What Type of Shirt Collar Should I Wear?

There are two things to consider: the event and you.

The different variations of collar include: Straight, classic, classic soft, spread, wide spread, cutaway, curved cutaway, full cutaway, button down, hidden button down, pinned, wingtip (tuxedo), rounded and banded. There are probably more and they are also known by different names, but basically this just shows you that there are a few variations of collar out there. 

You might think, ‘why the hell are there so many different collar types?’ and you’d be correct, it does seem excessive, but this demonstrates that different occasions do warrant different collar types. Further to that, your neck and face shape will influence what you suit best. 

Starting simply...

You have two major categories: formal and informal. Some collars are reserved for one or the other and some can span between both. As a rule of thumb, straight lines, conservatism and solid structure constitute a formal look; conversely the more rounded, more detailed and less structured collars lend themselves to the informal look. 

Keep in mind that you can dress things down, but can’t dress them up. So the informal collars should be reserved for the informal events, and the formal having the facility to span the gap (with the exception of the pinned and wingtip collars).

What constitutes formal and informal is the same as everything else...

Formal is generally simpler, more sturdy, more defined and creates clear definite lines. Informal is more or less the opposite, there tends to be a bit more going on (buttons for example), they lack structure and don’t have clearly defined edges - they’re basically softer and look more ‘relaxed’. 

The collars that fit into the formal list are the straight, classic, spread, cutaway and obviously the wingtip. Essentially they create clear definite lines for the collar, they look sturdy and they look more symmetrical when worn.

They are generally pointed which quite literally contributes to the sharp look. The informal collars are the button downs, the soft, the rounded and the banded collars. These have less defined edges and don’t create that sharp symmetrical look and are generally softer. The rounded collars create softer edges which reduce their impact and formality, ideal for casual settings. 

As a guide...

The informal collars don’t need a tie with them, but will look good with a cotton or wool tie to compliment the relaxed look. I’m sure it goes without saying that a banded collar doesn’t work with a tie and shouldn’t be attempted. For the button down collars, because they’re held in place a stiff tie, like silk, often creates an unsightly bulge in the collar as they both wrestle for space. Instead stick with a cotton or wool tie if you want to wear a tie with this type of collar.

The beauty of the more formal collars is that they can go with any type of tie. Although you will reserve the silk for the formal events, if you want to dress down a classic spread collar for an evening get together, the addition of a cotton tie over a silk one will do just that. 

Moving onto your neck and face shape...

It’s really quite simple, go with the opposite of what you’re dealing with. If you have a wider neck and face, then you want to lean towards the narrower collars collars like the pointed and classic. If you’ve narrower features than fo for the wide spread and cutaway. If you have a more round face then stick with the sharper looking collars and resist the rounded cuts. This will bring balance to your look.

So, you know where you’re going and you know what shape your body is, and now you know which will be the perfect collar.