Collar Stays and Dress Shirts

What are Collar Stays?

Collar stays, also called “collar tabs” or “collar stiffeners”, are flat, rigid pieces of plastic or metal which are inserted in special pockets on the underside of dress shirt collars.

The purpose of the collar stays is to keep the shirt collar in place by adding weight and crispness to an otherwise light and flexible piece of fabric.

Collars stays are either removable or sewn-in. Sewn-in collar stays are almost always made from a thin plastic as they try to balance giving a rigid look to the collar without damaging it in the wash.  In my opinion they fail at both and should be avoided if possible.

metal dress collar stay

Men’s Dress Shirt Collar Stay

Will you find a sewn-in collar stay in every dress shirt you buy from the store? No, because this extra feature costs a bit of money and can over time leave an impression in the collar points if over-ironed .

Will you find collar stay pockets in dress shirt that you buy from the store? More often than not, no unless it is a higher end dress shirt.  Most manufactures save a few pennies by not having the pocket sewn in underneath as the majority of their target audience will not notice.

The next time you are buying a dress shirt, make sure there are collar stay pockets sewn on the underside of the collar.

There are a wide variety of collar stay styles on the market. Depending on what you are looking for, collar stays come in different lengths, widths, shapes and materials.

Choosing the correct collar stay is not too difficult. The correct shape, width, and length of the collar stay is contingent on the shape and width of the dress shirt collar. The material of your collar stay is entirely up to your preference.

Collar Stays Composition Types

Plastic collar stays

Plastic is the most common material used to make collar stays. Cheap and abundant, plastic collar stays are the go-to collar stays that most dress shirt manufacturers use. You can purchase a bag of 200 plastic collar stays for around $12.00 plus shipping.

A pair of plastic collar stays

Plastic collar stays do their job to a degree, however, the plastic is light and flimsy. More often than not, the plastic is too light and too flimsy. You will find that even with plastic collar stays, your dress shirt collar will not lay correctly.

Stainless steel collar stays

Stainless steel is the most popular metal for collar stays. Heavy and stiff, these collar stays will do their intended job. You can be sure that your dress shirt collar will lay correctly and look crisp. If you purchase stainless steel collar stays, some manufacturers give an option to personalize the metal collar stays.

A pair of stainless steel collar stays

Prices depend on the quality of stainless steel, design, and engraving. Generally, you can purchase a pack of 8 plain stainless steel collar stays for $25.00 plus shipping. Some producers of stainless steel collar stays offer free engraving, if not, then assume that engraving will cost you a few extra dollars.

Brass collar stays

Brass collar stays are equivalent to stainless steel collar stays. Brass collar stays are made out of just that: brass. If you are looking to have something different, then brass is the most viable option. The look of brass — especially when burnished brass — is a classic look and will certainly be something to talk about should anyone ask about them.

Gold collar stays

Gold collar stays will easily set you back $600+ for a pair, and with gold prices rising aren’t getting any less expensive. Consider gold collar stays an automatic heirloom to be passed down to your sons and grandsons – or useful as currency when the economy crashes.

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Magnetic collar stays

Not as common as their slide-in counterparts, these metal collar stays use small powerful magnets to assure that the collar lays crisply and proper.

Collar stays made from other materials

Collar stays can also be made from heavyweight paper, baleen (whale’s tooth), horn, sterling silver, mother of peal, and other precious metals. These materials are not commonly available. With effort and a thorough search on the internet, a collar stay aficionado can acquire collar stays made from these rare materials.

Emergency Collar Stays

Collar stays can be made from just about anything.  If you realize you left your gold pair at home and need something to straighten your collar points before the big meeting, consider making a pair from a plastic credit card shaped.

How to Use Collar Stays

Simply slide in the collar stay in the pocket on the underside of the dress shirt collar. After that, fold down the collar as normal. Remember that pointed shirt collars require pointed shirt stays. Rounded shirt collars call for rounded collar stays.

A proper-fitting collar stay

Before you wash your dress shirt (or send the shirt to the dry cleaners), make sure you remove your collar stays. Also remove them before you iron your shirt. Collar stays are easy to lose can damage your dress shirt if left in by eithering tearing at the fabric during a wash or leaving a crease under an iron.

Why you should use collar stays

Simply put, collar stays are a small details that make your dress shirt collar points look crisp.  A  Man’s collar directly frames his face; he should give it a bit more attention as it will be seen in any picture and is impossible to hide.

Remember, “sharpness is in the details”.

Have we missed anything?  Do you want to share your opinions about collar stays? If so, drop us a line in the comment box.

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About Antonio

Antonio Centeno is President of ATailoredSuit.com and the founder of RealMenRealStyle.com. He has created over 700 articles & videos on men's style, blogs over at the Art of Manliness, and is the creator of the internet's best selling personal presentation course - A Man's Guide To Timeless Style. Antonio has studied clothing design in London, Hong Kong, and Bangkok. He is a former US Marine with an MBA from UT Austin and a BA from Cornell College. He loves to hear from old friends and make new ones.