What Are Collar Stays? - The Ultimate Collar Stays Guide
Your go-to source for everything collar stays related.
All the information you need to learn on what collar stays are, the importance of your shirt collar to your image and how to keep that darn collar looking sharp.
Note: There are no affiliate links in this post. The following references are all my own personal opinion.
Thinking about grabbing a new set of collar stays? You've come to the right place, my friend.
Men’s fashion has never been more exciting than it is today. The workplace, as it becomes more casual and less restricted, has allowed the traditional suit-and-tie ensemble to expand, giving men the freedom to wear what makes them feel most professional, no longer forced to adhere to strictly enforced workplace dress codes like drones.
You may be skeptical of men’s fashion altogether – there is certainly a limit where it may seem like simple vanity. But there is something to be said for feeling good about the way you look. There is something to be said for attention to detail. And there is something to be said for professionalism.
Taking care of one’s appearance is healthy, hygienic, and part of what makes us stand out, both in our work and our recreation. Part of this is what we wear. The simple collared shirt is likely the single most well-recognized symbol of professionalism there is – second, perhaps, only to the full suit and tie, but as has already been mentioned, this is becoming more of a symbol of the past.
The focal point of any collared shirt is, of course, the collar! So, what separates the men from the boys when it comes to the collar? Two things: stiffness and sharpness. Keeping those collars looking starched is what differentiates the slick from the slob. But we don’t starch our shirts anymore – instead, we use collar stays.
While they're mostly known as "collar stays," they can otherwise be called collar stiffeners, collar bones, collar tabs, collar sticks, or collar holders.
Their primary function is to keep the collar weighted and sharp to prevent curling. It's never been easier to spot someone who doesn't care about their image: simply identify the prominent curl on their shirt collar.
Collar stays come in many different shapes and forms. You'll most often see collar stays between sizes of 54mm to 64mm. For significantly large collars, they can reach lengths up to 75mm.
History & Importance Of Shirt Collars
Collar stays are a necessary accessory due to the prominent display of the collar when a collared shirt is worn with other garments. In earlier days (i.e., the late 19th century), everyday clothing included a waist coat, a white dress shirt, some sort of neckwear, trousers, a hat, and leather dress shoes.
Back then, clothes weren't washed as frequently as they are today, often waiting more than a week or more before being cleaned (yuck!). Because the white shirt collar and cuff were the most exposed pieces of attire, they frequently became dirty and dishevelled. Thus, collars and cuffs were made detachable so that they could be rotated for clean ones.
Shirts were always starched to have a solid standing collar and to minimize wrinkling. As time passed, starched shirts were reserved for more formal occasions. Hence, the collar stiffener was invented to maintain the same sharp collar that regularly starching a shirt provided.
Function of Shirt Collars Today
There are still valid reasons for the shirt collar to exist on dress shirts today. They're used to balance the shape of the wearer's face. Even though we're often garbed in shirt collars without a tie and with the top button of the shirt undone, the same principles apply.
Do you have an oval- or circular-shaped face?
Put simply, the rounder your face, the tighter the spread and longer the points of your collar should be. For those with longer, oval faces, for instance, the collar spread should be wider.
Here's a diagram found on The Parisian Gentleman blog showing every type of shirt collar that you should know about.
D'marge goes in-depth with their article, "how to choose the correct dress shirt collar". I highly recommend you read this to understand how the shirt collar can make such a big difference to your appearance.
The only kind of shirt collar I would avoid is the "extreme cutaway." Why? Because extreme cutaway collar dress shirts are specifically made for wearing neckwear with a large knot. They look great with a full windsor, but if worn without a tie, the collars feel like they're somehow reaching all the way to the back of your neck.
Here's a better example of a regular cutaway collar done right from StyleForum.
The bottom line is that having a curled shirt collar does nothing to accent the shape of your face and is detrimental to your appearance.
This is why collar stays are such a small detail that makes an enormous difference.
Collar Stays - Shapes & Designs
Typically, there are two types of points for collar stays: one with a "round finish" and one with a "sharp-pointed finish," with a few exaggerated variations of these two also available.
Here are a number of the variations:
The biggest difference between them is that sharp-pointed collar stays fill pointed shirt collars more effectively. You'll often see dress collars that curl only at the point of the collar (image below courtesy of MALEFASHIONADVICE Reddit).
This may occur due to a few reasons.
- You aren't wearing collar stays at all
- You are using worn and flimsy plastic collar stays that don't work
- You're using heavily round-finished collar stays
Try to avoid heavily rounded collar stays such as the one above, as they fail to fully cover the corner of your collar point.
