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Old School Shirt Collars

Andy57

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I think some of this might be due to not knowing how a shirt collar should fit. I was always taught that a collar ought to fit snugly enough that one index finger could fit between collar and neck (without pushing into the skin), but no more than that or it was too loose.
Do you actually wear your shirt collars that tight?
 

Nobilis Animus

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Do you actually wear your shirt collars that tight?
Almost always - I am sometimes more careless with casual shirts, but don't see any issue with the sizing.

Stiff collars must be fitted very close to the neck, otherwise gaps are immediately visible. It also happens to encourage upright posture.
 

Steepleman

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Yes, I wouldn't wear a wing collar as a barrister loosely—it looks pretty sloppy. Although a lot of barristers (and judges!) wear fake wing collars which look really sad, like floppy polyester things.

I could probably fit in a few fingers though in the collar. I've never understood if “one finger” meant the gap was one finger-width wide, or if it means I couldn't get two fingers in parallel to the skin. The nature of a stiff collar means you can almost always do the latter.
 

Encathol Epistemia

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I've been intrigued by stiff, detachable collars since I first learned of them. I think that they look very handsome and I'm always such a damned anachronist. Of course, I also have a short neck, so they're just asking for trouble in my case and would be very difficult to maintain as I'm sure that no local shops could properly launder them.

I have actually spoken with my shirtmaker about them, but he told me that he can't get the necessary material, which he described as being so dense and stiff that it was almost like plastic. He did say that clients do sometimes inquire about them.

When I visited the Frick Mansion in Pittsburgh last year, there was a box on the dresser in the master bedroom that the docent told me was a collar box. Evidently, downtown Pittsburgh was so filthy from industrial pollution that Mr. Frick changed his collar several times daily.
 

Steepleman

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I don't think that's entirely right, at least not for modern starched collars as worn by priests and lawyers. Starched collars are stiff, not because of their fabric, but because of the starch which goes into it.

When they are freshly laundered and unstarched, they are flimsy (well, as flimsy as an unfused collar normally is). Usually they only have one or two layers of cloth interlining: See this film.. “Semistiff” collars just have thinner or no interlining, which are thus more flexible. Possibly your tailor is too young to have encountered unstarched detachable collars? Or maybe he only had experience of the permanent celluloid styles.

They're quite simple to launder at home once you get the hang of it, as long as you have a good half an hour to starch and iron them. Certainly we Australians aren't shipping them over to Barker's every time we need to clean them! (Although, they say there is a laundry in Sydney that still does them traditionally, but I think he retired). The key thing is ensuring the starch laminates all of the layers of fabric together so they don't bubble. That is what gives it the stiffness.

Most professions don't need stiff collars though, but I think they look quite good if of a reasonable height or style.
 

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