The collar isn’t a new idea in men’s clothing and has been a part of formal attire for centuries. The dress shirt collar evolved from necklines such as lapels and revers that are made from separate pieces of fabric. But today the modern collar is available in a host of shapes and sizes. Here we look at one of the modern variations, the tab collar. 

dress shirt collar styles tab collar

Describing a collar

When you hear an expert talk about collars, there are all sorts of terms they use. But as a shirt purchaser, only a few of these have any real relevance. These are the parts of the collar that help you choose the right style.

The band is the section of material that goes around the back of your neck and can either be permanently attached to the shirt or removable. At the front of the collar are the collar points, the sections of material that point down the front of the shirt. The distance between these is called the spread while the gap at the top of the point is called the tie space. The latter is the space available for the tie knot. The different types of collars have a different tie space and this is a large part of their differing styles.

Dress shirt collar types

The first type of collars were the classic straight point. As the name says, these collars had points that went almost straight downwards. This left only a small room of just over 2 inches for the tie knot.  But as styles changed, a wider knot came into fashion and therefore needed more room  This led to the spread or cut away styles  These had a wider gap between the collar points and more tie space.

This diversification of the collar also coincided with people realising that different collars suited different faces  For example, a rounded face is complemented by a classic point collar as this accentuates the good features and masks the bad  But for a slender faced man, a classic collar can make him appear gaunt. A spread collar however can add a little softness to his appearance.

Dress shirt collar styles - the tab collar

Somewhere along the line, a clever dressmaker happened across the idea of tab collars  These collars make use of a small tab that runs from the middle of each point  They fix behind the tie and kept in place with a hook and loop closure  This makes the tie move forward and upward and makes more elaborate knots look formal. It isn’t a collar style that works without a tie and does do a great job for men with longer than average neck lengths. The most famous person wearing dress shirts with a tab collar is James Bond, for example in latest Skyfall movie.

tab collar dress shirt james bond

A final adaptation to the tab collar was the pin collar. This uses a small decorative pin or bar in place of the tab to thrust the tie knot forwards. It adds a touch of decoration to the collar and also doesn’t work without a tie. But for those confident enough, it creates a dramatic appearance. Does this sound like you?