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Dropping Knowledge: The "Club Collar"

By the editors of MSN Living Aug 13, 2012 10:18PM

Jake Gallagher, GQ Magazine

Ah, the 19th century: the era that sartorial dreams are made of. When men in passing called each other "sir," wore hats every day, and wouldn't be caught dead leaving the house in anything less than a three-piece suit. While some of us might yearn to go back to those days of universally smart style, they also posed a very specific problem for a certain illustrious institution.

England's Eton College has a longstanding tradition of having some of the best-dressed students in the world (recent grads include a couple chaps named Will and Harry). Yet, in the mid-19th century, the school was faced with a dilemma: If all the other boys were dressed just as well as their students, then how could they distinguish an Eton student from the rest? The school could easily have picked a signature color or pattern and gone with that, but they decided to get a little inventive instead. Using the classic point collar as their starting point, Eton rounded off the hard edges and shortened the width to create a new collar that was entirely unique to their students.

To non-Etonians, the collars were seen as something reserved for members of a private, unattainable club, leading to the semi-snarky moniker, "the club collar." It was this same attitude that led outsiders to begin donning the club collar in an attempt to mimic the elitism of the high-society Eton students. Once the club collar entered the mainstream, it swiftly picked up steam, posing a nice alternative to the inescapable point collar.

By the 1930s, the club collar had become the most popular design of the day, due largely to the fact that its small, rounded edges worked so well with the era's favorite accessory, the collar pin. As more formal attire lost favor, so did the club collar, until it all but disappeared. For all we know, the club collar could have remained a detail reserved for dandies, if it weren't for our reliable friend, the television. Recently, shows like Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men have inspired a slew of designers to revive the club collar in all of its rounded-edged glory. So while you might not live quite like Roger Sterling, you can now pick up his collar of choice at any price point. The ladies certainly seem to like it.

Jake Gallagher writes the blog Wax-Wane. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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