What are metal collar stays? - The battle of brass, steel and magnetic collar stays


 Plastic collar stay users not welcome.

Scroll to the bottom of the article for a summarised table of metals with their advantages and disadvantages.

What are metal collar stays?

This is quite a broad question, since there are many metals that can and have been used to make collar stays.

The major thing to keep in mind when it comes to metal collar stays is the malleability, thickness, weight, and aesthetics of the product.

Each of these small factors makes a major difference in the functionality of collar stays. 

Over the course of my obsession with collar stays, I’ve compiled a list of the most commonly used metals that I've found to be used in collar stay manufacturing:

  • Stainless Steel 
  • Ferritic Steel 
  • Gunmetal 
  • Brass 
  • Aluminium 
  • Sterling Silver
  • Gold

Why use metal collar stays?

The reason why you should be using metal instead of the plastic that comes stock with your shirts is because plastic's cheap, flimsy, brittle, and just overall terrible. We have a strict policy amongst other He.Stays users to never use plastic collar stays. They’re like a virus that you never want to catch. 

One of the major reasons why plastic collar stays are forbidden is because they are so light weight. If a light breeze finds its way to your collar, the plastic won't be heavy enough to keep your collars fixed down.

So, to answer the question:

"Are metal collar stays better than plastic?"

Absolutely, YES! Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

It'd be a shame for you to spend all this time looking sharp but not to utilise the beauty of metal collar stays.  

You're better than plastic...

Great! Now that we've covered plastic collar stays, let's continue...

Before we get down and dirty, take a look at this table that identifies the weight of metals compared to each other. I mentioned this on our super popular "Ultimate Guide to Collar Stays" post, and we're going to refer to it again. 

weight of metals table

The weight of your collar stays makes a significant difference to the way your shirt collar drapes. As mentioned before, lighter materials such as plastic (I think I just vomited a little) won't be heavy enough to sufficiently drape the collar.

We'll be referring to this metal weight table throughout this article. 

 

Stainless Steel Collar Stays

stainless steel collar stays from Calibre

Any kind of steel consists of iron and carbon. What differentiates between them is the amount of carbon and added alloys melded into the steel composition. The great thing about steel as a material used for collar stays is its rigidity, its ability to be engraved, and its possible magnetic properties. 

This can get very confusing when differentiating between steels and when choosing a media for collar stays. So I'll keep it as simple as possible.

According to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), steel can be categorised into 4 types.

  1. Carbon Steel - fences, bridges, and cast-iron pots
  2. Alloy Steel - pipelines, power generators, and electric motors
  3. Stainless Steel - cutlery, surgical equipment, and knives
  4. Tool Steel - wires, rods, and valves

When diving deeper, according to The Balance, there are three types of "stainless steel," which include austenitic, ferritic, and martensitic.

  1. Austenitic - industrial welding and non-magnetic
  2. Ferritic - kitchen sinks, cutlery and cooking utensils; magnetic
  3. Martensitic - surgical equipment and razors; magnetic

Stainless steel & Ferritic Stainless Steel

Ferritic magnets are classified by a low carbon content, including highly chromatic elements and high iron content, making them magnetic. 

If you're "stiiil" interested (*get it) in knowing everything about steel composition, check out the four-part blog series from Metal Supermarkets here.

To summarise, the best composition of steel to use would be ferritic/martensitic stainless steel, like the stainless steel you use for cutlery in your home.

The major thing to keep in mind between steel and stainless steel is the corrosion factor of steel as compared to the lack of corrosion experienced by stainless steel.

 

What are gunmetal collar stays?

gunmetal collar stays

Gunmetal, or as we like to call it, "fun-metal," is a metal alloy of copper, tin, and zinc. Since it contains alloy elements, it’s resistant to rain, steam, and salt water and is thus a very popular medium for statues.

As for its use as a collar stay, it may be covered quickly, because "gunmetal" is more used to describe a finish for collar stays rather than an element comprising their structure. They're on the heavier end of the spectrum, at 544.00lbs per cubic foot, which is similar to brass.

