Shirt Collar Types: Your Ultimate Guide
Are you up to your neck in information about shirt collar types? There’s a surprising amount of detail to the world of men’s shirts, and you might be feeling a little overwhelmed by the many collar styles available to you, let alone the nuances of those collar types. Still, understanding the right collar for an occasion helps you enhance your look and gives you more options for the future, adding versatility to your wardrobe. It’s worth doing. To help you out, our team at Oliver Wicks has broken down the ins and outs of collar types styles, and how to choose them, so you can increase your expertise without getting overwhelmed.
Back in the day, when everything was hand-sewn (and much more expensive), men’s shirts were often created without collars and cuffs at all. These are the parts of a shirt that show the most daily wear-and-tear, so they would wear out long before the material of the shirt itself. Making collars and cuffs detachable meant stylish gents could swap them out and keep their looks fresh without buying a new shirt.
Luckily, shirts today are of higher quality, and you would be hard pressed to find one sold without a collar. But this does mean that the savvy shopper needs to understand the types of collars available to them, how they frame the face, and how they work with a tie or bowtie. So what is the anatomy of a shirt collar? Let’s break some of those terms down.
- Collar Leaf: The leaves are the big expanses of fabric that flare out on either side of the collar and fold down over the tie.
- Point: The points of your collar are the very tips of the leaves. They’re usually sharp and precise, but some styles are softer and rounded. If you’re wearing a button-down collar, you’ll find the buttons here. There are also some collar styles that have no points at all.
- Point Length: This refers to the overall proportion of the angle line of the leaf running towards the point. It can be tamer or more bold and dramatic, depending on your personal style, or choice of tie knot. .
- Spread: Spread refers to the distance between the two points of the collar across your collarbones. It influences how well the shirt sits, what ties (if any) you can wear with it, and whether the shirt can be worn without any tie. Collar spread also impacts how a shirt looks under a suit, and a mismatch can be a visual niggle that pulls your whole look down.
- Tie Space: Your tie space is the gap between the highest point of the two collar leaves, where your tie knot will sit at your throat. Some collar styles have a narrow tie space and won’t suit broad ties or bulky knots. On the other hand, a small tie knot may look a bit lost in a wide tie space, so it’s a balance.
- Band: The band is the circular base of the collar that sits around your neck and adds structure to the entirety of the collar. When choosing a dress shirt that you intend to wear with a tie, it’s important that the band height is tall enough to cover the tie sufficiently when folded down, otherwise the tie can poke out of the collar, which is far from ideal.
Now that you know more about the basic anatomy of a collar, let’s take a look at how those elements change over different shirt collar styles. Remember, none of these collar styles is objectively better than any other – each collar style suits a different personal style, is appropriate for a different occasion, and goes best with specific garments and accessories.
Spread collars are a great all-rounder for shirts intended to be worn with a suit, or casually on their own. They’re versatile and super easy to wear, so they work with almost any outfit. The leaves are a downward-pointing triangle in shape, and the spread is typically about 4” to 6”. The tie gap on a spread collar can accommodate almost any tie and can be worn open convincingly as well. If you like to mix up your tie knots, or enjoy ties of various thickness, the spread collar is a great option to accomodate all of them.
To the untrained eye, it can be tough to tell a straight point collar from a spread collar. Effectively, the straight point is just a narrower spread collar, with about 1.5”-3.5” between points, and it’s often found on button-down style shirts. Because it’s narrower and neater than the spread collar but has the same sharp lines, it’s a great choice to slim down a round face or frame a narrow knot or neatly tied skinny tie. In the OW lineup, our “Classic” is the narrow choice, and it’s available with or without collar buttons.
The spear collar is the longer, more dramatic cousin of the point collar, where the leaves are highly angular, thin, and extend down the chest considerably. It’s a vintage style that has recently made something of a comeback as a visually interesting choice that doesn’t seem completely off-the-wall.
