A guide to dress shirts: The Collar

There are a lot of choices when it comes to dress shirt collar styles. In this guide we explain the most common shirt collar styles, what they do for you face and whether they can be worn without a tie.

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The straight point collar

The straight point collar dress shirt is the most traditional shirt, having its origins in the military uniforms of the 20th century. The straight point collar shirt is your everyday, basic, work shirt. Every person should have one. The straight point collar works best for people with round facial features due to its elongating effect and should be worn with a tie.

The spread collar

The spread collar is today’s most important dress shirt collar, because of the spread’s elegant bearing. The spread refers to the distance between the collar points. As spread collars vary greatly in height, point length and openness, there are usually several models that will flatter any person’s head shape or profile. If only for the variety, some version of the spread collar should be a permanent fixture in anyone’ wardrobe. The spread collar can be worn without a tie, making it a great shirt for informal occassions where you would still like to look elegant.

The cutaway collar

The cutaway collar can be seen as an extreme version of the spread collar and is designed to be worn with a large tie knot. This collar style is also referred to as a Windsor collar, because of its origin as a means to fit Windsor tie knots. Its name comes from the fact that, due to the big angle between the collar points, it looks like someone ‘cut away’ part of the fabric. The cutaway collar will accentuate wider figures, while creating a more fully proportioned look on thin people. 

The button-down collar

The button-down collar has small buttonholes at the tip of each point, corresponding to a small button on each side of the shirt front. This collar choice is the most casual and it can be worn with or without a tie. The buttons on the collar, however, should always be fastened. The button-down shirt is, like the straight point collar and the spread collar, a wardrobe essential and can be tailored to fit any facial shape.

The club collar

The club collar emerged as a way for students at Eton college to distinguish themselves and their uniforms from that of other schools. They took the standard collar points and merely rounded them off. The collar is known as the club collar in reference to that ‘special club membership’ it signified. The club collar can be worn without a tie and due to its round form looks best on people with a thin face. The club collar has a nicely old-fashioned look and gives you a laid-back appearance of stylishness.

The tab collar

The tab collar has a small tab extending from the middle of each point, which is fixed together - with a button or a hook-and-loop closure - behind the tie. The tab collar should always be worn with a tie. The tab thrusts the shirt collar and necktie knot higher up under the wearer’s chin. Long-necked people welcome the tab’s higher positioning, while the round or square shaped visage appreciates its longitudinal symmetry.

The pin collar

Functioning much like the tab, the pin collar raises the tie knot up on the neck, shortening the long neck. The pin collar has small holes in each point, allowing for the insertion of a decorative pin or bar behind the tie knot. The pin or bar elegantly lifts the tie knot, creating a luxurious arch below the tie knot while also holding the knot firmly in place.

As a bespoke tailor we can make a dress shirt in any way you would like and with every possible size and style of collar, fitted to perfection to your individual wishes. Next to the collar we can help you out with choosing the right fit, style, fabric and shirt cuffs. To learn more about these options, please read our other articles in A guide to dress shirts.

Shirts and Collars: The Rounded Collar

The short, stiff round collar has been an obligatory part of the Eton school uniform since the mid-nineteenth century. Originally a separate stiff white collar that attached to a banded collar shirt body, early on the collar signified membership in one of the world’s most exclusive male clubs, hence its moniker name, the "club" collar. The famous arrow collar ads in the early twentieth century helped to elevate this style of collar to the pantheon of classic dress shirt collars.

As a soft attached collar, the club collar became one of the 1930s most popular collar chiseled visage. Although the club collar rarely cavorts among the masses, this holdover from Victorian society can occasionally be found hobnobbing with the custom-tailored set.

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Michael Douglas wearing a rounded collar playing Gordon Gekko in Wall Street

Michael Douglas wearing a rounded collar playing Gordon Gekko in Wall Street

Paul Sparks with a rounded collar in Boardwalk Empire

Paul Sparks with a rounded collar in Boardwalk Empire

Shirts and Collars: The Straight-Point Collar

Because the straight-point collar was the collar shape gracing most military-issued dress shirts since WW I, it has long been the foundation of the modern man’s dress shirt wardrobe. As the most stylistically neutral of all collars, the straight-point collar can be worn with any kind of suit or sport jacket. Ideally, its collar points should finish between 2 ¾ inches and 3 3/8 inches in length. The narrow opening between its points favors a rounder, oval-shaped face, rather than a narrow one.

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Here is a man who chose to title his autobiography It Took Nine Tailors. As one of Hollywood’s great early leading men. Adolphe Menjou was also one of its leading dandies. Here he is tailored to his own measure in a long-point collar with just the right amount of calculated disobedience to play the harried political boss in Frank Capra’s The Man Behind the President. His collar’s casual deportment not only defangs his aggressively striped bespoke suitings but also serves to elongate his oval contours.

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If you were feeling uneasy that this collar presentation was overly ballyhooed, consider the next victim. Here’s a dress shirt performance that is definitely laying an egg. England’s Leslie Howard is pictured taking a stroll on deck as he returns to Europe aboard the SS Berengaria (and, let’s hope, to a good Jermyn Street chemisier). How he has managed to come up with exactly the worn collar for his face is anyone’s guess, Its long and very perpendicular lines pick up where those of this face leave off, rendering his already gaunt visage even more lank. If there ever was a prime candidate for a spread-collar shirt, Master Howard would be it.

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