Contrast collar shirt is a look that goes back to the time when shirt collars were separate from shirt bodies. Prior to 1920, if you owned a striped shirt body you probably didn’t own a matching collar and so you wore white. Today, the collar is sewn on. The collar should be spread and cuffs should be French and, while the cuffs don’t have to be white, I think the shirt looks better that way.
For some of us, the contrast collar dress shirt harkens back to the 80s—you know, the days of Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen in Wall Street, where white collars on a colored dress shirt equaled power broker. Later, not so powerful. But, it seems, the look is back—and gaining popularity both across the pond and in the good old US of A. How to wear it? Carefully, very carefully. No, seriously—just the way you’d wear any dress shirt, and don’t be afraid of pattern on the body of the shirt either. Your best tie bet? Something bold and and in a complimentary color —and the knot should be a thick one—like Prince Michael of Kent wears. Or Bill Clinton.
Many Contrast collar shirt began as conventional solids and stripes. Visible wear happens first at a shirt’s collars and cuffs and its just good sense to return them to the shirt maker for new ones. Since the fabric of a colored shirt will often not match the original bolt after fifty or a hundred launderings, the shirt maker replaces the worn collar with white. That’s how most of my Contrast collar shirt came about.
White collars on colored shirt bodies are not for the insecure. The combination is seen reasonably often in London and Manhattan but it’s a definite standout once you leave those islands of formality. Wear it with dark suits and discreet neckties. Plain white linen pocket squares pick up the white collar perfectly.
However, Contrast-collar shirts are occasionally made. In almost all cases, if there is a contrast collar it is a spread collar in white on a colored shirt. The shirt fabric is often an end-on-end or pinpoint fabric in which there are white threads along with colored threads. Contrast collar shirts are also often found as striped shirts where there is a white stripe in the shirt body. White collars on otherwise non-white shirts are an aesthetic reference to the mostly-obsolete detachable collars, which were made separately from shirts. White collars on non-white shirts are considered more formal than non-white shirts with matching collars.