Having some knowledge about different shirt collar styles is important for any man that cares about his suit & tie look. In fact, the collar is the focal point of your ensemble for two reasons. First of all it is close to your face, and secondly the vertical line of your necktie instantly draws attention to this part of your outfit. Thus, knowing how to properly choose and match a collar is more important than most men think. Below I am addressing each collar style along with possible variations within each style. I will explain how to match each style to suit, tie, and tie knot. In addition I will give some suggestions on which body type is best flattered with what type of collar.
Classic Turn Down Collar
This is the classic collar that you will see on 95% of all men dressing in suit and tie. Although common there are some variations within this style. The most noticeable differences lie in collar spread, the size of the collar, as well as in the design of the collar tips. Which style you choose is a personal preference. Typically wider spread collars look better on men with a thin and long neck as it will create the illusion of a shorter, more proportional neck. The opposite is true for bigger and shorter necks which typically look more flattering when paired with a medium to narrow spread collar.
Finally the tie knot you choose should coordinate with the collar spread. It is important that the knot fills the gap between the collars. Thus, larger knots (such as the Windsor) look better on wide spread collars while smaller knots (such as the classic Four in Hand) look better on narrow spread collars.
Over the past two years modern dress shirts are designed with thinner/smaller collars. These dress shirts are typically made for modern cut suits and trendy skinny ties. Again, this has to do with proportion. Modern European designer suits commonly have thinner lapels that need to be matched with narrower neckties and thinner collars.
Button Down Collars
The button down collar is perfect for those looking for slightly more casual dress shirt. It can be worn with or without a tie but should always be worn with collars buttoned down. Most button down collars have a medium to narrow collar spread and therefore typically look best when paired with smaller tie knot such as the Four in Hand, or half Windsor.
The Formal Wing-Tip Collar
The wing-tip dress shirt is the most formal of all styles. It is a must for formal white tie attire and a popular choice for elegant black tie dress. The wing tip collar is either paired with bow tie or ascot. It is never worn for business and reserved for formal evening functions.
The oriental collar is a starched band that stands ½ to 1 inch up on the neck. It is never worn with a tie but instead secured with a decorative button stud. The oriental collar, as the name suggests, is of Indian origin and not paired with suit, but a so-called oriental, button-up jacket. If you are looking for a formal alternative to the classic tux & bow tie look then an outfit consisting of oriental jacket, oriental collared dress shirt, and a formal sash would be an acceptable option.
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