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White collar shirts

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by GQ Lawyer, Mar 7, 2003.

  1. GQ Lawyer

    GQ Lawyer Senior member

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    Lately, it seems that I have noticed a resurgence of the blue shirt with a white collar (mostly being worn with khaki color suits). I have always thought of this shirt as a late -'80's style shirt, but do like the "power broker" image that it displays. What are your thoughts? Is this shirt back in style? Did it ever go out of style? When/where is this look appropriate?
     


  2. Stu

    Stu Senior member

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    I saw financier Carl Ican on MSNBC the other night wearing a pinstripe suit with a contrasting collar shirt, blue and white as you mentioned, with a yellow pocket square flowing from his jacket like a fountain and a red tie. It actually worked. He looked every bit a mega rich financier type, although with personality and perhaps a bit eccentric. It made you want ot pay attention to him because he clearly had something interesting to say.

    I think constrasting collar shirts look great. I have a bespoke one that is French blue with white collar and white French cuffs, and i love it. Very classy looking IMHO, and it works in a conservative business setting. I use it with a yellow tie and a conservatively cut Navy suit.
     


  3. PeterMetro

    PeterMetro Senior member

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    I've always had a question about these:

    As I understand it, the contrasting collars came about this way - people would have shirts made for them, in patterns. When the collars and cuffs would get frayed, they would simply replace the collars and cuff, instead of the entire shirt. If the shirt-maker did not have the pattern, he would just add collars and cuffs in white, hence the contarsting collar shirt.

    Now, one would think that this was a practice among the less wealthy, assuming that the weathly would have the means to replace the entire shirt. But now it's considered a symbol of the upper-class - does anyone know why this is?

    Two opinions on these shirts:

    1 - I think they should be worn exclusively with suits and ties. They seem too formal for a sport coat and look a bit silly without a tie.

    2 - I've never liked them, for a couple reasons. They draw unwarranted attention to the neck and wrists, giving the effect of wearing white socks with trousers and dark shoes. Moreover, they just seem a bit affected - Gordon Gekko wannabes. Of course, this is just one man's opinion...
     


  4. Steve B.

    Steve B. Go Spurs Go

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    GQL: I have heard they're making a comeback. I agree with PeterMetro that they look best worn with a suit. I think the more dynamic colors and stripes look best with double breasted suits, and the more subdued styles like those GQL describes can work with SB 2 and 3 button styles. Caveat: If you work in a pretty conservative office with a pronounced pecking order be careful about wearing these shirts. It will often upstage your boss, and perhaps his boss, which isn't usually a good career move. I learned this through personal experience. [​IMG]
     


  5. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    It goes back a bit further: shirts used to be tunic shirts (which were pulled over the head) with no collars, but usually with cuffs. In addition you had your collar, which had to be attached with a collar stud in the front and back. Now collars and studs are only used in evening shirts for tails. If you were rich your collars were in cotton or linen and heavily starched, hence the name stiff collar.You stored them in a round leather collar box, usually with a little lidded box inside for your studs. Those stiff collars had to go to commercial laundries, which obviously was quite expensive. Poorer people wore collars made from lacquered cardboard, which were discarded once they were dirty. In the 1920s collars were even made in that new material Bakelite, (just wipe clean). Of course really poor people never wore collars; even with their Sunday-best they wore collarless shirts. Hence the term white and blue collar workers, which probably would have been better as collar and no collar workers.

    It was probably until the end of the Second World War that all shirts were collarless, but from the 1920s onwards did you have collars (still separate) in the fabric of the shirt. You would buy your shirt with two additional collars. Collars in matching fabric were never as heavily starched as white ones.

    It is only from the 1950s onwards that shirts were buttoned all the way through and had collars attached. Then you would have used a seamstress to attach a replacement collar. If your shirt was sufficiently long and full the fabric would have come from the tail. If you did not have enough you would use white. I believe the prestige shirts with white collars have, goes back to the times when the collars came fresh and stiff out of a collar box.
     


  6. GQ Lawyer

    GQ Lawyer Senior member

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    For some reason, these shirts remind me of pilgrims.
     


  7. GQ Lawyer

    GQ Lawyer Senior member

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    Funny thing about that.... when I was a younger associate in a large law firm, I was actually talked to about wearing nicer suits, shirts, and ties than the partners and was asked to "dress down." It is amazing to me how someone could be actuall intimidated by someone else dressing nice. I always heard "dress for the job that you want." Strange things, those pecking orders
     


  8. Stu

    Stu Senior member

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    In my field (journalism) everyone dresses like slobs, so I'm not considered a threat because of a Corneliani suit, I'm considered eccentric. Not a bad position, IMHO
     


  9. AskAndyAboutClothes

    AskAndyAboutClothes Senior member

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    The "white collar" shirt was a status symbol indicating that the wearer toiled in an environment free of dirt and sweat. Those workers wore blue-collar shirts to help hide the dirt.