Gunmetal can be duplicated from regular mild steel and coated in nickel to make it look like real "red brass." Truth be told, the magnets that we used to use were nickel-plated, and we've since changed them due to their allergenic effects and rusting properties. Be sure to ask your vendor/seller the properties of the gunmetal to be sure it's the real deal. 

If it isn't the real deal, then you'll eventually find out in a month or two when your collar stays or magnets begin to rust and your skin begins to itch. 

Be weary.

 

What are brass collar stays?

Charles Tyrwhitt brass collar stays

Brass collar stays are the best alternative to stainless steel collar stays. They aren't as popular as other metal collar stays, due to their high malleability, but besides this minor inconvenience, they are a great vintage-looking metal compared to regular silver collar stays. I believe they don't get as much attention as they deserve.

vintage looking personalised brass collar stays

Brasses with higher concentrations of copper benefit from a natural protective oxide layer which is called a "patina." This is what makes brass a great metal for preventing corrosion. With that being said, however, besides the feature of a patina and corrosion prevention, brass still doesn't have as many benefits as its rival, stainless steel. 

I don't think you'll be needing non-rusting collar stays, as you won't be camping out or going deep-water diving with them. 

Additionally, brass is more malleable than stainless steel, but less so than aluminium. It stands in the middle ground which is both an advantage and disadvantage. The malleability is perfect for personalised hand-stamped engraving; however, if bent, it is difficult to restore to its initial straight state. 

Brass collar stays bending

The most popular and reliable source for purchasing a pair of brass collar stays is the reputable brand Charles Tyrwhitt. These collar stays are on the thinner side, so be sure not to bend them. 

 

Sterling silver & Gold Collar Stays

gold collar stays from Clay and Chloe

When it comes to "luxury", sterling silver and gold collar stays are your best choice. If you've been an early investor in Uber or Bitcoin and have made an absolute killing, why not spend the extra dollars on luxury collar stays so you can show off to your colleagues?

With reference to the metal weight table once again, sterling silver and gold are significantly heavier than others previously mentioned. Silver is 653.91lbs per cubic feet whilst gold is a staggering 1206.83lbs per cubic feet. 

What does this mean for your collars?

This means your collar will be in safe hands and your collars will stay down through the whole day if using sterling silver. The disadvantage of extremely heavy gold collar stays would be the lack of support provided by the shirt placket interfacing. 

This is what it looks like when using heavy collar stays with a shirt with poor placket interface support:

crushed shirt placket due to heavy collar stays

Your collars slide flaccidly, underneath your jacket lapel instead of erect and popped like below:

Daniel Craig erect collars

Ideally, you want a healthy medium between light and heavy metals when using collar stays. If you're here only as a functionality fiend, I'd suggest brass, stainless steel, or gunmetal collar stays. 

Gold is the least corrosive and non-reactive metal, meaning you won't need to worry about wear and tear. Sterling silver, on the other hand, will tarnish very slowly due to its copper content. This will take quite some time still compared to the longevity of other mentioned metals, such as steel or brass. 

 

Aluminium collar stays

Aluminium engraved collar stays

Aluminium is an extremely popular material for personalised collar stays due to its malleability, especially when making a physical impression through hand stamping. Now, I don't mean "hand stamping" like your son does when you deny him that ridiculously overpriced hot wheels toy for Christmas.

You'll get it for him, obviously... When it goes on sale...

I mean hand-stamping metals, like the lovely folk over at beaducation.com do with their custom jewellery. 

Referring to the table above once again, aluminium stays are some of the lightest in weight at 168.48lbs per cubic foot, which won't do much to keep your collar fixed. 

So if you're thinking of gifting a pair of metal collar stays, I'd suggest ensuring the material is a heavier one. Perhaps steel, sterling silver, brass, or magnetic collar stays.

Aluminium also has magnetic properties. So if you're a huge fan of not wearing ties and magnetic collar stays, then they're a great choice for material. 

