Today's men have more ways than ever to express personal style through their dress shirt choices - especially when it comes to collars. But with this plethora of choice comes great responsibility. Also with collar choices come indecision, analysis paralysis, or worse, a hasty decision that leaves you looking super awkward - like a dinner party host setting the silverware all wrong. The salad fork goes on the far left, you IDIOT!
But seriously, the collar is the single most important styling detail on a men's dress shirt. Along with fabric type, the collar style you choose will dictate most of the style, and ultimate perception of your shirt. So it's important to understand what options you have and what they say about your shirt, and you (because ultimately it's all about you, baby). Here's a quick rundown of collar styles and what they mean to you in plain English.
Straight or Point Collar
Versatile and straight-forward (pun intended)...Along with the spread collar, the straight collar is a foolproof choice for almost all custom dress shirts. It works well in a casual setup, it works well in a formal setup, it works well...well, everywhere.
The points of this collar sit slightly closer together than the spread or semi-spread collar, below. Because of this, if you're going to wear this with a tie, make sure the tie is somewhere between a skinny and medium width. A wider tie with a half-windsor knot or more will get a little bulky under this bad boy.
Spread, Semi-spread, or Cutaway Collar
The spread, or semi-spread as some refer to it, is pretty ubiquitous these days. It is very similar to the straight collar in its versatility, but performs best in business or formal settings. A general rule of thumb for you: the wider the spread (the measurement between the collar points) the more formal the shirt becomes. The one Chris Pratt is wearing above is a happy medium that works great for formal or casual attire. A more extreme, formal example of the spread/cutaway collar, can be seen here.
At Pacific Issue we cut our spreads at the same spread width as pictured above. If you are interested in getting a cutaway or more extreme collar, just ask in the comments section.
The button-down collar is a favorite at Pacific Issue for its versatility with casual looks. It looks great on our florals, it looks great on our patterns, and most of all, it looks great on our Oxford fabrics. In fact, if you're going Oxford, the button-down should be your choice ten times out of ten. JFK made this look timeless. In addition to being iconic, the button-up collar has a fascinating origin story.
As a rule at Pacific Issue, we don't recommend pairing this collar with a tie unless you are from New England and/or your ancestors traveled to the New World on the Mayflower. Yes, that is a knock on New England preppies...Sorry, old chaps. For everyone else, skip the tie and go casual with this look.
Club or Rounded Collar
The rounded collar is another Pacific Issue favorite for men's custom dress shirts. It is very old - in the mid-1800s it was part of Eton College's (school of Prince William and Harry) dress code. Because it was so exclusive, it soon became known as the “club."
The club collar is quite rare but is making a resurgence. Because it is rarely seen, the club works in your favor by making your shirt standout. And unlike the tab collar (below) the club can be played with in both formal AND casual shirt fabrics.
The Band Collar
The band collar is so hot right now. It's essentially no collar, or just a band that goes around the top of the shirt. It can be a contrast to the rest of your shirt (as pictured above), or the same fabric and design, as seen here.
The band collar is generally worn with a very casual look and should never be worn with a tie. Unless you're in a 1990s boy band. Then you are free to look as ridiculous as you want.
The tab collar is very traditional, very formal, and very rare. You need to wear this with a tie. There's no playing around with options here. Don't even think about it. If you do, we will find you and ridicule you as the Brits intended.
But for real, the tab collar is meant to accentuate the tie knot. It has two small tabs (unbelievable, right?) between the collar points that push the tie knot up and away from the shirt wearer. This is strictly a bespoke, old school, Savile Row look.
The Bottom Line
Just because there are rules for what each collar means and where it works doesn't mean you can't bend, or even break, these rules. Knowing the basics will demonstrate to people that you pay attention to details and will ultimately free you up to to play around with different collar types on different outfits. So go forth into a bold new world of endless collar options, armed with this new information from ol' PI.
Final note: although We only offer four options of collar on our product page, Pacific Issue can accommodate any of the above styles of men's dress shirt collar (and more). When you order just add your request to the comments section and we'll take care of the rest. It's all about you, baby.