The shirt collar. How many of you have put any thought into this? If you haven’t, you should pay attention because picking the right collar for you can greatly enhance your face’s aesthetics. How? As I mentioned in The 3 Pillars of Style, an essential part of creating an visually pleasing package is to minimize any asymmetries; in other words, you want to create balance. The correct shirt collar helps you do just that – it frames and balances your face. In this article, I will provide you with some basic guidelines on how to pick a collar that will help you look your best.
1. Balance Your Length and Width
When it comes to your face length and width, the general idea is to do the opposite to create balance. If you have a long, narrow face, or have a weak chin, you must avoid collars that are long, narrow, and close together. These types of collars will only make your face look even longer and more narrow than it already is. Instead, go with a collar that has wider spread between the two collar points such as the spread collar.
For example, look at the following picture demonstrating how the width of a collar affects how we perceive faces. Benedict Cumberbatch has a long, narrow face and its length is certainly accentuated with a more narrow, “classic collar” on the left side. In comparison, his face isn’t perceived nearly as long with the “spread collar” on the right helping to add balance to the narrowness of his face:
On the other hand, if you have a round or wide face, you might want to avoid the spread collar because it will make your face look even wider. In order to narrow and balance your wider face, the better option for you would be to choose collars of medium to long length that have a shorter spread between the two collar points.
Let’s take Andy Richter for example. Notice how much wider his face looks when wearing a “wide-spread” collar on the left vs. a “classic collar” on the right:
The reason I say you *might* want to avoid a spread collar if you have a round/wide face is because you have a bit more leeway than someone with a long and narrow face and it also depends on why your face is wide. Long and narrow faces aren’t considered masculine or attractive which is why if you’ll don’t want to enhance these features. However, if your larger face is due to a wide, masculine jaw, there is no harm in showing it off with a spread collar; in fact, it will probably better frame your face.
If on the other hand, you’re a portly individual and your round face is similar to Andy Richter’s, then wearing collars of medium to long length that have a shorter spread between the two collar points will help thin out your face. It’s important to use your best judgement.
2. The Bigger the Picture, the Bigger the Frame
To balance the size of your head, you will need to ensure that the size of the collar corresponds to the size of your head. If you have a large head, you will need to have larger collars. Wearing smaller collars is a bad idea for you because they will only enhance the size of your head.
Using Andy Richter as another example, look at how massive his head looks wearing collars that are shorter on the left vs. wearing longer length collars on the right:
However, if you have a smaller head, wearing larger collars will only diminish the size of your head even further. In this case, a shorter/smaller collar would be more appropriate for you.
3. Take into Account the Characteristics of Your Face
As I alluded to earlier, if you have softer features such as a chubbier face, a double chin, or cheeks that sag, then you will want to counter this by wearing a stiffer, straighter collar. Doing so will strengthen these softer features which aren’t typically seen as attractive features on a man.
On the other hand, if you have extremely angular features and strong lines and want to soften them up a bit, long-pointed collars or buttoned down collars will help. I wouldn’t really worry about this issue though unless your features are so jarring that they are aesthetically unattractive. Strong lines on men is a good trait so I wouldn’t soften them unless it’s really necessary.
4. The Longer the Neck, the Taller the Collar
This is really simple. If you’re understanding the above concepts, you can probably guess that if your neck is longer, you will need collars that sit higher up on your neck. The idea is that if you want to avoid looking like a giraffe, collars that sit higher up on your neck will help conceal your neck’s height. Tom Wolfe is a writer who is brought up by many style experts as an example of this principle:
In my opinion, I think the height of the neck collars worn by Tom Wolfe is a bit over-the-top. The visual enhancements that style can provide you should be subtle. By wearing collars that reach so high up the neck, all the attention is drawn there and it screams out: “Please don’t look at my long neck!”
I also think that the neck length issue is the least important issue to deal with out of all the other issues discussed so far. This is due to 2 issues: 1- that most people’s necks will be of average length and won’t deviate as much as face shape and head size; and 2 – there’s less options of collar height when you’re buying shirts off-the-rack. You can easily find shirts of types but you’ll be hard pressed to find shirts that vary in collar height.
Of course, if you have a neck that is abnormally long and you have the means, you might want to consider made-to-measure so you can customize your collar height. Otherwise for most guys, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
Putting it all Together
When picking a collar, I would recommend that you place attention mainly on points 1 and 2 first. For most men, creating balance within the length/width of their faces and the size of their heads will be most pressing issues and the issues that will be easiest to solve.
It’s important to use the information in this guide to work with your own characteristics but if I had to choose one collar for the majority of guys, I would say that the semi-spread or spread-collar would benefit the most men but for different reasons. For individuals with thin, long faces, this collar will serve to minimize these features; and for individuals with medium to wider faces, it will likely add to the strength of your jawline. However, if your face is wider because you are chubbier, then you will want to consider collars that thin out your face such as a longer pointed collar.
Next time you are looking to buy a collared shirt, try out different collars and see how the overall appearance of your face changes with each collar type. Follow the guidelines discussed in this article and you’ll ensure that you’ll be bringing out your best attributes and minimizing your shortcomings. Remember, the little details make a world of difference.