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Know your collar: a primer in men's dress shirts

A dress shirt collar is an oft-overlooked, but important detail in your outfit.   Read on to get your style knowledge up to snuff, and start wowing 'em at the office with your sartorial know-how.  (from Top  Left: Straight, Spread, Pin, and Club)
shirts by Brooks Brothers ( for details)

The collar on your shirt is a pretty important little detail - did you know that? It can set the tone for your entire outfit, highlight or obscure your tie, and even make you look better! Who knew such a little thing could make such a big difference?

So, dear and wonderful men of Minnesota, read on to become a more educated and better dressed dude - we've got your crash course in shirt collars right here!

First some terms for the parts of your collar:

  • Points - Refers to the tips of your collar
  • Band - The piece of the collar that wraps around your neck
  • Height - The measurement between the top and bottom of the collar band as it fits on the neck.
  • Tie Space - The space at the top of the collar.
  • Spread - The space as measured between the points of the collar.

Got all that? Now, learn your types:

The Straight Collar

Also known as a "point" collar, this is the standard in most dress shirts. It's a neutral style that works well for most guys. It typically has a pretty narrow to semi-spread and is a good default choice. It can also be worn with or without a tie, although the latter option will make your look more casual.

This look occasionally comes with the extra addition of pin holes for a pin or a tab. Both achieve the effect of making your tie knot stand out, and are not for the sartorially faint of heart. Consider these variations "advanced dressing."

The Spread Collar

This is a shirt collar that requires a tie. The collar points angle out, rather than down or even in, allowing for a larger tie knot, like the Windsor. When you think about the concept of a "power suit," this is the type of shirt most often seen. It also works really well on thin dudes, by providing a more balanced porportion. Just beware, the wider the spread, the ballsier the style.

The Club Collar

This collar type is distinctive for its rounded edges. It's kind of quirky, and really works well in a slim style with a skinny tie. A little bit retro, and a lot bit stylish when done right. It's a quick and easy to inject some fresh blood into your look and easier to pick up right now with it's resurgence in men's style.

The Button-Down Collar

Did you know that most of the times that you've referred to your dress shirt as a "button-down," you've been wrong? A button-down shirt is a collar with points that literally button down. It's always a more casual choice - you can go "no tie" with this option, just make sure you keep it buttoned! When considering how to make yourself look good with this shirt, use the spread-to-face-shape ratio again - wider face, narrower spread and vice versa.

The Wing Collar

This is your tux and bow-tie collar. Not for anything but black-tie events, and not all that common, we include it here for your edification. Unlike all of the other collars listed above, which are "turn-down" collars, this collar has two little wings that end up tucked behind the bow-tie.

Now that you know your terms and types, get out there and have a little fun! Just don't forget to keep your look in harmony. Wearing a shirt with a slim collar (regardless to type)? Keep it slim in the fit, and wear with a skinny tie.


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