Originally Posted by Film Noir Buff
I think this was popular as early as the mid 1920s. I have never gotten a satisfactory answer as to why this trrend started. The answer could lie in apologizing for having a soft collar by pinning it. Why would it become wide spread? Many reasons and perhaps one was it being a top down society with people copying the style irrespective of the fact that it may cause long term damage to shirts. It was a style for men who didnt care about the longevity of their shirts. Not that this action damages your shirt irreperably but as a state of mind, if you follow? I think it basically disappeared during the 1960s but like any other trend it probably started dwindling as soon as it became popular. Maybe shirts became proportionately too expensive, maybe collar styles shifted, maybe it became dated and got further shoved aside by the sexual revolution? Probably no one element caused it's virtual demise. One thing that is interesting is that it is still recognized as a valid style; unlike say wearing a wing collar with a day suit.
I recently asked a shirtmaker to make a white shirt with a pre 1970s style soft unfused collar. He said, "sure, I know how to do it--that's old school, but you're not gonna like it." Being adventurous, I told him to bring it on. Now this is a sort of different collar from, say, a modern unfused Charvet or Turnbull and Asser shirt. Charvet, for example, apparently uses many layers of fabric for their collars and T & A use a very thick interlining. When the shirt came, it looked beautiful, and the collar had a great roll. I sent it to the laundry and it took them three tries
to iron the collar without wrinkles and creases. The guy at the laundry has been ironing shirts for 30 years, and man, he was complaining. I tried to iron it myself, and it was tough. When the collar was perfectly ironed, it looked great. After a couple hours of average wear, it would start to look a bit droopy. The points would curl up even with collar stays. After that shirt experience, I can immediately spot that "look" in a vintage movie. I gave up and had the collar replaced with a more conventional one with a thick interlining. The shirt maker said, "I told you so!" He related how years ago he learned shirt making in Hollywood and worked at a place that made shirts for movie stars, Presidents, etc. Back then, important men would keep a stash of ironed shirts, many times changing them up to four times a day. The shirtmaker told me of past days, when "trained professionals" knew how to iron shirts properly. OK, so back to your theory--it makes perfect sense: a shirt with a detachable stiff collar is going to make a neat polished presentation. The way men wore vests and jackets, most everything would be covered but the collar. The rest of the shirt could be wrinkly, and no one in polite circles would ever know it. But those darn stiff collars are no fun, at least for me. So, men started to adopt the soft turndown collar in the early to mid 1920s. The vintage shirts I have seen from that time had some pretty floppy, impossible to iron collars. So maybe as you say, men were "apologizing for having a soft collar by pinning it." Why they gave up the collar pin for a completely floppy, mid-century appearance is unknown to me. I do think it's funny that the average modern department store shirt is in attitude more like a stiff collar shirt than the old school 1950s turndown collar shirt. That is, many modern men want a stiff, perfect looking collar, and are happy with heavily fused collars that require little ironing.