Types of Collar Stays
There are a ton of different materials used to create collar stiffeners. Here are all the popular ones that I've discovered.
Unfortunately, Australia isn't the best place to find novelty collar stays. I've done my best to ensure the following links are Australia-based. So if you're wondering where to get collar stays in Australia, I've you covered.
There’s nothing new or special about plastic collar stays. When you first purchase a new collared shirt, chances are that it will contain plastic collar stays. They're the most value-friendly alternative, but they tend to become flimsy and bend after only a few uses.
At He.Stays, we don't recommend these at all, and forbid anyone on the team to be within a 5 meter radius of them.
If you can find any staff members willing to sell them, they retail for $9.95AUD at David Jones.
The next tier above plastic is metal. Stainless steel makes a great choice as it’s both affordable, long-lasting, and all-in-all the best bang for your buck.
Compared to the inferior plastic variety, stainless collar stays don't bend or snap unless you apply a lot of force. Another major highlight is their rust resistance – they are stainless, after all. The only downsides of these are possible scratches on the surface due to the manufacturing process and metal detectors at the airport.
However, if the collar stay is designed to be small enough to contain the same metal as a wedding ring, it can pass through metal detectors without beeping.
He.Stays are stainless steel and come in a set of three: 56mm, 64mm and 70mm, and they include a pair of magnets for each set. If you want a cheaper, lower-quality alternative, you can find them anywhere on eBay for around $3AUD.
Most of our readership reside in Australia so I thought I'd add a great place to purchase some metal collar stays at your local David Jones store. The brand is London owned "Simon Carter" and have been stocked in David Jones for quite some time.
The collar stays have the "Simon Carter" brand logo and a signature geometric pattern on the other side. Definitely a winner as a gift.
A heavier material for collar stays is brass; however, you’ll need to be careful as they're slightly more malleable. Since steel is generally cheaper to make and less supple, most people prefer steel over brass.
There are two advantages that brass has over regular steel.
Firstly, they're a tad heavier than steel to keep your collar even more weighted (doesn't make a huge difference). Secondly, compared to regular steel (not to be confused with "stainless steel"), they have less chance to rust, as they're a copper-zinc alloy, whereas steel is an alloy of iron.
So if you expect to be wearing your collared shirts outdoors a great deal or leaving them outside, then I'd advise you get brass collar stays.
Charles Tyrwhitt sell an awesome pair of brass collar stays for $10.00AUD here.
Bone Collar Stays & Mother Of Pearl
Bone and mother of pearl collar stays meet at the midway point of rigidity between malleable plastic and solid steel.
Due to how thin collar stays are, and the fragility of both bone and mother of pearl, stays of this variety are very easily snapped. Unlike the flimsiness of plastic, they tend to snap in half, which leaves you with lopsided shirt collars.
Despite their high susceptibility to snapping, they're still a luxurious choice.
You can grab a pair of bone collar stays from The Hanger Project.
For a luxurious mother of pearl pair with 0.01ct black diamonds for $100AUD, visit Australian jeweller Kailis.
Sterling Silver & Gold
Get ready for the high rollers. These are for those with a little extra coin in their pockets.
In terms of functionality, there aren't any benefits to wearing sterling silver or gold collar stays. It's purely luxurious and for those who like to take their collar stays to the next level.
Using silver or gold collar stays is like driving a Lambo to work. There really isn't any need for it. But if there were ever an opportunity to take them out from your collar and show them off, they'd certainly be turning heads.
For a luxurious pair of 14k gold filled collar stays, I recommend Clay & Chloe Jewellers for $160USD.
For a beautiful pair of sterling silver collar stays, you can get them at Blue Nile for $120AUD.
Novelty Collar Stays
Tiffany & Co. - Luxury Branded Collar Stays
There isn’t anything particularly special about Tiffany & Co. collar stays, except for the fact that they're inscribed with their own brand logo. If you're a huge fan of the brand and want luxury items that not everyone will see, then these collar stays are for you.
They come at the very expensive price of $165AUD.
StampedOn - Personalised Collar Stays
As long as your collar stays aren't like the flimsy cheap crap that you get when you first purchase your shirt, I love hand-stamped collar stays. Especially if they've got a thoughtful message that you can read every time you slide them into your collar pockets in the morning.
These personalised collar stays from StampedOn are awesome since you can customise them letter by letter. They're much better than regular, laser-engraved collar stays since there's a real, physical impression made that is harder to wear down over time and with use. The only downside is that they only come in one size - 70mm - which is relatively larger than most shirts nowadays, which typically range from 56mm - 64mm.