    The white collar and cuffs shirts on colored/patterned shirts are dressier, so you don't want to pair them with a corduroy sports jacket or leather jacket. They are a traditional shirt, but seem to come in and out of fashion periodically.

    The collar was derived from the "ruff", a detachable pleated collar of linen, supported by a wire frame. It's that frilly circular neck covering from the late 16th and 17th centuries. Think of Shakespeare or Queen Elizabeth I, and you'll remember what I'm talking about.

    The roots of the ruff were in East where Indians wore collars stiffened with rice water. In 1540 the Queen of Navarre (in the Pyrenees of northern Spain and southwest France, an independent kingdom until it was incorporated into the French crown lands in 1589) began to widen the frill to hide her ugly throat. Catherine de Medici of Italy adopted it and the style spread to England after Mary Tudor married Phillip II of Spain.
    The popularity of the "ruff" spread to gentlemen's shirt cuffs which were decorated with bands of lace until around 1690 when the frills disappeared leaving just the long sleeve.

    The 1800's saw the last burst of glamour in men's shirts until the 1960's with chin high collars and rows of pleated ruffles on the chest. In 1840 there is some relief as collars turn down their stiff points to form wings, but shirt bodies sport stripes and floral patterns and studs are more popular than buttons.

    In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the neck cloth was so elaborate and voluminous that "Beau" Brummell's valet sometimes spent a whole morning getting it to sit properly. Brummell set the mode in 1806 for the ruffled shirt for both day and eveningwear. Men's clothing became more somber in the Victorian age especially during the morning of the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband. High neck cloths were abandoned for collars and ties more or less the same as those worn in the 20th century.

    The first shirts pulled directly over the head. In 1871 the first "coat style" shirt with buttons all the way down the front was registered in England.

    The first modern shirt collars appeared in the late 1800's and were high, starched, and white collars that attached to the "new style" shirts that opened down the front and not pulled over the head.

    The wing collar is a direct descendant of these stand-up collars.

    Housewife, Mrs. Hannah Lord Montague (1794 -1878), of 139 Third Street, Troy, New York "invented" the detachable collar in 1827. She got tired of washing her husbands entire shirt when only the collar was dirty.

    There was a fling with disposable collars that reached the height of popularity in the 1860's, but by 1928 the detached collar was gone replaced by the semi-stiff attached collar.

    Andy
     


  10. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I suppose Andy wrote his piece from an American perspective while my dates are based on living in England. You Americans might have embraced modernity and the attached collar had taken over by 1928. But on this side of the ocean things evolve at a different speed and separate, stiff collars were popular well until after the war. They are still part of the barrister's dress and until late 1950c, maybe early 1960s even humble sales clerks at Harrods were obliged to wear stiff collars. And of course Jermyn Street caters for the dye-hard (as does Hackett) and you still can get tunic shirts with separate collars. So if you want a white collar, don't get a shirt with attached collar: do it with style and get the shirts where you can decide every morning whether or not you fancy a white collar. http://city.reuters.com/global/clubo...atures/253560/
     


  11. Nick M

    Nick M Senior member

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    Just to resuscitate this thread for one last gasp:

    I like 'em. I'm wearing one right now. In solid black, actually, with white double cuffs as well. But it's untucked, with a pair of boot-cut jeans. I got it from a store oriented towards my age group (16-22), so I guess they're (momentarily) hip again.

    I have a few striped models as well, in blue, purple and red, which I also wear with suits, either with or without a tie. They have a very classy and staid image, it's true, but I've always thought that they can connote a fun image, especially in their more colorful variations. They're covertly flamboyant, like a colorful suit lining: hard to spot from across the room, but have a great deal of character close up. Like most items of fashion, you can't take them too seriously, or else you'll end up looking like a jackass. I think you've gotta wear them with a smile...

    Nick.
     


  12. Joe G

    Joe G Senior member

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    Before my fiance and I OD on coverage of American terrorism and go to bed, I wanted to shout out here. I thought of your post yesterday, when she convinced me to buy my first contrasting white collar/cuffs shirt at a vintage store. It's a French cuffed Turnbull & Asser with blue, red, and white stripes, the red ones being less numerous but wider. It's actually my first T&A: I've always thought of them as "my father's shirt", mostly because the vast majority of his shirting is bespoke T&A. (No contrasting cuffs/collars in his wardrobe, though.) Her epiphany was to get one that's a little bit "too small" (my normal size is EU41L/US16-35, this shirt is a 15.5L) so that it's fitted in the body, and pair it with distressed jeans (Energie New Morrisons) and loafers (caramel suede Guccis). I can't close the collar comfortably, but it looks great with the top two unbuttoned, untucked, cuffs open or fastened with knots. And you know what? She was right, as usual. There's a reason she's an artist and I'm a writer. It's a great combination. Very different from anything I'd assemble if left to my own devices, but outstanding. (And she's not watching me write this post. [​IMG]) Peace, JG
     


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