The Collar and Cuffs set the Tone! (part 1)

Choosing wisely what shirt collar and cuffs to wear is fundamental to setting the tone of your appearance. A change of the collar or cuffs won’t change the language of your look but will give it a different accent. For example, a cutaway collar is decidedly more formal than a button down and a point collar is more staid or common than a tab or pin collar. French cuffs are more formal than the more common barrel cuff. But, it’s really not about your shirt’s collar and cuffs. It’s about your face and hands.


Just above the shirt collar is your face, which is where you want other people to look. Like the frame around a picture, the goal of your shirt collar is to perfectly frame your face, to immediately draw the eye to your face and eyes. Think about the shape of your face. Is it pretty much average, a little longer than most or as round as a cantaloupe? Are you an average size person, built more like an offensive lineman, or relatively slight in build? Your shirt collar should complement your overall build, the shape of your face, and the style of your clothing (particularly the lapel of your suit jacket.)

Conventional wisdom (that is, a preponderance of thoroughly considered, professional opinion) suggests that your shirt collar should counter balance, offset, or compensate for any deviation from “regular.” A counter balance is a weight that balances another weight. In general, a person with a long, narrow face should wear spread collars and one with a round face should wear narrower point collars.

The best shirt collar for you is one with the height, spread, and point length that comfortably balances with your overall build, the shape of your face, and the length of your neck. If you are having shirts custom made you can have the height of the collar band adjusted in the front and back to the length of your neck (Note: The gentleman in the pink, spread collar shirt above would look more balanced with an extra high front and back on his shirt collar.)

Which one of the collar styles on the progression above is best for you?

Three fashion collars that are enjoying a moderate renaissance are the tab, rounded or club, and pin collars. All three of these collar styles require a tie that can achieve a relatively small knot. The tab collar is particularly versatile and appropriate with modern clothing that is cut trimmer and with narrow lapels. The rounded collar is more theatrical or eccentric. The pin collar will bring out your inner Gatsby.

At a minimum, from the full range of collar style options, decide on a dress collar style (one that you would wear with a tie) and a casual collar style that you most prefer and that look the best on you. Go deep with those two collars and then try some others that depart from that foundation as you define or evolve your personal style.

Part 2 will cover more on cuffs.

Setting the tone,

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