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Q&A: What do I need to know about collars?

Q&A: What do I need to know about collars?

Whether wing, spread, granddad or button-down, collars can be one of the most noticeable and important parts of an outfit—mostly because they're the closest thing to your face. So despite their small size, they're worth understanding in a bit more detail. (Thanks to Thread user John for this idea!)

Below, Thread's lead stylist, Kasia Katner, talks us through the five collar types you should know, and how to wear them well. 

Collar 1. Button-down collar

Photographed: Gitman white Oxford Shirt (£145)

What it is: As the name suggests, the points of this collar are buttoned down onto the shirt. It's most commonly found on Oxford shirts, and also makes an appearance on some smarter styles.

Why we like it: "Button-down collars add a subtle, understated bit of detail to a shirt. They were made popular by the preppy crowd, so they nicely balance smart and casual—a button-down collar could work in either environment." 

How to wear it well: "Shirts with button-down collars are versatile. Wear one on its own, smarten it up with a knitted tie—which, like the button-down collar, is a bit more casual—or add a crew-neck jumper or a relaxed blazer on top; the collar will sit neatly under either. Choose a jumper in an unshiny, natural fabric such as wool to match the relaxed feel of the shirt."

Collar 2. Pointed collar on a formal shirt

Photographed: Mr Start white shirt (£110)

What it is: A stiffer collar that comes to a sharp, downward-facing point.

Why we like it: "This is the most simple and versatile of all the collar cuts that you might find on a formal shirt—so it's almost impossible to wear badly."

How to wear it well: "First, formal shirts should almost always be worn with ties; they look slightly off without them. The key to really pulling this off is to match proportions. So your point collar should be no more than a couple of inches wide—and your tie and suit lapels should be around the same width. As an example of what wouldn't work, imagine a skinny (one-inch) collar and a wide (three-inch) tie: the tie probably wouldn't fit under the collar, and the proportions would look wrong." 

Collar 3. Spread collar on a formal shirt 

Photographed: Gant white shirt (£120) 

What it is: This one's similar to no. 2 in that it also comes to a sharp point. But in this case it will point outwards, away from the middle of the shirt, leaving more space exposed in the middle.

Why we like it: "A spread collar is sharp and formal, and has a contemporary feel. It's not as common as a point collar, so can feel a bit more 'dressed up', which works well in more formal settings." 

How to wear it well: "Wear a tie. This style is designed to show off your neckwear, and doesn't sit as well without a tie. You don't want a skinny tie, either, as the knot will get lost in the space in the middle. A slim or wide-cut tie in a standard knot will fill the space in the shirt and look really smart."

Collar 4. Wing collar

What it is: A short stand collar goes around the neck, while two 'wings' fold out at the front. 

Why we like it: "This is the most formal collar type out there, and is designed to be worn with a bow tie and tuxedo. Wearing one shows you 'get' evening wear."

How to wear it well: "Keep everything pretty traditional when you're wearing a tuxedo: a white wing-collar shirt, black bow tie and black or dark-navy tuxedo. This is really the only way to wear a wing-collar shirt."

Collar 5. Granddad collar

Photographed: Oliver Spencer white shirt (£95)

What it is: A granddad collar is just a simple band that lies flat against the bottom of the neck and doesn't fold over.

Why we like it: "The granddad collar is comfortable (as it doesn't go around your actual neck) and casual, too. If you're used to just wearing t-shirts, it's a nice in-between design—a bit smarter than a tee but without the stuffiness and formality of a shirt with a point or spread collar."

How to wear it well: "A shirt with a granddad collar looks great on its own, but a plain white granddad-collar shirt is also a nice way to dress down a suit. The flat shape would get lost under jumpers, so the easiest way to wear one is also the simplest: solo with jeans or chinos for an easy smart-casual outfit."