While colors and patterns are what we mostly think about when talking about dress shirts, it is the type and shape of the collar that truly defines its character.
When collar types are matched appropriately to wearer and occasion, they will evoke a sense of confidence and style, but when matched incorrectly, well, let’s put this way, you just don’t want to do that.
As a small of a detail that might be, the right type of collar might make or break an outfit, and as unusual these collars are, they might be deemed acceptable in a few occasions.
So let’s take a look at these 5 unusual shirt collar types so you avoid risking being the laughing stock of the party.
The Detachable Collar
Can you imagine yourself carrying a detachable collar in your briefcase?
Well, laugh all you want but this was pretty common back in the 19th century. This was a time that put great importance in commanding the respect of others based solely on one’s outfit, and wearing a detachable collar was the best possible way to keep your shirt collar as sharp as possible.
This unusual collar type was invented in Troy, New York, by Hannah Montague in 1827 after she cut off her husband’s collar to wash it separately only to sew it back on after wash. The idea was picked by businessman Rev. Ebenezar Brown who then further popularized the garment.
These collars can only be attached to tunic collar shirts, and their rigid stiffness—due to its cardboard-like consistency from heavy starching—makes it one of the most uncomfortable pieces of clothing one could wear.
While they are hard to find these days, you can still buy them in specialty tailor shops, just keep in mind these should be worn specifically during formal occasions such as weddings and black-tie events.
The Wing Tip Collar
The wing tip collar started as a variation of the detachable collar, with roots dating back to the early 1800s, but it features fold-out collar points that are shaped like wings pressed to stick out horizontally. Like the detachable collar, the wing tip collar is specially starched to create a stiff consistency, which can be quite uncomfortable when worn for long hours.
This collar was originally designed to be worn with a tuxedo and a bow tie, but it also a great match with other formal ties such as the cravat. The one thing to keep in mind about this type of collar is that it should be worn exclusively with a tuxedo and when attending highly formal occasions.
Unless you are going to a celebrity wedding, or trying your luck at the Monte Carlo Casino, wearing a wing tip collar as part of your daily outfit will likely to make heads turn, but not for the good reasons.
The Tab Collar
This collar has an interesting design which keeps the collar in place while pushing the tie slightly up. This design feature is precisely the reason why tab collars should never be worn without a tie.
The first tab collars were invented in Great Britain back in the early 1900s. This type of collar was very popular amongst members of the royal family and Prince Edward VIII was well-known as a tab collar aficionado. The British prince helped to popularize this collar type amongst the Commonwealth countries as he was famously seen wearing it during his international tours.
This might not be the most unusual type of collar you might ever hear about, but as it is often neglected by popular shirt manufacturers, it is not a well-known type of collar design. If you want to give this one a try, just don’t feel awkward when people look at you with a question mark hovering their heads trying to understand what is going on with your shirt collar.
The Standing Collar (Or Mandarin Collar)
The standing collar is the simplest collar design you will find in a dress shirt but is one of the most fashionable of collar types.
With a minimalistic band that encircles the neck and fastened with a single button at the front of the neck, this is the collar type you should wear if you want to make a fashion statement.
Also known as the mandarin collar, this design is Manchurian in origin, and it goes back as early as the Qing Dynasty established in 1636 in China. This type of collar is often associated with Asian royalty, and it is a staple garment among the powerful men in northeastern China.
While the standing collar never caught on in the fashion trend in Western countries, it is traditionally part of the garment of priests and of some in the US military.
You will easily find these in Asian-themed clothing retailers, and the overall advice for this type of collar is to wear these in one color shirts to match their minimalistic nature.
The Pin Collar
When it comes to function, the pin collar is very similar to the tab collar, but instead of hook-and-loop tabs, you will find small holes on each side of the collar that can be joined with a tie bar. As well as the tab collar, this type of collar is meant to be worn exclusively with a tie.
The pin collar was popularized in the late 20th century by the likes of Fred Astaire and Michael Douglas, who wears it with pride as Gorden Gecko in the Wall Street movie.
This design is experiencing a resurgence, being worn by fashion-conscious men all over the world, but don’t be fooled, not all pin collars will give off a sophisticated vibe as seen on Astaire and Gecko.
Whatever the Collar, Choose What Works for You
If you are going wear any of these at least once in your lifetime, or perhaps even on a daily basis, that is entirely up to you, but whatever collar design you choose, be sure that it works for you.
The worst possible thing you can do besides not matching the right collar type for the right occasion is to not match the collar type that best fits your shape. Of course, this would require a whole new post to cover that topic, but in the meantime, you might want to read our tips on how to match ties to dress shirts.