 

Brushed Collar Stays?

brushed collar stays from OTAA

You may have wandered around shopping for collar stays and noticed some metal collar stays say they are brushed collar stays. Here's what "brushed" means.

According to Wikipedia;

It is produced by polishing the metal with a 120–180 grit belt or wheel then softening with an 80–120 grit greaseless compound or a medium non-woven abrasive belt or pad. Commonly brushed metals include stainless steel, aluminium and nickel.

You'll notice that brushed collar stays have an awesome clean finish with the stroke of the metal to only be in one direction.

Due to the smoothness and remaining lustre of the metal, they serve as awesome sleek collar stays. 

Check out The Brothers Of OTAA for some sleek brushed collar stays that come in gold, regular silver, and shining silver.

 

What are magnetic collar stays?

magnet inside shirt placement

These are the new chick on the block across the road from where you live. They're the attractive blonde European exchange student who's entered the classroom halfway through the semester to get the nerds to do her homework. 

Instead of the droopy shirt collar that plastic collar stays promote, magnetic collar stays hold down the tip of the collar to the shirt and keep it erect. Kind of like your button down collar shirts.

They're a combination of metal collar stays that hold magnetic properties and magnets that are placed underneath the shirt to keep the collar up. Most metal collar stays used in conjunction with magnets are likely to be ferritic stainless steel.

If you're new to magnetic collar stays and don't know how they work, take a look at our "how to video". 

 

Why use magnetic collar stays?

Here's the gist of magnetic collar stays.

before and after magnetic collar stays

Notice the droopy regular collar on the left with plastic collar stays inserted. In contrast, the collar on the right stays raised and elevated due to the magnet underneath.

magnetic collar stays erect collars under suit jacket lapels

They're also great for preventing your collar from sliding flat underneath your suit jacket lapel. 

 

In Summary - Are metal collar stays worth it?

Absolutely! They're way better than plastic, wood, and in my personal opinion, mother of pearl collar stays. 

For more on alternative non-metal collar stays, read our viral "Ultimate Guide to Collar Stays" article. 

What are the best metal collar stays?

To summarise this whole article, here's a cheeky little table we've cooked up showing the advantages and disadvantages of every kind of metal collar stay.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Stainless Steel (Ferritic/Martensitic)

  • Can be magnetic if ferritic/martensitic.
  • Rigid and low malleability.
  • Does not corrode.
  • Low maintenance metal.
  • If not "stainless", can rust due to elements

Gunmetal

  • Aesthetic lustrous finish.
  • Stiff and not malleable
  • Good middle weight for collar stays. Not too heavy nor light
  • Easily duplicable to not be real gunmetal collar stays

Brass

  • High copper contents develop corrosion-preventative characteristics.
  • Middle ground for malleability and rigidity. Thus, suitable for personal engraving
  • Malleability provokes accidental bending that's difficult to reverse

Sterling Silver & Gold

  • Luxury metal
  • Sterling silver acceptable weight
  • Gold unnecessarily heavy causing the shirt placket to collapse
  • Price point

Aluminium

  • Great malleability for personal engraving
  • Extreme malleability can bend collar stays to unrestorable state 
  • Lightweight, not sufficient enough to keep collar down

 

The answer to the question "What are the best metal collar stays?" depends on the dress code of your office. 

As much as it hurts to say, if your office still requires you to wear a tie, opt for heavier metal collar stays such as brass or mild/stainless steel. This will keep your collar tamed and sharp and you won't be needing magnetic collar stays until management decides to update their dress code.

However, many corporate offices are dropping their dress codes and neckwear is slowly being removed from daily wear (thank heavens). Magnetic collar stays are becoming a more popular men's accessory. We've found that this holds true especially for Australia and you can see our growing community and our mission on the About Page

If there's any metal collar stays that I've missed, do send me a personal email at norvin@hestays.com.

I'm more than happy to include it into this article, which we're constantly updating.

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