Dapper Details: The Anatomy of the Shirt Collar

By Alex Noble Thursday 31st May, 2018

Chaps, when you’re picking out a shirt, what questions go through your head?


Slim, tailored or regular fit?

Buttoned sleeve or Cufflinks?


Although the crux of all of these questions ultimately ends with personal taste, the latter is an area that appears to cause chaps a few more problems.


Well, if you dust off the rule books and embark on a journey into sartorial history, you’ll find that when it comes to differing collar types, there are a number of sartorial connotations to consider, such as the formality of an occasion and how the collar compliments the rest of your chosen look. Apologies if this is a topic that’s obvious to you but for some, they take a shot in the dark and go with it. Not on my watch.


Although I hate to admit it, now that ties are often seen as optional when it comes to sartorial looks, so to are collars, on occasion. Please don’t be led to believe that a collarless shirt is always an appropriate alternative, because it’s not. Yet, sometimes a grandad shirt is exactly what is required.

As long as you find yourself a well tailored shirt, perhap in linen, the Grandad (otherwise known as a band collar) style’s informality makes it the perfect choice say whilst kicking back with a lovely Semillon and watching the sun go down. One thing if for certain, they’re certainly not only for OAPs.


This is probably the most traditional shirt collar one can choose, and is the most frequently seen donned by Chappers on a day-to-day basis. Appropriate for business, pleasure, weddings etc. it’s an extremely diverse, yet dapper tool in the sartorial artillery, which should not be underestimated due to its familiarity.


The story of how the button-down collar came to be is a lot more interesting than you may think – The style was created in order to stop the shirt collars of polo players (often choosing the aforementioned Narrow Point) flapping around whilst they majestically galloped in front of an overprivileged crowd. Thus, it will come as no surprise that Ralph Lauren make some of the best button-down (Oxford) shirts in the business.

They’re the pinnacle of American style and represent a wonderful and stylish, bygone era, which saw JFK and the likes rock these on a regular basis. This is the perfect choice for the chap who wants to look like he knows what he’s doing without trying too hard – as Mr Porter put it, ‘It remains a favourite among men who want to bring a hint of sprezzatura to their tailoring.’

Club Collar

For me, this is a collar that I see attempted in vein more than any other. It’s a collar that oozes casual style, yet many a chap has tried, and failed, to dress it up, usually with the assistance of a tie. These collars do not lend themselves to the idea of a necktie and their lack of sharp lines emphasise the informal look that should be adopted with this shirt. These club (penny) collars, should be used to showcase your sense of style and inject some personality into your outfits.

Spread Collar 

When it comes to smart shirts, this is the contemporary norm. It’s a middle of the road kind of shirt that often looks sleek and crisp due to the fact they don’t easily wrinkle. They were a personal favourite of the Duke of Windsor, who famously liked the spacing for his preferred larger knot of time, now aptly named after him. One for you corporates to take note of, as it’s a fantastic way of expressing your inner style within the concrete jungle and its sartorial impotence.


The cut of the contemporary sartorialist, who is always on the lookout for ways to cross boundaries and express themselves through their style. This is an extreme version of the spread collar and looks equally brilliant with or without a tie. Although some traditionalist may feel that it’s a little too left-wing, my thoughts are that it’s extremely elegant and dapper, and more chaps should begin to invest in the concept of a cutaway collar. Perhaps this one’s more for the sartorial youth.

Tab Collar

The likes of David Gandy have been known to master this look, which precedes the foundation of the modern day collar. This style was kicking about back when collars weren’t actually a part of the shirt and were attached to the garment. I wouldn’t label it a dying breed but instead  collectors item, there for those who have both the knowledge it exists and the balls to wear it. Not for the sartorially faint hearted but certainly for the sartorially inclined.