A club collar dress shirt is as stylish as ever, just not as exclusive as it once was
If there’s ever been a more British origin story than that of the club collar, I have yet to hear it!
Back in the late 19th century – much like today, actually – Eton College was the school of young British up-and-comers. From royalty to celebrity, the sharpest young men of the Western world yearned to call Eton’s campus home. As such, those that got in felt distinguished and somewhat above the fray, and wanted the world to know.
Unfortunately for them, this was a time when all the fellas dressed sharp on the regular. Etonians wanted an even more unique way to show their school allegiance and set themselves apart.
Now, they could have made things easy by simply adopting school colors and plastering them all over their duds à la most modern universities. Instead, they decided to make a purely stylistic distinction by altering a minor yet substantial part of a man’s uniform: the dress collar.
They took the standard collar points and merely rounded them off. And voilà! The ‘Eaton collar’ was born. The collar style soon soon became knows as the ‘club collar’ in reference to that “special club membership” it signified.
| BRIAN WEARS | Z Zegna suit, Brooks Brothers club collar shirt, Saks Fifth Avenue tie, Cartier watch, Loafers c/o Allen Edmonds | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo
As long as style remained exclusive to the school, it gave off, well, that perfect air of exclusivity. Original only for a few, it became so well associated with ‘cool’ that as soon as the public could get their hands on them, the shirts were all the rage.
Club collar shirts remained wildly popular through the Boardwalk-Empires-times of the early 1900s in part because of their suitability to a collar pin. Later, they were picked up by prepster students who felt right at home channeling the Eton feel of social distinction.
And that rounded point is really all there is to it. In fact, all of the other collar variations can be found with club-collar styling. From button-down to forward point to spread, each is easily adjusted to sport rounded points rather than sharp.
Today, that original class distinction has been all but dropped. You needn’t be waspy and exclusive in order to rock a club collar dress shirt.