Shirts and Collars: The Tab Collar

The Prince of Wales is generally credited with introducing the tab collar to high society. Coming into its own during the late 1920s and early 1930s, it flirted briefly with fashion one again in the 1960s. Although its popularity has waned due to the inexorable casualization of male fashion, the tab collar remains a favorite of those seeking that extra nuance of nattiness.

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The tab collar must be designed perfectly for the tie knot to rest comfortably in its opening. Special tabs fasten to each other under the tie’s knot to hold the collar’s points in place, thrusting the shirt collar and necktie knot higher up under the wearer’s chin. Long-necked men welcome the tab’s higher positioning, while the round- or square-shaped visage appreciates its longitudinal symmetry. Originally, a special brass stud secured the collar to the neckband while connecting the collar tabs. Today, with pre-attached tab collar dress shirts, a snap or a button and buttonhole apparatus is usually substituted. However, as with most old-world wearables, the original brass stud still projects a more polished sophistication that its less visual modern surrogates.

Britain’s answer to the stylish supremacy of America’s Fred Astaire was their own tony thespian and hoofer Jack Buchanan. To be called a “Buchanan” was a compliment, suggesting the recipient knew his way around a fitting room. And this Buchanan guy could outfit himself with the best of them.

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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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