Collar Yourself a Shirt for Every Occasion

A few things you probably never knew about collar styles and their origins.

If clothes maketh the man, then collars maketh the man’s shirts.

Soft or stiffened, buttoned or unbuttoned, worn with or without ties at Lands’ End there’s a collar style and shirt for virtually every man and every occasion. We’ve been making great fitting, great feeling shirts for over 40 years, ever since we introduced our legendary, all-cotton, Oxford button-down collar shirt – still the mainstay of our men’s shirt collection.

Buttoned down collar shirt

Caught in a Flap – Polo Players Invent the Button-down Shirt

Originally devised by polo players during the late 19th century, the button-down shirt was an ingenious method of preventing their collars flapping around their eyes when in full gallop – simply by fastening the collar tips to the body of the shirt with small buttons. Though the button-down collar is quintessentially American, we embraced the style this side of the pond too. In 60s Britain, the button-down was a symbol of mod culture with one manufacturer even taking it a step further by adding an extra button in the centre back of the collar for an even ‘cooler’ look. The button-down shirt is pretty versatile – a great go-to business or casual shirt. Dress it up with a tie for that all-important business meeting or lose the tie and leave the top button undone after hours. In fact, the Oxford shirt fits right into the genre the fashionistas call ‘soft tailoring’ – serious enough to mean business but loose enough for kicking back.

straight collar shirt

Toe the line in a Straight Collar Shirt

For fellas who might be constrained by a stricter dress code, either through choice or by company rules, our easy care, straight collar Pinpoint shirt will toe the line a treat. With a crisp, straight collar and traditional, removable collar stays to lightly stiffen it, our Pinpoint shirt is tailor-made to be worn with a tie (we sell a natty range of neckwear too, incidentally) and comes in soft plain colours and tasteful stripe and check patterns.

Tailored in silky smooth Supima®

The very cream of America’s cotton crop, the Pinpoint shirt is somewhat uncommon among regular, all-cotton formal shirts by virtue of an easy iron and stain-release finish. With a choice of collar sizes (32-17½”) and sleeve lengths (up to 35″), the Pinpoint shirt is easy to wear and a cinch to care for, making it the daily workhorse of any office wardrobe.

Get weekend-ready with a casual Grandad Collar Shirt

Polar opposite to our Oxford and Pinpoint shirts is our vintage-inspired, ultra-casual collarless shirt. The story goes that back in the day most men, even the working classes, wore detachable collar shirts. Labourers would remove the collars during the working week, creating the collarless or banded shirt look that some of us call ‘grandad’ shirts. But for formal, dressed up occasions, such as attending church, they would don them again, fastening the fiddly studs to attach the collar to the neckline.

We like to think our modern day version is the granddaddy of all collarless shirts. Strictly designed for down time, it’s cut from our own gutsy Sail Rigger cloth – tough like denim with the knack of ‘breaking in’ beautifully over time. Our three collar styles are more than adequate to furnish a modern man’s wardrobe with every kind of shirt he might need. So whether you choose the soft, superlative feel of our formal, straight collar Supima® Pinpoint shirt, or the cool, easygoing linen of our long and short-sleeve casual shirts, you’ll always look and feel the perfect part from boardroom to beach.

A Short History of the Shirt Collar

Shirt collars hark back to Elizabethan times when the ‘ruffle’ was all the rage. This large, circular neckband of lace-trimmed white linen was epitomised by Queen Bess herself who wore extravagantly puffed up ruffles to symbolize her position, power and to accentuate her imperious features and fiery red mane. The ruffle was adopted by men of the time too, eager to bask in the air of royalty.

By the end of the 18th century the ruff was abandoned in favour of lengths of white linen swathed around the neck, like a cravat, as dictated by the style icon of the times Beau Brummell, the dandiest of all the Regency dandies.

In time, the invention of the heavily starched, stand-up collar threatened to throttle Victorian gentlemen. Forcing their heads to be held high, these collars gave the wearer deportment and discomfort in equal measure.

Of all the stand-up collars, the wing collar with folded back points was popular with the upper classes, creating a perfect frame for a bow tie and de rigueur when wearing a dinner suit.

Legend has it that one Mrs Hannah Montague, fed up of washing her husband’s shirts, cut off the collars to make the laborious chore a little easier, and thus gave birth to the detachable collar. Detachable collars were popular well into the 20th century and men’s shirts were commonly sold with two collars included – one to wear and one in the wash.

The Jazz Age Saw Jauntier Shirt and Collar Styles

The First World War saw the introduction of attached, soft pointed collars in the military and, following the austerity of the war years, the hedonistic, roaring twenties ushered in men’s shirts as jazzy as the decade’s soundtrack. Indeed, it was not uncommon to find striped, coloured shirts with contrasting white collars and cuffs – a look still favoured by many in the legal and banking professions today.

Collar styles evolved with rounded, ‘penny’ or club collars and tab collars as seen in the Peaky Blinders, Downton Abbey and Mad Men TV series. Tab collars fasten the collar points together by means of a self-fabric button and loop. The tab sits under the tie giving the knot a little more ‘lift’.

As in previous centuries, the royals were seen as trendsetters and no-one more so than Edward VIII. He bequeathed the Prince of Wales shirt collar. Now more commonly known as a ‘spread’ collar, this men’s shirt style was designed to be worn with a tie sporting a chunky full or half Windsor knot.

Today’s more relaxed dress code allows men in all walks of life to wear shirts they feel most comfortable in and our guiding principle at Lands’ End is to continually improve the shirts we make from fabric and fit to collars to cuffs.