Technically speaking, any collar can be a button-down collar, but you’ll mostly find it on straight point or spread looks. Two small buttons are added, one at each point, to anchor the collar to the shirt. The look was created by the Brooks Brothers in 1896. It was meant to be a gentleman’s sporting look, so while you will sometimes find a button-down collar worn with a formal look, it’s a better choice for smart-casual and daily wear.
Instead of the obvious buttons of a button-down collar, here the buttons are tucked under the leaves and invisible to the eye once you’re wearing the shirt. This gives a shirt all the support of a button-down collar, but with the more formal look of non-buttoned collar.
If you own a shirt with a collar that doesn’t behave well, then it’s worth pointing out that many tailors can install hidden buttons into the collar of your existing shirt… and it’s generally not an expensive modification!
Sharp dressers love the cutaway collar, they offer a nice formal modern twist over a spread collar and are the default customization on OW shirts. Of course, if you prefer to go full-traditional, then you can adjust your selection accordingly!. The leaves splay dramatically outwards, sometimes near horizontally, rather than the downwards angle of the straight point or spread collar style. This makes for a wide collar spread – usually 6.5” to 8.5”. This is the largest of any collar type, so it pairs well with dramatic knots and chunky ties.
Think of the classic collar, but with rounded points. Originally part of the Eton School uniform, the club collar is an eye-catching, though subtle, collar choice that can be adapted to a wide range of looks. It’s a nice way to personalize your look without being too out there, plus it has a vintage appeal.
If you’ve ever encountered a wingtip collar, it was likely paired with a tuxedo – and that’s just as it should be! Wingtip collars have short fold-out leaves that sit high on the neck and don’t fall onto the shirt body. The wingtip collar is ideal for bowties and has earned a reputation as the most formal collar type. It’s a little out-of-place unless you’re attending a black or white tie event, so don’t choose the wingtip for the office or daily wear!
You don’t see many tab collars these days, but they were once heavily associated with British corporate environments. This collar type comes with a small tab that extends inwards from under the point of each leaf, one of which has a button and the other a buttonhole. The tabs meet and button in the middle. Unlike button-down collars, the fastening doesn’t exist to tame the collar itself but rather to push up the tie knot, making it more pronounced. Thus, this style can only be worn with a tie.
Pin collars, also known as eyelet collars, are specifically designed to be adorned with a collar accessory such as a collar clip, pin, or bar. If you notice your (not button-down) collar has a ‘buttonhole’, it’s likely a pin collar. A pin or other accessory helps a tie pop and also pulls in the points of the collar for a narrower spread. If you like the look of a collar pin but don’t want to buy a custom-designed shirt or mar the fabric of a regular collar, you can fake the look with a collar clip instead.
A camp collar is an unstructured collar style seen on any number of casual men’s shirts. Unlike other collar types, camp collars do not have a separate collar band, and they lie flat against the skin rather than standing up at the neck. The lack of structure means this collar is not meant to be worn with a tie, and in fact, camp collars are often worn with the top button unbuttoned. Camp collars are associated with Cuban and Hawaiian shirts, or possibly the shirts worn by your local bowling league.
Square collars look somewhat ecclesiastical to the modern eye, and in fact they’re more generally associated with the early 20th century, when they were made to be easily attached and detached from shirts. The collar itself has squared-off short leaves that do not extend to the shirt body but stay tidily at the neck.
Sometimes called a ‘Mandarin’ collar, this neckline is a common sight on traditional Asian and African formal garments. Band collars do not have collar leaves, but instead a neat, circular band that encircles the neck and buttons at the throat. They’re typically seen as a smart-casual choice, although some formal wear uses a stiffer and tougher band collar. In recent years, this style has gained popularity as a more modern choice in men’s fashion.
