Regardless of whether a shirt is worn with a coat, tie or neither, the collar is the most important part. The collar’s upside down “V” shape always points to the wearer’s face and lets it stand out. It is very important to have a collar that casts a positive light on its wearer. In order to achieve this, the collar should suit the wearer’s face, have the right size and simply look sleek.
In this article, I will focus on collar stays and their ability to give a collar the right sleekness or smoothness. Sometimes collar stays are also referred to as sticks, bones, knuckles, tabs or (in the UK) as collar stiffeners.
Basics About the Shirt Collar
Roughly speaking there are two categories of collars: ones with a glued interlining and ones without it. Both kinds of collars usually feature collar stays in order to create a nice smooth collar. Some collar stays are sewn in and cannot be exchanged; others are removable. Only soft collars like a button down collar do not have any collar stays.
Many people say that “good shirts” should always have exchangeable collar stays. It is true that there are many shirts with inferior glued interlining that have non-removable collar stays. After laundering and ironing this cheap collar is often deformed and the shirt becomes worthless. On the other hand, there exist excellent bespoke shirts with glued interlinings and sewn-in collar stays that last for years. Hence, it is not strictly necessary for a good shirt to have exchangeable collar stays.
That being said, many high quality shirts do feature exchangeable collar stays. In most cases they are made from plastic and are often flexible or flimsy. Hence they are not ideal in order to achieve a neat looking collar—and chances are they will get lost in the
washing machine anyway. Luckily, there are numerous collar stays available in all kinds of materials with prices ranging from $1 to well over $6000.
Collar Bones: Materials
Classic materials for collar stays are brass, sterling silver, 14Kt gold or mother of pearl. In addition to that, stainless steel, titanium, horn, precious wood or even ivory and diamonds are used to craft collar stays. These are generally sturdier than their plastic counterparts and it usually does not matter if you forget to remove them before having them laundered—they should look just fine afterwards. However, collar stays made from wood or mother of pearl should definitely be removed before being laundered.
Metal collar stays are less flexible and heavier than their plastic counterparts. Personally, I like that because it gives the collar a sleeker look.
Size Does Matter for Collar Stays
It is often very difficult to find the right assortment of sizes for your different collars. Many times, collar stay sets are only available in two sizes—which is definitely not enough for me. Three different sizes are better, with four to five being ideal in my opinion.
When you have found your collar stays, you need a place to store them—a little jewelery box or a leather container should do it.
Within the last five years I have had ample opportunities to test different collar stays. Among them were some from Amazon and Ebay, brass and silver stays from Seven London and Charles Tyrwhitt, as well as mother of pearl stays from Roensberg.
Four years ago I coincidentally stumbled upon Stayclip. At that time, there were 4 reasons for me to buy Stayclips:
- The collar stays were made out of metal.
- They offered 4 different lengths: 2, 2.5, 2.75 and 3 inches.
- The prices were extremely fair—especially considering the fact that I got 8 pairs of collar stays.
- The way to store the stays on a metal clip seemed practical.
In all those years, I have always been entirely satisfied with Stayclip stays. They still look like new although I constantly use them and storing them on a clip makes it easy to not lose them. I particularly enjoy the four different sizes because I can always find the right size for my collar. Moreover, Stayclip provides a monogramming service.
In comparison to that, Roensberg collar stays are also of high quality; however, they only come in three, smaller sizes and are considerably more expensive.
My brass collar stays show the usual dark discolorations and proved to be a little too flexible for me. Sterling silver and mother of pearl collar stays do not have any functional advantages compared to stainless steel or titanium and therefore do not justify the higher price.
Based on my experiences, I will keep using Stayclips and I recommend them because of their different sizes, durability and price. While on the subject of recommendations, I must say that I cannot recommend Wurkin stiffs.
But as always, to each his own.
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