The men’s shirt collar has been in a recession lately, thanks to a combination of slimmer fits, softening workplace dress codes and fashion’s ongoing “Mad Men” obsession.
Imagine, for comparison’s sake, a time when the collar was in a more expansive mood. Inevitably, the ’70s come to mind. That era’s grandiose collars were the perfect frame for double-wide ties, not to mention gold chains and chest hair. Today’s reduced versions aren’t designed for heavy lifting: they buckle under meaty jowls and are often overwhelmed by neckwear. Some shirt makers have even experimented with convertible collars that, when tucked in, disappear altogether.
Eric Jennings, men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, points out that today’s barely-there collars are merely part of a larger trend. “I think it actually starts with this shrunken-suit idea,” he said, adding that the vogue for shorter, skinnier pants and jackets has resulted in narrower lapels and neckties. Shirt collars have, so to speak, simply followed suit. “Our eyes have adjusted to a small silhouette,” Mr. Jennings said.
Niche menswear labels like Robert Geller and Shipley & Halmos—and Thom Browne, the designer frequently credited, along with Hedi Slimane, as the godfather of the modern skinny suit—have been making smaller collars for some time. But only more recently have big-name brands and mainstream retailers hopped on the bandwagon.
Mr. Jennings said that when he joined the Saks team two and a half years ago, “we were talking about it, but we didn’t have a whole lot of it on the floor.” A tour of the store’s men’s floors reveals the extent to which that’s changed. Skip past conservative holdouts like Charvet and Brioni and you’ll find that Burberry and Hugo Boss are making some of the teeniest collars on the market.
Although the trend’s most recent period of reference is the ’80s, when demure collars topped many a blousy shirt, observers are quick to note that the more influential time is the early ’60s, when JFK led men’s fashion trends with trim collars that sat close to the chest. “If you look at neckwear and lapels of that era, it’s very much in line with what’s going on today,” said Jeff Blee, divisional merchandising manager of furnishings and men’s accessories for Brooks Brothers.
But for its newer, even smaller collar styles, Brooks turned the clock back further. “We found old catalogues from the 1930s that listed our four most popular collars of the time,” Mr. Blee said. “Two were fuller collars, but two—the Cornwall and the Clifford—were scaled-down versions. That’s where the newness is for us.” Updated versions of both will appear in the company’s spring collection. (At 2½ inches, the Clifford collar measures nearly an inch shorter than the brand’s traditional Oxford button-down.)
[Read Full Article: The Incredible Shrinking Collar | WSJ]