Here’s a topic that comes up occasionally, and some people have strong opinions about it while others can’t be bothered with it. Some believe that a shirt’s collar points must be hidden under the jacket’s lapels. Others accept that certain narrower collar designs will not be hidden under the lapels. I prefer the neatness of collar points that reach the lapels, but it’s ultimately a matter of taste if your collar points reach the fold of your lapels or not.
A spread, semi-spread or cutaway collar should always be designed in a way that ensures the collar points will be anchored against or tucked just under the jacket’s lapels. The body of the shirt should not show between the collar and the lapels. If the points of a spread, semi-spread or cutaway collar aren’t long enough to reach the lapels, they are too short and are likely to float away from the chest. Points that are too long will prevent the lapels from sitting flat on the chest.
Point collars, and related narrow collars like tab collars, pin collars and button-down collars, may or may not sit under the lapels because of their narrower spread angle between the points. The average point collar is designed to show the tips of the collar points. However, point collars with long points and/or a large tie space may have points that reach the lapels, if the jacket opening is small enough or if a waistcoat is worn. This is the case for all of George Lazenby’s and Roger Moore’s point collars. Such point collars have a neater look.
A smaller jacket opening, such as on a button-three jacket or a double-breasted jacket, means that the collar points can be shorter or spaced narrower than with a larger jacket opening so the collar points will meet the lapels. Likewise, a waistcoat creates a smaller opening for shorter collar points. Points that sit under a waistcoat will prevent the waistcoat from sitting flat on the body. Points that sit on top of a waistcoat look sloppy. With wider collar spreads, the point length needed to fill a deep jacket opening and to fill a high jacket opening or waistcoat opening becomes negligible.
This concept isn’t only applicable when the collar is worn fastened with a tie. Even when unbuttoned, the collar points need to be long enough that they don’t float away from the body if the collar isn’t a button-down collar. With a non-button-down collar, the collar points will rest against the fold of the jacket’s lapels, and the length is important to help them stay in place. The ideal point length can be determined by fastening the collar and seeing if the points reach the lapels, but this isn’t quite as important, and it may be irrelevant with a narrower collar.
Roger Moore’s shirtmaker Frank Foster considers the length of the collar points as they relate to the size of the jacket opening. This is easy to see in The Man with the Golden Gun, where the semi-spread collars have longer points with button-two single-breasted jackets to fill the larger opening and shorter points with double-breasted jackets to fill the smaller opening. There is fairly large difference in the length of the points: they are approximately 3 3/8 inches with single-breasted jackets and about 3 inches with double-breasted jackets. We don’t notice the difference because the shirt collars always fit perfectly with the jackets.
In real life, nobody needs to dress with this level of precision. That’s for costume designers to worry about. Dressing well is just as much art as it is science. This is merely a tool that can help us dress better, but we’d go mad if we were a slave to it.
Collar point length doesn’t only depend how it fits within the jacket’s opening. It should also be determined based on the height and spread of the collar, face and head size, neck length, overall body height, lapel width and gorge position. Dressing each person with their ideal collar design is an art and a matter of taste, not a mathematical calculation.