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dress shirt collar styles guide
dress shirt collar styles guide
Required Reading

The HSS Guide To Dress Shirt Collars

August 31st, 2016

Our definitive guide to men’s dress shirt collars

There are a lot of choices when it comes to dress shirt collar styles. What makes each collar style special? What does each collar say about you? And for what kind of occasion is each collar style best suited? You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Here’s our definitive guide to dress shirt collars.

1. The Forward Point Collar

dress shirt collars guide

The forward point collar (or just ‘point collar’) dress shirt is possibly the most traditional shirt in the menswear lineup.

Distinguishing Quality: The narrow distance between the collar points, which is often not covered by a jacket’s lapels.

What It Says About You: You’re a no-nonsense traditionalist who appreciates the classics.

Our Advice: The forward point collar shirt is your everyday, basic, workhorse kind of shirt. Every guy should have one, no matter whether he’s an only-wear-dress-shirts-’cause-I-have-to kind of guy or someone who invests a great deal of time into cultivating his personal style.

2. The Button-Down Collar

dress shirt collars guide

Like many classic menswear garments, the button-down collar was first and foremost a practical innovation. Polo players introduced them as a way to keep their collars from flapping in their faces while riding. It was first offered to the public by Brooks Brothers and has been a staple of classic, preppy style ever since.

Distinguishing Quality: The buttons.

What It Says About You: You prefer to stay tailored but don’t always want to wear a tie. Plus, you like to keep a little prep in your step.

Our Advice: Like the forward point collar shirt, the button-down shirt should be a staple of every guy’s wardrobe. It’s more relaxed, very American and looks great with, or without, a tie. Yes, you can wear a tie with a button down shirt. We asked the style gods. They said it was cool.

3. The Spread Collar

dress shirt collars guide

The spread collar is very much the middle ground of dress shirt collars. If the forward point collar is for the strict traditionalist and the cutaway collar is for the sprezzy trendsetter, the spread collar falls comfortably in the sweet spot between the two.

Distinguishing Quality: The elegant and symmetrical way the collar points end and disappear right where they meet the jacket.

What It Says About You: You enjoy putting time and effort into your style but are still more conservative than you are Italian. (Or, you work in a corporate environment and want to stand out, but not too much.)

Our Advice: The spread collar shirt is really your “no wrong answer” kind of shirt. It works in just about every situation imaginable, won’t get you in trouble for any kind of employer dress code/style violation and just looks damn good. Too easy.

4. The Tab Collar

dress shirt collars guide

Though we’ve called the forward point collar the OG dress shirt, but in all actuality, the tab collar has been around even longer. We’re talking like before the development of the modern shirt collar, back when collars were removable and not attached to the rest of the shirt. It’s a rare style these days and hard to find, but for the true style buff, it’s worth the hunt.

Distinguishing Quality: The tab fastened by a button hidden underneath the tie knot.

What It Says About You: You know that the best (and most stylish) details are the ones that aren’t necessarily seen.

Our Advice: Seen from afar, the tab collar shirt is basically just a forward point collar shirt. Which makes it a great alternative for the conservative dresser who really, really wants to do something sartorial but isn’t comfortable in a cutaway collar shirt. They’re a bit hard to come by these days. If you’re serious, get one made from a quality made to measure program.

5. The Cutaway Collar

dress shirt collars guide

A cutaway collar is a bold, modern and sartorially-advanced style choice. Following the rigid, longer and narrower collars of the 1920s, the cutaway collar dress shirt emerged in the 1930s. This collar style is sometimes referred to as a Windsor collar, alluding to it’s origin as a means to fit Windsor tie knots.

Distinguishing Quality: The aggressive angle at which the collar “cuts away” from your face.

What It Says About You: You’re a confident, bold and sartorially-inclined individual, who probably wishes he spoke better Italian.

Our Advice: The cutaway collar is not for everyone. If you’re at all on the fence about it, go with a spread collar instead. But if it’s your thing, it can be easily become “your look” for just about every kind of occasion, ranging from office to date to wedding.

6. The Band Collar

dress shirt collars guide

Whether a standard band collar, a Mandarin, or Nehru collar, band collar shirts are quite simply shirts with just a band for the collar (i.e. no collar at all). More elaborately, it’s a shirt that eschews the go-to turn-down collar, instead being formed from a singular, flat band of cloth that runs around the neck.

Distinguishing Quality: A complete and total lack of collar.

What It Says About You: Rules do not weight heavily on your mind. You like to experiment, take risks and are confident enough in your personal style to do so.

Our Advice: While there are certainly dressy versions of the band collar shirt, it works best, in our opinion, worn more casually or sharp casually. In dressy form, we think it comes off as a little try-too-hard. But as a more casual piece, it’s cool and whimsical. It’s really the perfect shirt for travel and summer vacations.

7. The Club Collar

dress shirt collars guide

The club collar emerged as a way for students at Eton college to “distinguish” themselves and their uniforms from that of other schools. They took the standard collar points and merely rounded them off. Et 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.

Distinguishing Quality: The rounded ends of the collar.

What It Says About You: You know that style is about having a little fun now and then, and you know exactly when it’s the right time for it.

Our Advice: There is a definitel time and place for a club collar shirt. You’ve kind of got be a bit of a style veteran and go by feel to know when it’s right. By nature, the club collar is a little dandy. In the wrong environment, it can come off as a costume piece. Works best for an elegant night out, cocktail party or semi-formal event.

8. The Pin Collar

dress shirt collars guide

Functionally, a pin collar shirt is right in line with a tab collar. While tab collar has an extended tab of fabric that buttons under the tie, a pin collar shirt replaces the tab with a bar. The bar elegantly lifts the tie knot, creating a luxurious and sprezzy arch below the tie knot while also holding the knot itself firmly in place.

Distinguishing Quality: The eyelets on each collar point that are fastened together with either a collar bar or a collar pin.

What It Says About You: You’ve devoted years to the study of classic tailored menswear and have found sartorial nirvana.

Our Advice: The occasion needs to be right for a pin collar shirt, especially if you’re using a collar bar. It’s dressy and is great for formal and semi-formal occasions as well as business, if you’ve established yourself as a sartorially-inclined individual. Substitute a collar pin for the bar to tone down the formality and increase the shirt’s versatility.

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa
He Spoke Style

Brian Sacawa

Brian Sacawa is the Founder of He Spoke Style and one of the original men’s style influencers. Since 2013, his goal has remained the same: to provide men the advice and inspiration they need to dress well, develop their personal style, and gain more confidence. Brian’s interest and passion for men’s style and luxury watches has led to his writing for The Robb Report, The Rake, and Sotheby’s and he has been quoted on menswear in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,, Brides Magazine, and the Huffington Post. He lives in the woods north of Baltimore with his wife, Robin, kitties Nick and Nora, and German Shepherd/Collie mix Charlie.

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