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5 Essential Dress Shirt Collar Types and Styles

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close up of a man wearing navy plaid suit with white shirt and a red tie with text reading 5 Essential Dress Shirt Collar Types

Understanding The Different Shirt Collar Styles

When it comes to dress shirts, shirt collar types aren’t the most often talked about subject. They’re a diminutive part of the outfit that is rarely given a second thought. This might give you a reason to believe they can be safely ignored; you’d be wrong. Your shirt collar, more than just about any other part of your outfit, rests adjacent to your face and helps frame it. The collar is also the most visible part of your dress shirt when you have your suit jacket on. With all that attention, you’re going to want to get it right.

What could go wrong?  A collar that’s limp, unflattering to your face shape, poorly balanced by your tie knot, or so comically outsized it looks like it stepped straight out of the 70s. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to avoid these style mistakes. Below you’ll find the essential dress shirt collar types every man should know, plus tips for wearing them like you were born swaddled in an Oxford shirt.


The Shirt Collar Glossary

standard shirt collar illustrated in simple lines with dotted lines pointing to collar band, collar points, collar leaves, and the spread

Our deep-dive into the beating and impeccably starched heart of shirt collar styles starts with an anatomy lesson. Familiarize yourself with the following dress shirt collar terms:

Collar Leaves

The most visible part of a collar. The outside portion that folds over the collar band and comes into contact with your jacket or blazer.

Collar Band

The piece of fabric that wraps around the neck and anchors the collar leaves to the body of the shirt.

Collar Points

The tips of the collar that frame the tie knot. Collar points are available in a range of different lengths and styles.

Spread

The distance between the collar’s points. This varies widely between different shirt collar styles and creates the space used to accommodate your tie knot.


Face Shapes and Shirt Collar Types

If you know us, you know we’re not fans of blindly following fashion rules. Often, with some enduring exceptions, fashion rules are broken as quickly as they’re made (and those rulebreakers are often the best-dressed guys around). That said, we agree that some shirt collar types simply look better on some faces compared to others — face shapes, that is.  

Lest you undergo thousands of dollars in plastic surgery, the face you were born with is the face you’ve got, and that’s okay. However, there is an art to choosing your shirt collars according to what will be most flattering for your face shape. If you need to brush up on what your face looks like, get in front of a mirror and look at the length of your face, the widest part of your face and the shape of your jaw. The way these three areas come together determines your face shape:

person with blank, oval shaped face
Oval

Your face is longer than it is wide. Your cheekbones are the widest part of your face, with gently narrowing slopes towards your jaw and forehead. Your chin and jaw are rounded. Your face is evenly proportioned and lacks angular features.

person with blank, round shaped face
Round

The horizontal to vertical ratio of your face is roughly equal. Your cheeks are the widest part of your face. Your features are softer and rounded.

square shaped face with no facial features
Square

You have a strong, wide jaw with minimal curve at the chin. The widths of your forehead, cheekbones, and jaw are relatively equal. The vertical to horizontal proportion of your face is nearly one to one.

diamond shaped face with no facial features
Diamond

You have high cheekbones that are wider than both your forehead and your jawline. Your face narrows at the forehead and your chin comes to a strong, tapered point. Your bone structure is defined and angular.

oblong face with no facial features
Oblong/Rectangle

Your face is longer than it is wide with straight sides. Your forehead, cheekbones, and jaw are nearly the same widths. Your chin is only slightly curved. Oblong and rectangle faces are similar, though the oblong face is slightly less angled.

heart shaped face with no facial features
Heart/Inverted Triangle

Your face is widest at your forehead and slowly becomes more angled towards your jaw. Your chin is pointed. Heart and inverted triangle are used interchangeably to describe this face shape.


Matching Your Collar and Face Shape

crop of a man's head with curly hair and wearing a blue suit next to a folded white dress shirt on white background

So how does your face shape affect your shirt collar styles? It all comes down to the basic rule that opposites attract. The goal when styling your shirt collars to best match your face shape is to create a sense of balance between the two. This is done by using contrasting characteristics between your shirt collars and face — yes, contrasting. Too much of one quality will create an overwhelming unbalance that will constantly clash against the other — not a great outcome.

For example, a shorter and rounder face paired with a shirt collar that has elongated points and a narrow collar spread will work together to create an illusion that your face is slimmer.  On the other hand, faces that are narrower and feature a more pointed chin are flattered by shirt collars with larger spreads. The larger collar spread, with its horizontal attributes, makes a narrow jawline appear wider.

Of course, when in doubt, a classic semi-spread collar will work for most people. More on face shapes below.


The 5 Essential Shirt Collar Types

Collars come in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes. Ultimately, all that limits your shirt collar style is your tailor’s imagination and your own sartorial audacity. That being said, these are the dress shirt collar types you’re most likely to encounter in the wild.

