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Dress Shirt Collar Guide

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.

turn-down-collarClassic 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-collarButton 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.

wing-tip-collarThe 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.

mandarin-collarOriental Collars
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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18 thoughts on “Dress Shirt Collar Guide”

  1. Harold Cummings says:

    Love shirts. But can you wear a pocket square in a shirt without a jacket? I know it is a crazy question, but some have been doing it with prefolded pocket squares.

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi Harold,
      Thanks for the question. My answer would be a strong NO. =)

  2. Jame Jones says:

    I Like Your Blog About Dress Shirt Collar Guide.I Am Very Happy To Read Of Your Blog.Really Great Post.Its Brilliant.


  3. Joe says:

    Do you know where to find shirts with thinner collars (1.5-2inch at the point) with 2inch collar height?

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi Joe, thanks for the note. Have you tried Cafe Cotton? They are a french shirt maker that focuses on a modern modern cut including slightly shorter collars. They do have a small store here in downtown San Francisco.

  4. Bartholomew says:

    Is it possible for a guy to knot a tie on wing collar shirt?

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi Bartholomew, that is a good question! Typically you would NOT pair a normal necktie with a wing-tip collared shirt. Usually you would pair these shirts with either a bow tie (formal black tie and white tie events) as well as an ascot. The combination of wing-tip collar shirt and ascot was a popular look among affluent British men during 1910-1930.

  5. Steve says:

    Can I wear a tie with a “paquette” style collar? The collar I am trying to explain doesn’t come down as much, but is not rounded at the edges as well. Maybe a “spread” style collar better describes it… And is smaller than most collars, but hides the tie when I wear it. Any help on this would be appreciated. Thanks!

    1. hendrik says:

      HI Steve, I am not too sure what you mean by “paquette” collar. Any turn down collar can be worn with a necktie. Typically the narrower the spread, the smaller the tie knot; and the shallower the collar, the narrower the necktie. If you want to send me a picture of the collar, then just send an e-mail via the contact me tab.

      1. Steve says:

        I used your advice… Just using a smaller tie with a smaller knot turned out to look nice. Thank you for the help!

  6. Jordan says:

    I have a few Calibrate Trim Fit dress shirts from Nordstrom. The collar is a bit on the wider side, similar to the classic turn down you have described. I have quite a few skinny ties I would like to wear with that particular shirt. I know a Windsor knot looks better with the wider space between the collars. So my question is, can I tie a Windsor on a skinny tie for these shirts or should I stick to the Four in Hand?

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi Jordan. Great question and thank you for asking. I would recommend not tying a double Windsor with a skinny tie. The knot will be too large, too triangular, and simply disproportionate to the skinny tie. The proportion of the tie knot to the width of the tie is more important that filling the entire gap between to collar spread. Also, since your shirt is “trim fit” I assume that the collar is a bit shallower (shorter). This will help with keeping things proportionate. I hope this helps.

  7. Kev says:

    Which type of color would you say is the most formal and appropriate for business meetings?

    1. hendrik says:

      For the suit: dark charcoal gray
      For the shirt: classic white
      For the necktie: dark navy blue

  8. Paschal says:

    Which is more appriopriate to match? An oversized black velvet bow tie with either a wing tip-collar shirt or a classic turn down collar??? This is for a wedding ceremony as the Groom.

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi Paschal, that is an excellent question. Both would be appropriate as long as they are formal tuxedo shirts – meaning shirts that are solid white, made from fine broadcloth or poplin cotton, have either hidden placket, button studs, or pleated front. Personally I would gravitate to the formal turndown collar since it is a bit more contemporary – a look that will compliment modern cut tuxedos better. I hope this helps.

  9. John says:

    can i wear a bow with a mandrain collar ?? plss i need to know it urgently.. ??

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi John, No you can’t!

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