A Comprehensive Guide To Shirt Collars & Cuffs

While it may not seem like it, men’s dress shirt collars and cuffs can have a sizeable effect on your look – learn more about what shirt collar to choose and what cuffs to pick in our straightforward manual.

Types Of Shirt Collars

It may seem like such a minor detail, but the types of shirt collar you pick can have a real impact on the rest of your outfit – especially in smarter situations when you’re wearing a suit with a men’s designer shirt. It’s why, for at least the last century or so, so many different men’s collar styles have persisted in our wardrobes. So, whether you favour a spread collar or a cutaway collar, read on to learn everything you need to know about shirt collars.

What Is A Point Collar?

One of the most common, traditional, and popular types of shirt collar styles, the point collar goes by many names – such as a straight collar or forward point collar – but in general it denotes a collar with a fairly narrow space between the collar points (around or less than three inches). To identify a men’s point collar in the wild, you’ll notice that you won’t see any gaps either side when it’s worn with a tie. Since it is narrower than other shirt collars styles, it also suits smaller tie knots best.

What Is A Spread Collar?

Few true spread collars are around these days. In most cases, the term spread collar is used to refer to a semi-spread collar. Particularly associated with English tailoring, in formal shirting, it’s defined by a slightly wider gap between collar points – around about four inches – and allows part of the shirt to be seen when worn with a tie. A spread collar can also accommodate slightly wider tie knots, but also looks great when worn without a tie.

What Is A Cutaway Collar?

Considered a particularly conservative option, the cutaway collar – which is a form of wide shirt collar – has a reputation as an especially formal collar these days to be worn with the smartest of business suits. With points set considerably wider apart (almost as if they’ve been ‘cutaway’ get it?) than those on a point collar and spread collar – over six inches in some cases! – it can accommodate even the widest of tie knots, including full Windsor knots.

What Is A Button Down Collar?

In common vernacular, the term ‘button-down’ is used most often to refer to a style of shirt – usually a cotton Oxford – rather than the collar itself. But it does in fact simply refer to the collar, which is quite literally buttoned down to the shirt – hence the name ‘button down collar’.. Due to its associations with classic Americana and preppy style, the button down collar is often  considered a less formal men’s shirt and collar option compared to spread, cutaway and classic point collars but rest assured it can still be worn smartly with a suit.

What Is A Club Collar?

Much lesser spotted these days, the rounded club collar is thought to have been popularised around the turn of the twentieth century (reaching peak popularity in the 1920s and 1930s) and is a descendent of the 1850s uniform update at the prestigious Eton college in England, which included a distinctive rounded collar. The name derives from the exclusivity of the institution – you were part of the ‘club’ if you moved in such circles. It’ll add a vintage vibe to your smart look.

What Is A Wingtip Collar?

Sometimes simply called a wing collar, the wingtip collar on a dress shirt should only be worn with the most formal of eveningwear, namely a tuxedo and bow tie. It’s defined by a turned-up collar points (the ‘wings’) which should be tucked neatly behind the bow tie for the sharpest look. The wingtip collar has an especially interesting past: it’s thought to have been introduced when the British Prime Minister Gladstone took to wearing his shirt collar in a particularly novel way with the tips ironed and pointing upwards. Historically, it was also worn by members of the legal profession.

What Is A Tab Collar?

Nowadays, you’ll likely only find tab collars at specialist shirting experts or while rummaging around vintage stores – but they still have plenty of practical and stylistic merit. Designed especially to be worn with a tie, as the name suggests, they have a small tab between the collar points which fastens under the tie’s knot, keeping the tie knot securely in place against the collar and providing a slight lift that looks especially elegant.

What Is A Soft Collar?