These are the basic collar types, but you’ll find other variations on them, such as the extreme cutaway collar or the “varsity” collar, which looks like a combination of the club and spread collars. There are also some high-end collar styles named for famous fashion locales, like the Jermyn Street collar, Park Avenue collar, and the Windsor Spread collar, but they’re niche choices you’re not likely to run into unless you dabble in high-end formal wear.
In truth, there’s a lot of variation between similar collar styles as well. What one brand calls a spread collar, another may call a cutaway, so there’s no “one collar fits all”. This makes it fun though, right?
When in doubt, the classic spread or cutaway collars are always a great choice. They’re clean, neat, and won’t distract from your overall look. But if you’re specifically looking to stand out, tweaking the spread, height, and leaf shape of your collar can have a dramatic impact on your look. When choosing a new collar, keep in mind:
Your physical features and build, and especially your neck length and thickness, should always be a consideration when choosing a collar style. You should always make sure that the collar is the right overall thickness and band length for your neck, loose enough to get a couple of fingers in between the band and your neck but tight enough so that there is no strange gaping or bunching when you wear a tie. Remember to measure your neck at the widest part (so over your Adam's apple) to get your collar measurement.
As for the collar height, the general rule is that it should correspond with your height – that is, taller men with longer necks should generally opt for taller collars, while shorter men with shorter necks will likely find a taller collar uncomfortable and unflattering. The spread of your collar will also play a role. Leaner men can easily be overpowered by “big” collars and large ties, so we’d advise looking for a collar that pairs easily with thinner ties and slimmer knots. As we mentioned before, a collar should be tall enough to cover your tie when folded - All collars at Oliver Wicks will satify this requirement, but keep it in mind if you’re shopping elsewhere.
As with build, face shape can impact how a collar looks on you. The proportions of your face to the rest of your body will matter here, but here are some rough guidelines:
- Round Faces: Narrow spreads, button-down collars, and sharp points all help slim your face, while wide spreads will accentuate its natural roundness.
- Oval Faces: If your face is a normal width, you can wear most things easily. However, spread collars and larger tie knots will definitely flatter an oval face.
- Square, Angular, and Diamond Faces: Sharp collar points will highlight your bone structure, but if you’re worried about your head looking too narrow, a wider spread can help you balance out your proportions.
Of course, the context in which you’ll be wearing a collar matters. A nice open camp collar is great for a semi-casual daytime outing but frighteningly out of place if paired with a suit, while a wingtip collar is the default for a black tie event, but definitely inappropriate in the boardroom.
The more casual an occasion, the more relaxed your collar choice can be. In a corporate context, keep lines clean and pair them carefully to your suit. When you’re dressing for fun? Let your personality shine!
Let's be real… most ‘blokes’ probably don’t know what shape their face is! The good news - Anyone can pull off a collar with a fairly midrange spread.
It’s only when you go extra wide, extra narrow, or any other extreme, where you should put some thought into whether this is suitable for you. It’s the same principle when picking a suit cut - Is classic or slim, over modern tailored, a good match for your build?
As our fans know, Oliver Wicks is all about finding the fit that suits you, and that includes your collar! Every man knows the fear of being trapped in a chokingly tight shirt collar or looking like you’re swimming in a too-large formal look. Ready-to-wear shirts, for a lot of men, mean compromising on the fit in some way. We see it all the time, gentlemen putting up with pinching collars, because that’s the store size that fits them best everywhere else. We want to banish that terror for good with our made-to-measure shirts, so that you can own a shirt collection that fits exactly as they’re meant to, in all areas
With our top tips on shirt collars under your belt, picking a collar style that shows off your assets and your personality will be a lot easier. Remember that the Oliver Wicks team is always here to offer advice and help, too, and you can get our custom shirts in several classic or modern collar types, so don’t be shy to reach out to us at email@example.com if you want some extra help or an expert opinion.
And if you’re interested in learning more about fitting menswear, including practical guides and instructional videos, you can create a free account on Oliver Wicks and let us walk you through the steps of measuring yourself from head to toe!