Let’s Talk About Collars and Cuffs – a Guide to Formal Shirts

Did you know that formal shirts were once an item of underwear? Yes, you read that right. Back in those dark ages of knights and castles, men would wear a long shirt under their doublet to keep warm – this has since evolved into the formal shirt we wear and love today.

Since then, there have been many variations of the shirt and selecting the right one can add individuality and character to your office attire. There are few rules when it comes to wearing a formal shirt but there are a few considerations to make when planning your outfit in advance.

From elegant to casual, choosing the right collar is crucial.

There are a few collar types you need to be aware of and consider dependent on the look you’re aiming for.  See Here>>

The Point Collar

Traditionally worn with a cut suit and small tie knot, this is the most popular collar type and found on most formal shirts. It’s a versatile collar that can work well in both formal and casual situations – ideal when you have a busy day of breakfast meetings, work and informal networking.

The Spread Collar


Also known as the Windsor collar, this collar type reveals more of the upper shirt and tie and comes in a variety of widths and angles. Due to the width of this collar, it’s rarely worn without a tie and is, therefore, most suited to a formal situation.

The Button-Down Collar

When a more casual appearance is called for, the button-down collar is the one to opt for. It’s the least formal of the three collar types and commonly worn without a tie, although you should ensure that the buttons are always fastened!

Did you know that the button-down collar was introduced by the Brooks Brothers in 1896 who based it around the sports shirts worn by polo players?

French cuff or cocktail? Shirt cuffs are another consideration when selecting a formal shirt.

The Button or Barrel Cuff

This is the most traditional and popular cuff type available, made up of a single cuff that wraps around the wrist and buttons into place. Can have square, round or angled corners and multiple buttons for that more formal look.

The Cocktail Cuff

Perhaps we should call this the ‘Connery Cuff’ as it was made famous by Sean Connery in Dr No. The cocktail or ‘turnback’ cuff is one of the least well-known cuff types but it is making a reappearance in fashion trends today. Essentially, it’s a double length barrel cuff that folds back on itself, but with rounded corners to prevent snagging.

The French Cuff

This is the classic shirt cuff and although essential for formal events, is perfectly acceptable for everyday use too. This cuff folds back around the wrist and is fastened by cufflinks rather than buttons.

A final word on shirt material and fit.

Traditionally made using different materials depending on the design and function of the shirt, broadcloth, poplin and twill are all popular fabrics. When opting for a more casual shirt, the Oxford is always popular and made with a thicker cloth.

You can visit our range of formal shirts for evening wear here where you can also check out our cufflinks for that extra special occasion.

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