A soft collar is one of those ‘does what it says on the tin’ shirt styles – but it’s important to note that most formal men’s shirts are fitted with a standard collar rather than a soft one. A standard collar features interfacing between the layers of fabric to lend it structure, while a soft collar does away with this element entirely. Depending on the fabric, then, a soft collar can look particularly relaxed – especially when it comes to things like cotton poplin or silk. It’s also a good choice if comfort is your first concern or you have trouble finding standard or stiff collars that fit well.

What Is A Grandad Collar?

Sometimes referred to as a band collar or mandarin collar, a grandad collar shirt refers to, funnily enough, a shirt without a collar entirely. It’s thought to have been ‘invented’ when men’s shirts began to come with detachable collars – which were both easier to clean and allowed collar styles to be switched up from time to time. Members of the working classes, who had no need to wear a tie, then took to wearing them without the collars and the grandad collar became more widely adopted. These days, their resurgence can be attributed at least in part to the popularity of period TV shows like Peaky Blinders.

How To Choose The Right Collar?

While the level of formality – for example if you’re heading to a laidback dinner versus a black-tie event – will come into play when deciding what shirt collar to pick, your choice of shirt collar style can also be impacted by things like face shape and neck length, too. For example, as a good rule of thumb, rounder and squarer faces tend to be more flattered by classic point styles or button-down collars while narrower face shapes or those with more prominent cheekbones will suit cutaway and spread style men’s shirts.

Types Of Shirt Cuffs

Unless you obsess over the finer details, you may not have paid a huge amount of attention to the types of shirt cuffs around. But not only do they each serve a particular function; your choice of shirt cuffs also affects the formality of your look. Read on to learn more about straight, round, mitred, and double cuffs as well as other shirt cuff styles.

What Is A Barrel Cuff?

You may have heard that a barrel cuff is a type of cuff. In fact, a barrel cuff (or single cuff) is a catch all term for a group of styles of cuffs. Put simply, the term barrel refers to a cuff that consists of a single band of fabric that wraps around the wrist – essentially, it is by far the most common type of cuff you’ll see on men’s shirts, from formal to casual and everything in between. There are however types of barrel cuffs, which leads us to…

What Is A Straight Or Square Cuff?

The simplest of cuffs to construct, a straight cuff or squared cuff is when the edge of the cuff fabric is cut in a completely straight line for a ‘squared off’ effect. You’ll spot it more often than the upcoming examples on more casual-style shirts – because the straight edges make it easier to roll up the sleeves – but that doesn’t mean you can’t still wear a straight cuffed shirt with a business suit.

What Is A Round Cuff?

Considered by many to be the smartest and most sophisticated of the barrel cuff sub types, the rounded cuff features, as its name suggests, a rounded shape to the corners of the cuffs. While usually worn with more formal outfits, the curvature of the cuff’s edge also makes it one of the more comfortable options to go for.

What Is An Angled Or Mitred Cuff?

A particularly popular option, the mitred cuff (which is sometimes called an angled cuff) is characterised by a cut out mitre at a 45-degree angle to the corner of the cuffs. The cut-out allows for a little more freedom of movement (in comparison to straight or square cuffs, that is) and it’s considered an especially business-appropriate choice for dress shirts and pairing with smart men’s suits.

What Is A Double Cuff Or French Cuff?

A double cuff is… you guessed it, double the length of a standard single or barrel cuff. It’s designed so the cuff folds back against itself to create a seamless finish and are secured with a pair of men’s cufflinks – making it, but virtue of the necessity for men’s cufflinks, the most formal shirt cuff option on this list. You’ll find them most often worn with black tie or the smartest of business suits. And because menswear terminology can often be a confusing minefield of contradictions, it is sometimes known as a French cuff, despite its origins in Britain.

How To Choose The Right Shirt Cuffs?

Unlike collars, you don’t need to worry about what type of shirt cuff will be most flattering but the occasion or event you’re heading to will come into play. The aforementioned straight cuff is easier to roll up, making it more suitable for more casual shirt styles whereas the French or double cuff should be your first choice for black-tie events.

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Published: 06.23

Words: Molly Isabella Smith