Primer on Shirt Collar Styles

It may seem like just an itty-bitty detail, but it’s important to choose the proper shirt collar. You can change the entire feel of your ensemble with different choices of collars, including dressing your outfit up or down, gaining a more formal appearance or looking professional and polished.

With a tweak or two in the collar zone, you can also change a suit’s appearance to expand your work wardrobe. If you don’t have enough cash to splash out on too many suits, dress shirts are another option to create a new and individual look. Even if you do have plenty of suits, you can stock up on different dress shirts if you need to change at the office for meetings, drink dates, or a night on the town.

Get savvy on the four basic types of collars, which are the straight, spread, tab, and buttondown, as well as the formal wing collar below.

Straight Collars
• The straight collar will complement nearly any facial structure, so it’s a rather safe choice for those of us who prefer simple shirts without too much risk.
• Straight collars are generally considered conservative and are easy to find at most business attire shops.
• You can find straight collars in two styles: traditional and European. The difference is the stitching: traditional styles are stitched in a quarter-inch from the edge of the collar, and European straight collars are edge-stitched.
• Straight collars allow for a little extra experimentation with color and design. Look for subtle patterns and inventive colors in shirts with straight collars.

Spread Collars
• Spread collars are considered dressier than straight collars, so consider more formal tie knots to accompany them such as the Full Windsor Knot.
• Spread collars look particularly good with contrasting collar and cuffs, such as a blue shirt with white details.
• Spread collars have a sharper angle that the straight collar cut. This style of collar shows more fabric near the top of the placket.
• There are two types of spread collars to choose from: the Windsor and Varsity spread. The Varsity spread collar is characterized by a slightly arced edge, while the Windsor spread has a straight edge.

Tab Collars
• Tab collars look like straight collars, but there are two small pieces of fabric that are affixed with a snap or button on each side. Tab collars have a slightly smaller collar size than straight ones.
• Your collar will lie flat and look neater when wearing the tabbed style. The points of the collar lie flat on the body of your shirt and look very precise.

Buttondown Collars
• The buttondown collar is less formal than other collar styles, and can be worn with or without a tie.
• You can wear your buttondown collar shirts in a business-casual setting, but you won’t be able to experiment much with color. You’ll mostly find buttondown collars in basic blues and pinks.

Wing Collars
• The wing collar gets its name for its appearance. The front of this collar has folded-down tips that look just like a pair of wings.
• Wing collars are usually worn with formal outfits, such as tuxedos and other formal wear.
• For the most traditional wing collar look, buy your dress shirt collarless and then purchase separate wing collars to attach. Collarless shirts are purchased with a collar band that measures a half inch smaller than your usual size. Your wing collar will still be worn in the usual size.

Choosing the Right Collar for You
Besides the occasion, you’ll need to consider the shape of your face:
• If you are leaner and more angular, you may like the spread collar, which can make your face look slightly fuller.
• Straight or buttondown collars are recommended for those with full faces.
• Wing collars are sophisticated and can flatter any man who craves a contemporary appearance.