Collar Pin Guide

Collar Pin Guide

We recently published an article about collar stays and today we won’t move very far away from the collar area of the shirt.Although you will rarely see gentlemen wearing collar pins nowadays, I think they look quite elegant and debonair and often underline one’s personal style. This article will show you all about collar pins including the history, the different styles, where to buy a collar pin and what shirt collar to wear with a collar pin. In case you like to wear tab collars, you should seriously consider wearing a collar bar since it elevates the tie knot in the same way.

Fred Astaire Collar Pin

Fred Astaire Collar Pin

The History of the Collar Pin

Historically, the collar pin first surfaced in the beginning of the 20th century. The turndown collar was still in its infancy and unlike today, was very strongly starched and hard. Silk collars however, were simply too delicate for the starch and so someone had the idea to connect the collar with a pin in order to give it a better shape and a neat look. As a result of this pin, the tie was slightly elevated which also looked quite sophisticated. Over the following decades the collar bar cycled in and out of fashion: Fred Astaire wore it frequently in the 20′s and 30′s and it was also spotted in movies—Paul Muni in Scarface is a perfect example for that. In Germany, it was again popular in the 1950′s; and the 1960′s in the US. In 1987, Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street infamously wore his boldly striped shirts as well as his collar pins and thus caused a little revival of this accessory. Today, the TV Series Mad Men shows certain characters wearing a collar bar. Basically, there are three different kind of collar pins:

The Collar Pin

Collar Pin - Safety Pin

Collar Pin – Safety Pin

The classic collar pin looks similar to a big safety pin. It can easily be worn with all kinds of club collars or narrow collars. All you have to do is to connect your collar with the pin under your tie. This will result in two little small holes in your collar once you take out the pin. However this is not a problem at all since those holes should disappear after the shirt returns from the laundry.

The Barbell

In addition to the standard pin, there are straight pins with a little cube or element on each side, at least one of which can be screwed on and off. It looks similar to a barbell.  This type of bar requires a special shirt collar made with two holes. Today, the chances of finding such a shirt collar off the rack are probably worse than winning the lottery. Therefore you will need a made-to-measure or bespoke shirt.

The Collar Bar

Piccadilly collar with pinhall for collar pin or bar

Piccadilly collar with pinhall for collar pin or bar

The third option is better referred to as a collar bar rather than a collar pin since it has a clasp on each end in order to hold the collar together. Often, those collar bars are richly decorated or even have precious or semi-precious stones in them. Many people use the term collar bar interchangeably with collar pin. Personally, I prefer the first two options because I like the way they hold the collar in place, whereas the collar bars are not able to give me that same amount of shape. Additionally, I am not too fond of the elaborately decorated bars. Even though the collar pin is often associated with a white collar environment, it was originally reserved for informal attire. Back in the day, formal attire always required a stiff collar, and the silk collar was anything but stiff, as mentioned before. If you want to wear your collar pin with your business suit or your Tweed Outfit, go ahead! It can look splendid. In any case you should ensure to have a small tie knot because otherwise your collar will wrinkle and look unfavorable. This means you should choose a tie with very little or no lining at all and tie a simple not.

Where to Buy a Collar Pin, Barbell or Collar Bar?

Collar Pin & Bar Selection in Silver Finish - Fort Belvedere

Collar Pin & Bar Selection in Silver Finish – Fort Belvedere

If you are now eager to shop for a collar safety pin, you have the option of silver or gold. On the other hand, should you prefer a collar bar or collar clip in different sizes, look here. Besides these options, you may find collar pins at flea markets, vintage stores or even Brooks Brothers (but they’ll charge you $58 rather than $25-30…).

A Shirt for Collar Pin with a Pinhall & Piccadilly Collar

If you are looking for a Ready-To-Wear shirt with little holes (also known as a pinhall) for a barbell, you should take a look at J. Press (If you cannot find the shirt easily, search for Pinhall). Back in the day, a Piccadilly collar (a white detachable collar with rounded corners) was often worn with a collar bar or pin. If collar pins are too long, they do not hold the collar together and look bad. Therefore you should pay attention to the size. In the 30s, collar pins were usually between 1.5 – 2 inches, whereas today they are often larger than that. Go for the smaller ones—they will look better.

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31 replies
  1. Alexander Hernesten
    Alexander Hernesten says:

    Hello,
    Great article. Have been looking for a shirt with pre-made holes for 2 years and finally found one att J.Press at Madison Avenue in New York. Apparently they are featured on the website:
    Haven’t tried it in action yet, but looking forward to it.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Dear Alexander,

      Thank you very much for your link. I will update the article shortly. Please let me know what you think about the J. Press shirt once you have tested it.

      Best, Raphael

  2. MarcoBerlin
    MarcoBerlin says:

    Dear Raphael,
    are the color pins in the pictures below the ones you own? Did you happen to buy the one that looks a little like a safety pin in Germany? I am on a long hunt for those but cant find any.
    Would be a pleasure to have my own collar pin some time :)
    Cheerio
    MarcoBerlin

  3. Sven Raphael Schneider
    Sven Raphael Schneider says:

    Dear MarcoBerlin,
    Yes, I own all the collar pins and I bought them in the US. Since you cannot find them in Germany, I would suggest searching for them on eBay . Alternatively, follow the link to J.Press in the article.
    Regards, Raphael

  4. MarcoBerlin
    MarcoBerlin says:

    Thanks for the fast answer. I am frequently checking the German eBay for collar pins but I am looking for the one looking like a safety pin and those are hard to find.
    Cheers

  5. Brad Ross
    Brad Ross says:

    Love the look of the arching tie that is achieved by either a pinned or tab collar, although I favor snap tabs. I find it preferable to wear quite a high, very tight tab collar that is stiffly starched to achieve that vintage Edwardian look.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      You wear indeed a very high and extremely tight collar with your collar pins. Personally, I also prefer tight collars but maybe not as tight as you do. Recently, I wore a 2.5 inch high collar with a tailcoat and it looked great. I bought it in England at the Vintage Shirt Company. Where do you buy your collars?

          • Brad Ross
            Brad Ross says:

            The family-run company is called Can-America Shirts, on Pender Street in downtown Vancouver. FYI – Robert is the proprietor, and he will not do mail-order unless he has first done a personal fitting. I actually made my own collar template for the high-stand tab collar, and gave it to him to use for all my shirts.

  6. William C. B. Harrison
    William C. B. Harrison says:

    Very good article re: tie pins, bars, barbells etc. I once had a girlfriend to add the holes to a couple of shirt collars back in the 90′s when I wasn’t able to find the shirts. It’s a very distinctive look and adds to your individuality. Don’t you like to stand out and “raise your head above the
    crowd?!”

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