Note: While there is a wide range of dress shirt collar types, in this article we touch upon the five we believe to be the most essential.

1. Point Collar

large panel showing a part of a shirt with point collar; smaller panels with oval, round, and square faces; a tie tied with four-in-hand method

Distinguishing Characteristics

The point collar is one of the most traditional styles. You’ll recognize it by the elongated collar point length and the narrower space between the points (which are often not covered by a jacket’s lapels).

Faces It Flatters

Point collars accentuate a vertical look and are best for those face shapes that need to avoid horizontal emphasis. So, the point collar point collars are the most flattering for the following face shapes:

Oval, Round, Square.

Tie-ing It Together

A thinner, slimmer knot like the four-in-hand is best as the tie needs to fill a smaller gap between collar points.

2. Spread Collar

large panel showing a part of a shirt with spread collar; smaller panels with oval, diamond, oblong, and heart faces; a tie tied with windsor knot

Distinguishing Characteristics

The spread collar, unlike its vertical brethren, has horizontal, angled points that often meet at a suit jackets lapels. The spread is typically wider than the point collar but significantly smaller than the cutaway collar (we’ll get to that one, too). In other words, it’s a safe, classic, middle-of-the-road approach that’s popular for those looking to wear a more horizontal collar.

Faces It Flatters

Because of its horizontal characteristics, spread collars are best for the following face shapes:

Oval, Diamond, Oblong, Heart.

Tie-ing It Together

Many tie knot styles work with a spread collar, however, unlike a point collar, the tie knots here must be thick enough to fill the wider gap from the spread; knots such as a half or full Windsor will fill the space nicely.  

3. Semi-Spread Collar

large panel showing a part of a shirt with semi-spread collar; smaller panels with oval, round, square, diamond, oblong, and heart shaped faces; a tie tied with four-in-hand knot and half-windsor knot

Distinguishing Characteristics

Close your eyes and imagine a dress shirt, and this is the shirt collar type you’ll probably think of. The Black Lapel approved semi-spread collar is the Goldilocks between the two already mentioned. It’s the shirt collar style that is a happy medium that exists at the halfway point between the spread collar and the point collar. The result is a vibe that’s fresher and more contemporary than the point collar, but not as flashy as a spread collar or cutaway collar.

Faces It Flatters

Its versatility in the middle ground of shirt collar styles means it fits quite possibly the largest range of face shapes, including:

Oval, Round, Square, Diamond, Oblong, Heart

Tie-ing It Together

As always, you have to pick a knot that will fit between the points. In this case, its middle-of-the-road spread width means it can accommodate the most variety of knots as well, anywhere from a four-in-hand to a full Windsor.

4. Button-Down Collar

large panel showing a part of a shirt with button down collar; smaller panels with oval, round, square, diamond, oblong, and heart shaped faces; a tie tied with half-windsor knot

Distinguishing Characteristics

The button-down collar is simply a collar with two buttons that fasten to the body of the shirt. Button-down collars are equipped with points that are long enough to “roll” gently when buttoned, which typically means they boast a medium-size collar and spread similar to that of a semi-spread, though there are additional styles that include shorter or longer collars.

Faces It Flatters

A button-down collar is another shirt collar type that treads the middle ground, and thus fits a wide range of face types.

Oval, Round, Square, Diamond, Oblong, Heart

Tie-ing it Together

Button-down collars work well with or without a tie. If neckwear is a must, choose a simple and unobtrusive knot that doesn’t compete with the buttons, and fits the bill as a medium-sized knot such as a half Windsor.

5. Cutaway Collar

arge panel showing a part of a shirt with cutaway collar; smaller panels with oval, diamond, oblong, and heart faces; a tie tied with trinity knot

Distinguishing Characteristics

The cutaway collar is a shirt collar type that men are probably the most unfamiliar with. We’re here to change that because this style offers the most unique aesthetic as compared to the other collar types. Cutaway collars are identified by its extreme horizontal spread. The points can open at a near 180-degree angle, and are significantly shorter than other collar types. This is a bold, modern style that adds a certain rakishness to your look.

Faces It Flatters

With its extreme horizontal guidelines, cutaway collars are the best fit for faces that want to detract from their vertical attributes, so the more narrow face shapes like:

Oval, Diamond, Oblong/Rectangle, Heart/Inverted Triangle

Tie-ing It Together

A large knot is a must. Whip out the biggest Windsor you can muster, or something fancy like an Eldredge or trinity knot.


Wanna Be a Baller, Shirt Collar

Whether your face is round, square, pointy or soft, we hope we’ve helped shed light on the sartorial importance your shirt collars play. And if you’ve been ignoring your shirt collars completely, it’s time to show them a little more love the next time you button-up.

As always, if you have any questions drop it in the comment below!

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