Buttoned Up and Buttoned Down
Dressing for your big day? Or planning to propose in a dressy setting? Wearing a collared shirt is a great way to punch up the style of any outfit and can be worn with most pants and sweaters or jackets.
What is a Collared Shirt?
True, there are plenty of shirts with collars. An oxford shirt certainly has one, as does a polo shirt, and I suppose a turtleneck and even a half-zip have collars. In this blog post, know that I am referring to shirts that button up, and can be worn with ties. I want to further narrow down what I am discussing to shirts worn tucked in, as with a suit (or chinos or jeans), having longer tails than those made to be worn over pants.
Anatomy of a Collar
There are many styles of collars out there. Some are very common: point, spread, and button down are probably what you’ve encountered more than anything else. On the other hand, pin and tab collars are less so.
In addition to actually having a band that goes around your neck, the collared shirt (in the sense that I am using here) has—in all but one case, which I’ll touch on in a bit—leaves that fold over, hiding your tie. The forward most part of these leaves, called points, are indeed pointed. In the most common types of collars they are secured in place, pointed down at your chest, by stays or buttons. These relative dimensions will be important soon and differentiate point and spread collars; button down collars can have either proportion.
Point and spread collars have little sleeves on the inside of each collar leaf to hold a stay (piece of firm plastic or metal) that prevents the point from curling. These are more formal collars, and they make neckties and bow ties pop. The stays give the points a crisp appearance (without the need for starch). For added personalization you can find engraved collar stays, something you could give your betrothed to wear on your wedding day, or as gifts to members of your wedding party.
The button-down collar has small (read: tiny) button that is nearly impossible to secure, holding each point in place. These were introduced in the States by Brooks Brothers, the men’s clothier, at the turn of the 20th century, after the founder spotted them on British polo fields. During polo matches, the players found that the points of their collars would flip up, so with necessity being the mother of all invention, created a solution. The collar style is less formal than spread and point collars—after all, these shirts were, at the time, sporting goods.
The two points and the spot where the leaves come together at the neck form a triangle. The triangle is wider and shorter on a spread collar and narrower but taller on a point collar. Note: point and spread collars are very similar, with the distance between the points of the collar being the distinguishing characteristic.
There is one more collar to be aware of, and you’re likely to encounter if you plan to wear a tuxedo on your wedding day, but not elsewhere. The wingtip collar has small points that fold behind, and are secured by, your bowtie. I won’t spend much time on those shirts here.
The shape of your face plays an important role in the collar type you select. People with round faces often look better in point collars and people with narrower faces in spread collars. This is due to the eye’s preference for balance. Think back to the collar point triangle discussed above. A narrow triangle, as with a point collar, will accentuate the dimensions of a tall, thin face, causing a disproportioned look. A spread collar, with a wider triangle complements the narrow face. Likewise, a spread collar doesn’t work with a wider face while a point collar does. If you see pictures of me officiating, I’m without a doubt wearing a spread collar.
When to Wear
You can wear a collared shirt pretty much anytime you like. Sure, there are times where they are impractical, like hanging out on the beach, but with sleeves rolled up, you can wear them on a night out in tropical weather as easily as you can wear them in the board room. They are a go-to when wearing a tie (although there was a time in the oughts where wearing a tie with a t shirt was popular, no thanks to Avril Levine). White and blue are common for business. Almost any imaginable pattern and color combination is available, too, when you want something less formal.
If you wear one at your wedding, choose the collar type and closure according to your level of formality. A button-down collar may be perfect for some occasions and a point or spread collar for others. You can also have fun with color. Wedding party members could wear patterned or colored shirts in keeping with your theme, while you and/or your betrothed wear white.
Above all, with any attire, and especially with wedding attire, select garments that make you feel good. Pick shirts that you feel frame your face well, that have a pleasing closure and attractive colors to you!
The saying goes that “the clothes make the [person]”, and while one’s clothing can affect how people perceive you, I’d like to tip that saying on its head. If the wearer likes and feels confident in a garment, that makes it a good choice!