Hey Sid!

Collar vs. Collar

Hey Sid!

You ask, Sid answers

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“When should you wear a spread collar versus button-down? It seems like the two are interchangeable these days.” – John David I.

Spread vs. button-down…
Don Coryell vs. Woody Hayes…
Frazier vs. Ali…
West Coast vs. East Coast…
Almost everyone appreciates a throwdown.
THIS IS NOT THAT!
It's not either-or, it's both/and.

The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about spread vs. button-down collars is the pick and roll in basketball. Two guys doing very different things but playing for the same team. (Hey, it takes two to score.) The button-down and spread collars shouldn't be looked at as closet competitors but rather versatile teammates that lift up the whole team. But this is a GREAT question because they can both be used for a lot of different occasions and in many instances, you're 100% right – the lines are blurred.

My very simple rule is this: if it's a formal occasion (or if you are wearing a dressy suit,) I never wear a button-down but rather opt for a spread collar with a tie.

And I wear a suit at minimum, 3 days a week, so right out of the gate I'm going with the spread the majority of the time. Part of the reason I do that is because I just love the versatility – it can go from very casual to very dressy, depending on how you're wearing it. If I'm going into the office, I put in collar stays to crispen up my collar a bit to complement the jacket and tie. If I go out after work, I might take off my tie but leave the jacket on and collar stays in. Maybe I'm headed to a concert, I'll take off the jacket, the tie, roll my sleeves up, and remove the collar stays… let the collar get a tiny bit of rakishness. I'm at a show, after all. If it can go from desk job to dive bar… and look crisp the whole time… that's some serious range. (Off-roading to the tie zone, I did go see Bryan Ferry after work last week, and kept my tie on for that one. He and I were the only ones in the house wearing them, but for me a tie is the equivalent of a hoodie for the Northern California tech set: my own personal comfort zone.) So, yeah, the spread collar is the most versatile, and the one option we feel like everyone should have in his closet.

Now a button-down doesn't have quite as much range as the spread, but it can make a very specific statement. It's going to automatically look more traditional, or "trad"… a staple in the Ivy set. While you don't have quite as many options with the button-down, you do have the decision on whether to button the collar or not. For me, 85% of the time I'm wearing it unbuttoned. Unless I'm going without a tie, then I pretty much always button it. (If you do the math here, yes, I wear a lot of ties.) Part of the secret sauce of dressing is to not look too uniform, even when you're wearing one! That's the whole idea behind sprezzatura. While I don't wear my button-down collars with a suit, I typically pair them with 5-pockets (cords included) or sport trousers, and at times, dress trousers. Can you wear it with a suit – some do, yes. I think about Wall Street or guys in DC, a navy pinstripe suit, a striped repp tie, some cordovan tassel loafers with a button-down… it's a look that's going to work for some people, but not necessarily for me.

Here's the thing, though – a lot of this is personal preference. Once upon a time, 90% of our assortment was spreads, because that's what I like. (That's also why you see so much navy blue.) We've diversified a little bit, because different guys like different things… though spreads do still have a majority in our sport shirt lineup. It's one of the reasons we have a Made-to-Measure program, where you can pick your own fabric/collar/cuff/etc. So if you love our Roxford, or a seasonal plaid, but would rather have it in a different collar than the one we made as stock… well, then, get one made for yourself the way you like it!

two shirts on mannequins styled with sport coats, one with a button-down collar and one with a spread collar
a classic blue oxford BD under a navy leno-weave jacket, and a small banker stripe spread under a glen plaid suit

And we spent a TON of time trying get the collars just right on our shirts. Which is why we basically just offer these two off the rack. We made the length of our spread collars 8 centimeters… roughly 3 1/8", to live in harmony with our jacket lapel width and tie width. (You guessed it – those are 8cm too.) One of the great things about this length is, it'll sit under the jacket really nicely, like they're made for each other. Because they are! And our spread collar is actually a modified spread, not a traditional English spread. In other words, spread but not too spread… but long enough to be substantial. Beware of small collars, they're unflattering – the proportions make your face and neck look bigger – and give off a fast-fashion vibe. And that's all I'm gonna say about that. When it comes to our button-down collar, we spent a lot of time – literally, years – perfecting the collar roll to get the right amount of "bloom."

We really wanted the movement in the spread to be just as special, so we put in a soft woven interlining to actually mirror that bloom. That interlining comes from Germany – it's the best of the best – and it's fused in our dress shirts (top layer only), and nonfused in our sport shirts. You can actually feel the difference – when you pick up the dress shirt, the collar's going to feel a bit more structured, dressier, really, and the sport shirt is going to feel a little softer and more casual. It mirrors the vibe of the shirts. On the other hand, our button-down collars never have fused interlining. It's not our look. A more formal fabric can dress it up for more formal occasions, but we want the softness to come through all the time. Again, we want the two to be complementary. A spread and a button-down party well and play well together. They're on the same team: the making-you-look-good-and-feel-good team. Pick and roll.

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