Shirts and Collars: The Spread Collar

The spread collar has been the keystone of English bespoke look since the double collar came to town during the early 1920s. Its introduction is widely attributed to the famous Prince of Wales, probably due to his alleged creation of the Windsor knot that was supposed to escort it. In fairness, it was really his younger brother, the Duke of Kent, who first popularized it.

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Because of the spread’s inherently dressy and elegant bearing, it has become today’s most important dress shirt collar. As spread collars vary greatly in height, point length, and openness, there are usually several models that will flatter any man’s head shape or profile. If only for variety, some version of the spread collar should be a permanent fixture in all men’s wardrobes.


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Prince Charles' his collar architecture is spot on (left). The height, point length, and spread of his striped collar points are perfectly symmetrical with the contours of his face. Notice how the collar’s points touch his chest while remaining tucked under his coat’s front, even when his head is slightly turned. This is one of the spread’s practical advantages over other models. In addition, the dimple of hi tie knot falls directly under the “V” point at the collar’s top.

Because the majority of Italian men are smaller boned, most fancy some version of the spread collar. Fabio Borelli, one of Italy’s new generation of shirt-making  scions, is no exception. As his face tapers down almost to a point, the spread collar is, in fact, the only possible design able to counteract such a contour.

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Borelli has employed a higher-sitting spread collar to better frame his face while tinkering with tradition with typical Italian sprezzatura. Don’t think for a minute that his collar’s slight bowing, the minutely skewed angle of his knot, or even the peaking of his tie’s under-blade happen to be coincidence. To the contrary, this demonstration of noblesse negligence is another reminder of an almost cultural predisposition by Italy’s style cognoscenti to continually rework the canons of English taste. Who says that the male species is any less decorative-minder than the female? However, like most aspects of stylish habiliment, true elegance resides not in the clothes themselves but in how they are worn.

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Here’s the spread collar cum Windsor knot’s most indefatigable champion, the late actor and author Douglas Fairbanks Jr. The moment this collar and knot team hit London, Junior immediately adopted it, eventually becoming its lifelong ambassador. Fairbanks’s enthusiasm may have had as much to do with the large knot and collar’s early acceptance by the beau monde as with its alleged instigator, the Duke of Windsor.