One of the most important Mens clothing accessories are collar stays. And not a lot of people know about them because, unlike ties, pocket squares and shoes – they’re not overtly seen. But, just because it’s not seen – doesn’t mean it’s not important. In fact, we’re willing to bet, that if you wear a dress shirt, you’ve almost certainly got a number of built in (or flimsy manufacture standard) collar stays in some of your shirts. Here’s what and why they’re important – and why, if you wear dress shirts, you should have them as an accessory.
What are Collar Stays?
Collar stays are small pieces of metal or plastic that are inserted or sewn into place underneath collars of your shirt. A single collar stay is used per collar. It provides the right stiffness and weight to make your collar stay flat in place.
The History of the Collar Stay
They’ve been used since the late 18th century. During that time, men had these incredible detachable collars. They were used in order to make their casual shirts more formal. The detachable collars were starched to keep stiff. However, there were some men who, at the time, thought that the starched collars were too stiff. And so collar stays were developed to perform a similar function. Hold the collar in place, give your collar stiffness (but not in an excessive way) and maintain your collars shape – all so that you can look great. The first collar stays were made of woods or metals – which, depending on where you look – can still be the case today.
Different Types of Collar Stays – Understanding the Difference
You’ve probably noticed that dress shirts bought from high-end stores often come with collar stays. But, more often than not, you’ll find that you either lose the little plastic collar stays that came with your shirt, or, your dress shirt doesn’t come with a set of collar stays at all. In this case, naturally you’ll need to buy collar stays separately. To find the right one, you need to consider the width and length (or size) of your collar.
Different Types of Collar Stay Materials
As stated before, collar stays are made of different materials. Each material has its own pros and cons. Stays on the market are made of stainless steel, gold, brass, and plastic. There are also specialty stays made of whale’s tooth and horn.
Plastic Collar Stays
Plastic collar stays are lighter compared to metal ones. They’re common and inexpensive. On the plus side you can get a ton of them for a really low price – but there is an age old saying here, “you get what you pay for” that applies to types of collar stays as well. On the downside, they might not be as effective because of their material. The plastic collar stays are typically flimsy and won’t straighten your collar nearly as well as metal collar stays or brass collar stays. We would recommend that if you lose things easily, and aren’t really too concerned with how straight your collar stay is – then choose these as they’re cheap and convenient.
Stainless Steel Collar Stays / Metal Collar Stays
Stainless Steel collar stays are popular because their weight is just right to keep your collar looking sharp without weighing them down. They’re made of stainless steel and are of course, extremely stiff. These are the collar stays that will make any dress shirt collar look great. They’re affordable and they usually come in a variety of different sizes (which we’ll get to in a moment). The only downside? We can’t really think of anything other than you might lose them. If they drop out in the washing machine (they won’t rust) and you’ll certainly be able to find them. They’re also not much more expensive than plastic collar stays – which is great.
Bone Collar Stays / Gold / Silver Collar Stays
One of the most expensive collar stays on the market today are the gold ones. Buying a pair is considered an investment because of the price. It is important to be sure that it suits your style before buying them. While we understand the appeal of knowing you’ve got literal gold in your shirt, we wouldn’t recommend these for the beginning dapper gentleman. We believe there are better Mens accessories that you can spend your money on.
Dress Shirt Collar Size
Choosing the right dress shirt collar stay is really dependant on the size of your collar. Typically you’ll find that most Mens accessories brands will sell collar stays ranging between 1.8” and 3.5”.
We’ve found that most dress shirt collars will fit a 2.2” collar stay effectively. This means that even if your collar is a bit longer – say 2.5” – you will still get the benefit of having a collar stay (in terms of a straight collar) from a 2.2” collar stay.
We would recommend taking a look at your collar and simply measuring it. That way you’ll be sure to get the best fit.
Does dress shirt size matter? The short answer – is it depends. We’ve found that typically smaller dress shirs have smaller dress shirt collars (this makes sense right), but, at the same time, we’ve also found that a lot of modern designs (think Zara, H&M, J-Crew, Top Shop etc.) have been using smaller collars in general.
If you’re a big fan of cowboy shirts, or classic European collars, you might find that the collars here have slightly larger sizes (2.5”, 2.75” or even 3”)
At the end of the day, if you wear dress shirts, you’ll want to have this Mens clothing accessory – the dress shirt collar stay – to help you look stylish, dapper and sharp.