The classic men’s cotton shirt has remained pretty unchanged for the best part of a century. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. And yet centuries are just specks of time, and if you hadn’t noticed, the world we live in is moving forward mightily quickly.
Maybe the hegemony of the shirt has caught creativity napping, especially in an age in which casualwear has been on an unstoppable march. If the defining design element of a shirt is its collar, and we have a plethora of styles to choose from, what if its evolution lies not in style, but in comfort?
Cue the dress polo shirt. Tapping into the tradition of shirt collar styles, while simultaneously adopting a much more comfort-oriented design approach, the dress polo – as the name suggests – combines the best aspects of both the dress shirt and the modern polo shirt.
It incorporates classic English spread and semi-spread collars, button-downs and cutaways which look and feel for all intents and purposes like dress shirt collars, but constructed in both short- and long-sleeve polo shirt silhouettes. The resulting garment offers the formality of a dress shirt with the sporty comfort of a fitted four-way-stretch polo.
The pioneers at the vanguard of this evolution are Collars & Co, who have crafted an eclectic range of luxury dress polo shirts, designed for the modern man who is not satisfied with an ill-fitting off-the-peg cotton shirt that clumsily gathers at the waist or restricts his movement.
In some professional environments, a polo shirt is simply too informal to pair with a suit, but the dress polo shirt completely negates that because all one sees with a jacket on, is a perfectly formed dress collar emerging from beneath the lapels. For someone who relies on being comfortable all day (that’s all of us), but perhaps needs to wear a tie to toe the company line, the dress collar polo shirt is a game changer.
New Yorkers Collars & Co have been the first movers on the dress collar polo shirt, and thus have mastered the style. With a vast collection of both plain and patterned options, including hound’s tooth, gingham, and checks, they have set the bar for quality, style, and comfort.
Small yet essential details such as a four-button elongated placket to ensure the polo shirt silhouette is disguised when wearing a quarter-zip jumper or buttoned blazer, really set Collars & Co apart.
The key difference between dress collar polo shirts and typical cotton piqué or woven polo shirts is, of course, the collar construction. Collar & Co’s shirts feature structured collars with built-in collar stays, rather than the soft rolled collar of the traditional polo shirt. This guarantees a formal finish at the neck, while providing supreme four-way stretch comfort and moisture-wicking technology below.
For anyone working in a fast-paced environment, or really long days, this is a no-brainer. Collar styles are eclectic too, with varying degrees of formality depending on the sartorial requirements of your day. These are the key four styles that bring stylish versatility to any man’s wardrobe…
One of the most versatile and widely worn collar styles, the semi-spread is a sartorial classic and perfect for everyday office wear. Slightly shorter and narrower than the English spread collar, it has the benefit of being able to be worn with or without a tie (and takes both four-in-hand and half Windsor knots really well).
Its natural stomping ground is being layered beneath a modern slim-cut suit jacket or blazer, but because of the collar dimensions, it all works really well worn beneath a crew-neck sweater or a half/quarter-zip for a more modern approach to business casual.
Collars & Co offer a vast array of short-sleeve styles in a variety of office-friendly pale hues, as well as bolder tone checks.
The button-down collar was actually the genesis for the modern polo shirt, which ironically no longer has buttons. British colonial officers playing polo while stationed in India were fed up with their large spread collars flapping in their faces while charging around on horseback, and so had buttons stitched on to keep them in check.
Today, it’s one of the more informal styles, and has come to be a motif of preppy, collegiate styling.
Collar & Co’s button-downs feature an elongated four-button placket, perfect to wear with tailored separates such as a navy blazer and khaki chinos for an elevated off-duty look.
One of the more distinctive collar styles, the cutaway is characterised by its very wide points, and is thought to have been invented by British tailors bored with the hegemony of narrow pointed collars, while also responding to the trend in larger tie knots.
Wherever it came from, it stayed, and now plays an important role in smart business dress.
Ironically, although it may have been created to accommodate large tie knots, it’s more often paired with smaller half-Windsors and four-in-hands these days, as if to accentuate the collar’s dimensions.
For those who prefer the feel of a long-sleeve shirt, or are likely to remove their jacket or sweater in the office and still want a really professional look without compromising on comfort, Collars & Co have created their semi-spread style in a long-sleeve version.
The most notable addition are the real dress cuffs, which provide that sliver or formality when peeping from a jacket sleeve, and look equally smart without the jacket.
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