With the rebirth of traditional collars – mixing it with the best in contemporary versions and variations – men have so many ways to express personal style through their dress shirts.
With a plethora of collars on offer, the choice for stylish men extends beyond a taste for a certain colour and pattern. But with so much choice, it's easy to be like that awkward dinner party guest who's started eating his main course with the bread and butter knife, only to be told later of his embarrassing etiquette mistake by a friend.
It speaks sophistication to be able to choose the appropriate collar for everyday wear or a special-occasion event. No more social mishaps or fashion faux pas need plague your busy schedule; collar etiquette is what's on the menu, gents. So, whet your appetite.
Breaking It Down
The collar is the dress shirt's most standout feature. So a poor, casual choice when attending a formal event instantly singles you out style-inept and destroys all the hard work put into a bespoke suit and well-sheened shoes.
Today, there are many collar types to choose from. But, the following guide outlines the more common examples; ones that every gentlemen should know how to work – and own in 2015.
The Straight or Forward Point
Essentially, the straight point collar is the most balanced collar type, suiting both formal and casual attire. It is cut using straight lines, which end in a point, and is distinguished by its small spread (the physical gap that sits between the two collar points).
Mostly associated with the traditional men's dress shirt, it's a foolproof collar choice for the office, wedding or smart casual rendezvous.
The collar works well with most lapel styles (peak, notch or shawl). And as for the tie, the four-in-hand – recognised for its smaller knot, is your best option. Why not try the look without a tie for a dressed-down aesthetic: a snug blazer, chino trousers and sockless brogues for the win.
The Spread or Cutaway Collar
The spread or cutaway collar is known for having the spread wide apart (where the two points meet). It's seeing a welcomed resurgence of late with men taking the time to dress up a bit more. The style is best suited to formal occasions and traditionally worn with a larger knot tie, such as a half Windsor or full Windsor. But play around with smaller knot ties too, if the event isn't super formal.
The spread does vary – from regular cutaway to extreme cutaway – shifting widths and angles, and it's a perfect choice for a sophisticated romp in the city for the super corporate workplace. Don't go tie-less with this collar. But instead, dress-down the tie-and-shirt combination with a pair of jeans and loafers.
The button-down collar is connected directly to the shirt fabric via two small buttons. The least formal of the collar types, the button-down can be worn with or without a tie and is best for more casual events.
The spread varies from brand to style, so play around with what type you want, depending on the inclusion of a tie or not.
Try wearing the button-down collar sans tie and let the shirt remain unbuttoned to the top. Then, rock it with chinos shorts and white sneakers, leaving the shirt untucked for relaxed summer vibes.
Wing Tip Collar
The wing tip collar is designed to house the bow tie. By far the most formal collar, the wing tip is usually worn with a tuxedo. It's a short shirt collar that has two small wings at the front.
Wing collar shirting often comes in crisp white, cotton poplin for those dapper black tie events. But essentially, this type of shirt is not a wardrobe staple unless you frequent the Oscars or plan to attend the wedding of an English aristocrat.
The tab collar is a shorter version of the straight point collar. It's a rarer collar and is most popular for bespoke-taste gents who seek something super traditional. The tab collar's purpose is to promote the tie knot. So, wear it with a woven medium width tie in silk or light cotton, and keep the knot small – the four-in-hand method is the best approach.
Again, don't go tieless with this style and pair the shirt with a bespoke suit or jacket and business-ready Oxfords.
Club Or Rounded Collar
The rounded collar was part of Eton College's (school of Prince William and Harry) dress code beginning in the mid-1800s. Belonging to exclusive school club, the rounded collar was soon coined the 'club' – and it was adopted by the Mods and golfers.
Today, it is one of the rarer collars but it remains a classic of men's style. Keep the tie know small and some stylish gents are even sticking a metallic pin that lays horizontal across the spread, connecting the two points.
Meanwhile, fashion types – intent on channelling formal nostalgic looks – are also getting onto the club collar, working the shirt done up to the top of the neck and without a tie – or open and with a neckerchief. Choose your club, and stick to it.
While there remains a code of rules that govern the dress shirt collar – be it wing tip for bow ties or the cutaway with a windsor knot tie – the collar game can be played around with a bit; interchanging different tie widths or a no-tie look, depending on the social expectations of the event.
Take guidance from stylish gents who work the collar well, and then use your discretion. Developing your very own sense of style is the most essential.
This article first appeared in D'Marge.