us in mind of the early 20th century’s Bloomsbury Set of artists and writers.
Known by some as the band collar, the grandad collar has enjoyed an unexpected revival in the past few years, due to the fact that it perfectly captures the sartorial zeitgeist by combining the pleasure of a well-made shirt with easy informality. Now that ties are almost always optional, so the collar itself is perhaps becoming optional, too. The style puts us in mind of drinks by the harbourside in the South of France. Want to know how to tell the difference between a grandad collar and a mandarin collar? Look at the grandad collar’s characteristic button closure. While similar in shape, the mandarin collar – named after the gowns worn by mandarins in Imperial China – does not meet at the front and has no button closure.
A key component in 1950s-style bowling shirts and aloha shirts – your sartorial touchpoints are Mr John Goodman in The Big Lebowski and Mr Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii – this breezy open collar has established itself as a summer staple for stylish guys around the world and is a favourite collar style of our in-house brand, Mr P. Also known as a camp collar, it lends any shirt a pyjama-like comfort, especially when combined with short sleeves. How to wear it? Double down on that mid-century cool by pairing a Cuban-collar shirt with turned-up chinos and high-top basketball sneakers, or just throw it over a pair of swim shorts when you’re heading to the beach.