Everything you need to know about pin collar dress shirts and collar bars
With the possible exception of the tab collar, the pin collar might be the most rare of the classic men’s collar styles today. While occasional flares in popularity have kept it from disappearing altogether, it’s never really been a piece that’s made it into the mainstream style lexicon, even among the more sartorially-inclined crowds.
That said, it’s a look that is certainly not wanting in style and charm, which makes it worth knowing regardless of whether you’ll wear one yourself.
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.
About halfway up each point of a pin collar shirt is a small hole. A bar is threaded through both holes under the knot of the tie and fastened with an element on each side. The bar ends usually screw on and come in a variety of designs, from little barbell-type attachments to jewels.
Alternatively, a self-fastening pin similar to a safety pin can be used even without the built-in bar holes – just poke the pin through a standard collar.
Just like a tab collar, the bar elegantly lifts the knot of the tie, creating a luxurious and sprezzy arch below the tie knot while also holding the knot itself firmly in place. Contrary to a tab, though, the bar is designed to be seen and adds some additional flair to a buttoned-up look.
As mentioned, while never wildly popular or ubiquitous like the more standard collar styles – i.e. forward point, spread, or button-down – the pin collar has had it’s moments in the sun, most notably in the early 1900s.
In those days, your embellishments and flair showed your status, and a snazzy bar was another way to do so. Fred Astaire was also known to wear one around those times, and we all know that a celebrity endorsement never hurts either.
The look popped back up in the 1960s and then again in the 1980s thanks to a certain Gordon Gekko of Wall Street fame. His notorious power suit ensembles often included a pin collar shirt with collar bar, along with his statement-making bold stripes and bossy suspenders.
Today, a proper pin collar shirt is a moderately hard item to find off the rack, but you can hunt one down if you’ve got your heart set on it. Edward Sexton makes a great version – worn here by Brian – for our friends at The Rake.
As is often the case, you just need to be a little careful about how you wear it. Like a tab collar shirt, a pin collar shirt should never be worn sans tie. The empty holes or exposed bar will just look out of place, like you forgot a part of your outfit.
Beyond that, treat the bar like a piece of jewelry. It’s a bit flashier and also a bit dressier. Therefore, while not appropriate at more casual or more somber events like a BBQ or a funeral, it’s be perfect for business, a gala, or formal party.