What Are Collar Stays?
Collar stays are intrinsically tied to the story of men's fashion and they possess a vast heritage that has benefited our dress shirts for over a century. Not quite as showy as lapel pins, nor as ornamental as cufflinks; collar stays are one of the accessories that do the hard work behind the scenes: they anchor your shirt collar down.
History of Collar Stays
Initially invented in 1908, collar stays replaced the ever-popular detachable collar that was invented in the 18th century. After having enjoyed a couple of centuries of success, the detachable collar phased out in the 20th century due to being "too rigid" for the evolving public.
Collar stays quickly shot to global popularity for their convenience and compactness. Collar stays received a rapid evolution in each decade of the 20th century, having been initially adapted from "collar supporters" that were invented by Nettie Illoway in 1908. The first time "collar stay" was ever used as a term was by Andrew Doric Charles in 1953. He finally came up with the sleek invention we're still using today.
In the 21st century, collar stays are still present but they can sometimes be forgotten in the convoluted landscape of men's accessories. With cufflinks, tie bars, lapel pins and collar bars all at their prime and competing for attention; collar stays are seen as just another accessory added to the list. They still do the hard yards in making your collar look sharp and sturdy.
What Collar Stays Do
Collar stays come in pairs of weighted material that insert into the seams of your dress shirt collar. By adding weight to the front portion of your collar, they help to keep it flat lined, sturdy and in-place during wear. People opt to wear collar stays because they give shirt collars a stronger, sharper and more distinct appearance and they stop them from curling up throughout the day.
Types of Collar Stays
Most types of collar stays are sold independently from dress shirts; meaning most shirts don't come with them. Although they're an extra add on that you have to buy separately, their benefit is that you can insert them into any dress shirt you own, meaning they have flexibility. These are sold in pairs always (as your collar has two sides) and they can be inserted into and extracted from your collar whenever you wish.
Some pricier dress shirts will come with the collar stays sewn-in. Although this poses an obvious convenience, it also amps up the price of the shirt and decreases flexibility. Essentially, it means you can't take them out and put them into another shirt. However, if you don't mind paying a few extra dollars and you're happy for them to be fixed-in to a particular shirt, then sewn-in collar stays may be the way to go.
How to Wear Collar Stays
If your collar stays aren't sewn-in, you'll need to know how to wear them properly. Most collar stays will come with one end narrower than the other so that you can feed them through the fabric more easily. The narrow end of the collar stay is the side you'll slide into your collar first.
Collar Stay Materials
Collar stays are sold in a variety of materials so there's a considerable disparity in quality and cost. Choosing the right pair of collar stays for you will come down to your values; wallet-friendly or effective.
Plastic Collar Stays
Essentially the most abundant and easy-to-find collar stays are the plastic collar stays. They're easy on the wallet and they can be purchased in large quantities, so if you happen to lose one, it's not difficult to be replaced. This is the most common type of collar stay you'll find sewn-in to dress shirts. The downfall of plastic collar stays is that they're less heavy than other materials which inherently means they're not quite as effective. They'll stop your collar from blowing around in the wind but they'll do only a basic job in keeping your collar flat lined and sturdy.
Gold Collar Stays
On the opposite side of the spectrum are gold collar stays, which will easily set you back upwards of $500. For the more showy personality who doesn't mind splashing a dime, gold collar stays make a good heirloom to pass down your family tree. Just be made aware that because collar stays aren't visible to the naked eye when being worn they can be seen as a bit exorbitant.
Metal Collar Stays
Cost effective and functional; metal collar stays are a superb marriage of being practical and wallet friendly at the same time. Stainless steel, rhodium and brass are all popular metal types for collar stays and they offer a superbly weighty feel. This means they do their job without the high price tag.