When choosing a shirt, it can often be difficult to know which style is right for which occasion. A lot of shirts look nearly identical. The easiest way to differentiate between dress shirt styles is by looking at the collar.
The collar will indicate how formal a dress shirt is - note how casual shirts don't have collars. It will also dictate whether it can be worn with jackets or ties. The width of the collar will indicate which knots look best and what occasion to wear the shirt.
Here's our quick guide without all the extra details:
Continue reading for a closer look:
Forward Point Collar
The point collar is a very traditional collar type, and possibly the oldest type around. This is also known as a straight collar. It is extremely versatile and is able to be worn in business gatherings or to formal events.
The distance between collar points is quite narrow, and often not covered by the labels on a jacket. This is a great workhorse of a shirt. All men should have at least one of these in their closet. Small or medium tie knots are best with this shirt, and cuffs look nice when rounded.
Windsor Collar (Cutaway)
The Windsor collar is more commonly referred to as the cutaway collar. It is a very modern and bold design. This shirt originated in the 1930s as a bit of a rebellion from the rigid and narrow collars of the 20s. It earns its name because it was designed as the perfect collar to fit Windsor tie knots.
This collar has almost the smallest collar point length of any dress shirt - it cuts away from your face at a very aggressive angle. The tips are spread apart quite widely. It has become a look favored by confident individuals who make bold choices.
Although it has a very sophisticated look, it’s not ideal for workwear if your office is extremely formal because you will be able to see some of the tie underneath the collar. The shirt’s sharp band will soften facial features of men who have angled faces.
If you don’t like the traditional look of the Windsor knot this collar was designed for, you can play up the boldness and sophistication with knots that match. Try using Balthus or Trinity knots with this collar. Because of the sharp tips, make sure your cuffs are straight.
If you are on the fence about this collar, then just stick to the spread collar instead. Otherwise, this can quickly become a trademark look for your style, with enough versatility to be worn in the office and to weddings and dates.
The spread collar is the middle of the road when it comes to dressy shirts. While forward point collars are very traditional and cutaway collars are for trendsetters, this one is a nice sweet spot that feels modern without being too fashion-forward for conservative tastes. As of October 2019, all of our Nimble shirts feature a Spread Collar. Here are some examples of the Spread Collar in both short and longer formats:
Long Spread Collar
Short Spread Collar
This is the best collar style to wear in casual settings because it isn’t too formal, but is still nice enough to wear to work. It’s got an extremely versatile collar that can be worn with nearly every style of tie knot you may decide to use. It’s also a shirt that looks great on any facial type, with both rounded and straight cuffs.
The thing that sets this collar apart is the elegant symmetry of the tops. The points of this collar disappear right as they meet the lapels of a jacket. Men who wear this shirt tend to stand out for the right reasons, but still be able to fit in with a crowd. It works in every situation you can imagine and won’t get you into trouble with any dress code.
This collar originated for practical reasons. The first people to wear button-down collars were polo players, who needed to prevent their collars from flapping into their faces while riding at high speeds. Brooks Brothers made it popular in everyday use, and ever since it has been considered a staple of preppy wardrobes.
Wearing these collars is suggested when you want to maintain a tailored look without the formality of a tie. Men should have a couple of these in their wardrobe because it is a very relaxed look that makes you look great that’s great for casual and semi-formal wear!
Long Button-Down Collar
Long buttons downs are made for adults and older men. This is a great casual dress shirt that can be worn with sporty looks that are somewhere between tee shirts and business formalities. It’s got longer tips with buttonholes to fasten the collar tips to the shirt.
To dress this shirt up a bit, you can pair it with a tailored blazer or shorts jacket, but wearing a tie with these might make you look stuffy and have the opposite of your desired result.
Short Button Down
Younger men, teenagers, and children who need a dressy look can get away with short button-down collars. This collar has much shorter tips than the long button-down. The collar works really well with Oxford shirts because it blends a classic look with a modern style. To dress it up, pair this shirt with a jacket or blazer because it will look silly when paired with a tie.
The club collar is occasionally known as the Eton collar because it got its start in Eton. This collar was a way for Eton students to distinguish themselves from other schools and stand out as belonging to a special club. This style became adopted by members only special clubs, where it became more commonly known as the club collar.
This popular 1920s style is enjoying a new popularity in modern dress. This collar simply rounds off the points of a standard pointed collar. It remains the standard, exclusive look for elite English school uniforms.
This collar looks great on long-faced men, but round faces should steer clear of this rounded collar. Thin ties and small knots work best with this shirt, and rounded cuffs pair well. To turn this shirt from dressy to casual, simply leave the collar open and lose the tie then roll the sleeves up a bit.
This style is a bit more open to fun than stodgier traditional cuts. It’s got the same cheekiness of an English schoolboy. That being said, you need to be up on fashion to know when it’s right for wearing this shirt and when to leave it off and go for a different look. This look works well for cocktail parties and semi-formal events.
Band collars come in standard types, Mandarin bands, and Nehru bands. These have no real collar at all, instead having a 3cm high band around the collar area. This shirt eschews a collar and tie combination in favor of the flat band of cloth around the neck.
The Eastern tradition allows this collar to be worn to special events with or without jackets depending on the pattern and material. This shirt should only be worn with rounded cuffs, and not ever paired with a tie.
It has become popular with Silver Foxes, because of its simultaneously formal but approachable soft nature. It pairs beautifully with tailored jackets, and tossing the silk handkerchief in the pocket gives it yet another layer.
Generally speaking, men who wear these collars don’t think very much about rules and regulations. They are risk-takers and confident people. The most popular versions of this collar aren’t the dressiest ones; rather, it’s when this collar is worn sharp casually, giving it a fun look for travel and vacations without trying too hard.
The tab collar is the oldest collar known to dress shirts. This collar was around when collars were removable instead of being sewn into the rest of the dress shirt. It is almost impossible to find any tab collars these days, but it’s worth looking for if you’re a major trendsetter and style buff.
This collar uses a tab that is fastened with a button. This button and tab are hidden beneath the knot of your tie. Men who wear these shirts are regarded as being extremely fashionable and knowing that the best details in a shirt are ones that may not even be seen.
This looks almost identical to the forward point collar, so it can be worn in all the same situations if you want to be more fashion-forward and daring while still fitting into conservative and traditional crowds.
A pin collar shirt is very similar to the tab collar. It replaces the below the tie tab with a visible pin, thus also distinguishing itself from the forward point collar. The pin collar uses a bar that lifts the tie knot and secures it in place, creating a really attractive arch below the knot.
The eyelets on each collar point are fastened together using the collar pin, or bar. These are visible points on each collar that line up with the center of the tie knot. This shirt is worn by extremely fashion-forward gentlemen who have spent a long time studying tailored menswear.
These shirts shouldn’t be worn for all dressy occasions, though. It’s great for formal and semi-formal events. You can get away with it in the business environment if you are already established as being very fashion-forward and classy. If you want to make it less formal, then trade the collar bar for a simple pin.