Whether you call it a collar stay, a collar stiffener, a collar bone or a collar tab, they’re often said to be an essential part of the standard formal shirt and dress shirt. Collar stays are a stiff strip made of rigid plastic, metal, mother of pearl other other materials that fit into a pocket sewn into the underside of a collar leaf that ensure the points of a collar stay straight and sit against the collarbone.
Without collar stays, the collar can often look flimsy and the points may float. But are they really necessary? James Bond has varied his use of them over the years.
About Collar Stays
Point, spread and cutaway collars almost always require collar stays. Stays not only ensure the points don’t lift or curl away from the collarbone, they also give these collars a more formal look.
Plastic collar stays come with most shirts, including high-end bespoke shirts. Plastic collar stays may not seem as fancy as metal or mother-of-pearl, but when made of a thick plastic they work effectively. Flimsy collar stays should be replaced as they won’t do a good job. But thicker plastic collar stays still have the advantage of being slightly flexible over the stiffest metal and mother-of-pearl stays, so they put less stress on the collar.
Collar stays usually come in different lengths to fit different collar point lengths. Frank Foster trim their plastic collar stays with scissors to perfectly fit each collar. Finding collar stays for collars with long points can be difficult.
Collar stays should always be removable. Sewn-in collar stays exist, but despite their convenience they should always be avoided. They can leave an imprint on the collar when ironed and can even make holes in the collar, and for this reason collar stays that can be removed should be when the shirt is laundered and ironed.
Collars that have visible methods of securing the points, such as button-down collars, tab collars and pin collars do not take collar stays, though some tab collars take stays to give them a stiffer and more formal look. Wing collars do not take stays, and rounded collars, such as club collars or rounded point collars, may or may not. These collars are starched to stay stiff, though rounded collars may also be worn unstarched with a pin.
Sports shirts often are meant to have soft collars and will not take collar stays.
Bond and Collar Stays
James Bond almost always wears collar stays, since he usually wears spread and point collars that usually need collar stays. Bond’s shirts typically have a formal look, and as a British military man he would generally prefer the crisp look of a collar with collar stays.
His English shirts from Turnbull & Asser and Frank Foster have collars with substantial sewn-in interfacings, and the stays complement their formal look. His continental shirts from Brioni and Tom Ford have fused interfacings, and the stays are necessary to keep the spread and point collars in place.
On occasion, Bond has worn shirts with button-down, tab and pinned collars, and these collars are typically meant to have a softer and less formal look.
Bond does not always wear collar stays in his spread collars. In most cases this can result in floating collar points, but in a well-constructed and a well-ironed collar, the points can still lay flat against the collarbone without stays. A collar without stays can be desirable for a softer, more relaxed look to pair with a sports coat or a flannel or linen suit rather than a stiff collar.
Bond forgoes collar stays in most of Diamonds Are Forever. Without stays, the unfused collars of his Turnbull & Asser shirts have a casual roll like a button-down collar. Occasionally the collar points lift off the collarbone, but for the most part the collars stay elegantly put. The relaxed look of these collars matches Sean Connery’s relaxed performance in the film. Some may say that both the collars and his performance have an aspect of carelessness.
Bond goes without collar stays in the ecru Frank Foster shirt that he wears with his hacking jacket in A View to a Kill. This shirt was likely worn without collar stays on purpose to give the shirt a sportier and more casual look. The collar does not look as neat, but that is the intention.
Bond does not wear stays in his Tom Ford shirts in Spectre. The fused collars still look fairly neat without the stays, but the collars have a relaxed look and don’t always stay put. When he’s wearing an unstructured linen, silk and wool-blend jacket from Brunello Cucinelli, the softer look of a collar without stays goes particularly well with it.
With Bond’s blue point-collar shirt in No Time to Die, the collar stays have returned.
Cary Grant famously wears a soft point collar without stays in North By Northwest, and he pulls off the look beautifully. He wears a collar that is sewn in a way to stay neat without stays.
Dare I say that going without collar stays is an expression of sprezzatura? It’s a subtle one, and some may find that it looks sloppy. But when worn with a sportier outfit this carelessness fits in. With a dressy worsted lounge suit it may be more difficult to pull off, but that isn’t to say that it can’t be done.
When wearing a collar open without a tie, collar stays can help the collar stand up better. It generally won’t help a non-button-down collar sit against the collarbone. Bond often wears stays in his collars when the collars are open, but it’s not so much of a necessity there.
Do you think collar stays should always be present in a collar with pockets for them, or it it okay to omit them?