They come at a great price of $45AUD.
Woodchuck - Wooden Collar Stays
You've probably never heard of wood being used for collar stays, but when they were first invented, wood was the go-to material.
The disadvantage of these is similar to that of bone and mother of pearl stiffeners. Due to the nature of wood, if bent too far, it can be made to snap. Another disadvantage is that wood isn't as dense or heavy as metal. This causes the collar to remain sharp but still easily flop around, as it isn't weighed down by the wood.
The guys over at Woodchuck actually provide fully customisable collar stays. Simply send them a design and their team will bring your very own designer wooden collar stay to life. It's almost like a tattoo and is a mark of individuality designed especially for your collar. This makes Woodchuck a distinct standout.
You can get your wooden collar stay masterpiece made for only $34USD here.
Cleverfit - Adjustable Collar Stays
For those who have shirts that significantly vary in collar length (for example, regular dress collars to long spear point collars), the Cleverfit adjustable collar stay would be exactly what you need. The Cleverfit is actually an awesome concept.
It started with engineer and entrepreneur Sherif spilling his "inferior plastic collar stays" on the floor and having an "aha!" moment. He engineered his prototype to fit virtually every shirt collar. I'd recommend Cleverfit if you still wear a tie to your job.
They come at the very affordable price of $29.95USD
Exuvius - Titan Multi-tool Collar Stays $50USD ($62.00AUD)
These bad boys are pretty cool. If you're a secret agent like James Bond or a Kingsman, then you need to have these handy underneath your collar.
- 51mm & 64mm
- Half-Phillips & slotted screwdriver
- Thread cutter
- Bottle opener
- Keychain hole
- Mini ruler (Metric measurements)
Besides these small nifty features, these are like any other metal collar stays on the market. Pretty cool, right? They can be purchased for the relatively expensive price of $50USD ($62AUD).
Million Dollar Collar - Placket Stays
I know what you're about to say, "these aren't bloody collar stays!" That's right, they aren't. But I seriously have to include these bad boys on this list. The founder, Rob Kessler, is a genius and was sick of experiencing what he called "placketitis." Especially during the day of his wedding!
It works by taking his device to one of many tailors so that they can stitch it into the placket of your shirt. This enables the placket of your shirt to remain stiff when not wearing a tie. Genius!
Pair the Million Dollar Collar with He.Stays magnetic collar stays, and you're on your way to taking over the world as the sharpest-dressed man in history.
Stiff Collar Stay - Collar Shaper
This gadget is super cool. It's a bit chunkier than other alternatives, but to each their own. The way that the "stiff collar stay" works is by placing it round and underneath your unfolded collar. Once this is done, simply fold your collar over the device and the instrument is super malleable for you to adjust your collar to any shape you want.
Although it looks like a genius idea, I'm curious whether the legs that are used to support the collar will stay up through the whole day and won't uncomfortably move around. Considering the device would be used to keep the collar fixed, I feel that it would be uncomfortable to wear and could inhibit head rotation.
This is definitely going in my shopping bag, though, as for only $19.99USD (25.03AUD) it’s worth it to see if it lives up to it's hype.
He.Stays - Magnetic Collar Stays
I haven't included our He.Stays on this list just to brag. Our readers have asked why we'd include so many of our competitors. The reason why is because I sincerely believe that He.Stays are the number one solution to keeping shirt collars stiff, and ultimately, the direction in which men's corporate wear is headed. The direction of "men no longer wearing ties to the office due to a more relaxed dress code."
The unique features of our He.Stays, compared to most other collar stays, include our magnets that are paired with the collar stays. The collar stays are actually made of ferritic stainless steel, meaning they contain a higher concentration of iron, making them more magnetic. The neodymium magnets paired to them are placed underneath the shirt to fix the collar stay down. This makes the collar sharp without needing a tie.
They come at an affordable to $34.99AUD for three pairs of different sizes (56mm, 64mm, 70mm).
At the end of the day, your choice of collar stays totally depends on the needs of your shirt collars and your uses for it. If your office is like ours, and like most of the rest of the corporate world where ties have been thrown in the trash, then He.Stays magnetic collar stays are a must.
If your office is traditional, where you'd lose your job if you failed to come to work wearing any kind of neckwear, then maybe CleverFit's adjustable collar stay would be right for you.
If you're a secret government spy on life-threatening impossible missions, then the Exuvius multi-purpose collar stay may be your best pick.
And if you're just looking for a luxurious option that turns heads, sterling silver or gold may be it. If you already own a Lamborghini, then why not?
Raising The Collar Standard,