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Uncomfortable, impractical and even downright dangerous: In praise of the starched collar.
18 Jan 2017
A man who generally favours buttons on his shirt cuff might sometimes opt for cuff-links. Similarly, fans of Anthony Powell who enjoy a button hole from time to time would probably consider a man who wears one all the time to be a bit ‘Widmerpool’. On occasion, however, one wants to make - if not an impression - then at least an effort. A wedding, perhaps, or a Christening. Or a duel with one’s father-in-law. On such occasions, we think there’s an argument for the starched collar. Fashionable at the end of the 19th century and invented to save gentlemen having to change their shirt every day (and their maids having to clean them), the starched collar is also known in German as a ‘Vatermörder’ or ‘father-killer’, since fathers (or, one might be forgiven for hoping, fathers-in-law) might toddle off to their clubs, punish the port as per, and then doze off in an armchair; the unforgiving collar would cut off the blood supply to the brain, rendering the issue of whether to choose swords or pistols somewhat moot. Aside from a tendency to kill, starched collars are also a bit fiddly, they make repositioning one’s tie knot all but impossible, and – like weddings and Christenings themselves – they’re generally expensive and rather inconvenient. They’re also, we’re pleased to report, experiencing a modest revival. Period dramas such as Downton Abbey and Peaky Blinders have helped revive the nobility or notoriety of the starched collar respectively. Perhaps this is why: Whatever one’s endeavour, whether it’s handing out race-cards at the church door, fomenting revolution or drawing a bead on one’s dear old pater-in-law, a starched collar unarguably lends an air of respectability to proceedings.