The Shirt Collar as a Frame

By Alan Flusser

Oscar Schoeffler, longtime fashion editor of Esquire magazine once warned: “Never underestimate the power of what you wear. After all, there is just a small bit of you sticking out at the collar and cuff. The rest of what the world sees is what you drape on your frame.” And charged with framing that part of you that sticks out the most is the dress shirt, and in particular its collar. Within the infinite permutations of angle, scale, and mass, no single article of apparel is better able to enhance that appendage of the body that should receive the most attention — the face — than the well-designed shirt collar.

This focal point of the tailored costume represents one of the most revealing gestures of a man’s personal style. All sophisticated dressers have arrived at one or more collar styles that best accentuate their unique features while managing to add a bit of dash along the way.

The well-balanced wardrobe pivots on a paradox: the more taste and imagination you put into it, the more subtle the results should be. Luxury dress shirts are a passel of fine points of precise proportion and practiced expertise that, by themselves, make it difficult for the uninitiated to appreciate their value or cost. However, put them all together and in the second skin-like personality of the genteel dress shirt and not only does such “swellegance” affect the hospitality of the wearer’s mind, but his consequent well-being often puts those around him in similar good cheer.   

This essay originally appeared in the Saks Fifth Avenue menswear magazine for Fall, 1998.