Men’s Dress Shirt Collar – An Overview

Introduction to the Shirt Collar

Men’s dress shirt collars come in all different colors, sizes, and styles.

The right collar on the right type of face is a sight to behold, a union of shapes and curves that bring out the best in each other.

A collar’s job is to properly frame the face, accentuating a man’s facial strengths while down playing any abnormalities.

Our discussion here centers around turn-down collars; if you are interested in learning about wing collars, (aka black tie collars) visit my other articles on men’s classic syle.

To facilitate this discussion, let us define a few terms important to understanding a shirt collar.

men's labled collar1.  Collar Points – The tips of the collar.

2.  Collar Point Length – The distance from the Collar Points to where they meet the Collar Band.

3.  Collar Band– the piece of fabric that wraps around the neck.

4.  Collar Height– The height of a folded collar as it fits on the neck.

5.  Tie Space – The distance between the top of the folded collar parts when the shirt is buttoned.

6.  Spread – The distance between Collar Points.


The Popular Point Collar

The point collar is the most common turn-down collar style, found on approximately 90% of men’s dress shirts.  Having it’s origins in the military uniforms from the turn of the 20th century, the variations of the point collar have established themselves as the de facto collars of the world due to their ability to remain neutral (an important characteristic for manufacturers looking for a collar type that will appease the majority of wearers).

Key characteristics are that the collar is cut so that the “points” are reasonably close together, sometimes to the extent that they almost hide the top portion of a tie. In more extreme versions of the collar, longer more closely set points tend to draw the eye down towards the tie and away from the face, while a more moderate cut frames the tie and completes the arrow effect pointing at the face.   The point collar is most at home on a man with round facial features; the collar’s elongating effect help to even out the look of his face.  Men with thin faces should avoid these collars, as that they will only accentuate this feature.

men's standard collarHere is a Classic Straight Point Collar, clearly distinguishable by the small spread between the collar points.  On this particular example, we see a 3/4 inch tie space and a collar point length of about 2 3/4 inches.  All of a collar’s parts can be adjusted to ensure proportion for the individual; however, you need to ensure when accommodating your wishes the collar maker does not compromise the integrity of the collar type you wish to see framing your face.


men's narrow collarNarrow Straight Point Collar – Here we see another version of the straight point collar, however in this version notice the even smaller spread between the collar points accentuated by the lack of a tie space altogether. The collar point length here is closer to 3 1/2 inches, a clear indicator that this collar is meant to help a round faced man look less plump.


mens button down collarButton Down Point Collars – The button-down point collar style is most often seen on more casual shirts. These collars have small buttonholes at the very tip of each point, corresponding to a small button on each side of the shirtfront. While this collar can be worn successfully with a tie, it is the least formal of all the collar choices and is an excellent choice for the man looking to leave the tie behind. The buttons on the collar, however, are always fastened; to appear with undone collar buttons would be a faux pas.


Spread or Cutaway Collars – The Road Less Traveled

The second popular style is the cutaway, or spread collar. These collars have the points “cut away” or spread – thus the name – revealing more of the upper shirt area and leaving additional room for larger knots such as the Windsor. Like the point, spread collars come in a variety of widths, with more moderate ones resembling slightly flared point collars, while more extreme versions can be nearly horizontal.

The particular dimensions are best left to the wearer’s preference and body type, with very wide spreads tending to accentuate wider figures while creating a more fully proportioned look on thin gentlemen.  With that being said the spread collar is most at home on a man with thin or long facial features; the collar’s widening effect help to even out the look of the face.  Men with round faces should avoid these collars, unless they plan on wearing them without a tie.

mens medium spread collarThe Medium Spread Collar is a close cousin to the point collar, separated only by the interpretation of the size of its spread.  Although this collar point length may be a bit shorter as well, it’s primarily designed for the man whose face falls between the extremes.  A safe choice, it is a great introductory collar for those looking to slowly explore the benefits of this collar family.


mens spread collarThe Classic Spread Collar – The spread of this collar leaves no doubt as to its heritage.  A classic in bespoke circles for almost 100 years, this collar was made famous by the likes English royalty and Hollywood’s A-list Actors.  The Duke of Windsor, Prince Charles, and Douglas Fairbanks are just a few of its advocates. Pair this collar with a thin face or small boned man, and you have a match made in heaven.


mens wide spread collarmens rounded spread collarThe Wide Spread and Curved Spread Collars – two variations of the classic spread; the spread has been increased by the collar point’s length (in this case to 3 1/2 inches).  Found only in bespoke circles, the wearer must not only have a firm grasp of the collar style that looks good on him but must be willing to display this grasp of sartorial excellence for all to see.  Not for the faint of heart!

Other Collars that Break the Mold

mens tab collarTab Collars – The Tab collar employs a small tab extending from the middle of each point, which is fixed together – usually with a hook-and-loop closure – behind the tie. This forces the tie forward and up, creating the “standing” look of more elaborate knots. This collar should never be worn without a tie, and can be used to hide a abnormally long neck (Google image search Tom Wolfe).
mens pinned collarPin Collars – This collar has small holes in each point, allowing the insertion of a decorative pin or bar behind the tie knot which thrusts the tie knot forward and up while adding extra decoration to the collar itself. Like in the tab collar, this forces the tie forward and up, creating the “standing” look of more elaborate knots. This collar should always be worn with a tie; the empty holes and flapping tabs present an untidy appearance.  Only wear this collar if you have the confidence to wield the attention it will draw.

Where to find these Collars?

To find these collars a man should explore the world of custom clothing.  It is here that a man can not only specify the type of collar he wants, but he has control over every aspect of a shirt’s design and dimensions.
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