How to Match Your Shirt Collar to Your Tie Knot

If you're ready to build your new Fittery-inspired wardrobe, it's important to become familiar with the common types of shirt collars. Shirts with different collars tend to vary in style, popularity, and levels of dressiness. A knowledge of them can help you discover your own preferences and unique sense of style. Now, let's have a show of hands guys: how many of you have been sticking with the basic four-in-hand knot whenever you tie a tie? (This tends to be the only knot that most men reliably know how to tie. It's also the knot your mother used when she tied your tie for you before prom.) There's nothing wrong with using the four-in-hand knot, provided it goes with your collar. But tie knots vary in size, shape, and style for a reason--they're meant to go with different shirt collars. And trust me, matching the knot to the collar is important. Too small a knot, and you'll end up showing the neck of your tie; too large a knot, and your collar will be bunched and squashed. So, stretch your fingers and get ready to practice tying. Let's get knotty.

Button-down Collar

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First up, the button-down collar. Historically, the traditional Oxford button-down was a casual shirt that did not require a tie. However, more and more companies are making dressier versions of these shirts that are meant to be worn with a tie. You probably already have a few in your closet; they're popular among American brands. This collar is small and has a narrower opening, so a traditional four-in-hand knot will work just fine here. Thin ties will fit this collar well, but bow-ties tend to be too wide for this collar.

Straight or Point Collar

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The straight collar (also sometimes called the straight-point or classic collar) is pretty similar in width to the button-down collar, but its points extend down further. A four-in-hand knot also fits this collar well. While straight-collar shirts are formal dress-wear options, some fashion bloggers believe that this collar is stuffy and out-of-date. Shirts of this type are simply not trendy currently.

Spread Collar

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Now, the spread collar, as the name and above graphic suggest, is a wider collar than your normal button-down. Shirts with this type of collar have long been popular among classy men in England, and have come to represent a more modern sense of style in America. They come in a variety of sizes and point lengths, so you can pick shirts based on your preference.

Many dress shirts feature this collar, and as such they require a wider tie knot than what you're used to using. For this type of collar, you need to master at least a half-Windsor knot, but the widest versions will require a full Windsor. The half-Windsor is slightly asymmetrical, which creates a jaunty yet still elegant look. But, if you're seeking real sophistication, the full Windsor needs to become your best friend. Look at it. This knot radiates class. (Luckily, there are plenty of tutorials online to help you master it.) The spread collar is also the best collar for bow-ties, if you're a bow-tie man. (And why not? Bow-ties are cool.)

Semi-spread Collar

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The semi-spread collar acts as a sort of middle ground between the straight collar and full spread collar. Shirts with this type of collar are an effective safe zone for men of all kinds of neck and face types; they'll look good on just about anybody. They represent a more modern and versatile style option. This collar can be worn with thinner ties and a smaller tie knot like the half-Windsor or Shelby knot than a fuller spread collar. They're becoming more popular and trendy as alternative to more traditional styles, so plenty of brands will carry this option.

Cutaway Collar

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While other collars are meant to just slightly cover the edges of a tie knot, the cutaway collar is deliberately pulled back to show the whole knot, which means you need a wide knot like the Windsor, though a half-Windsor will do. This is the collar that you wear your nicest tie with, and you want to make sure your knot is as straight and neat as possible. Cutaway collars are bold fashion choices and add a rakish air to your outfit. However, shirts with this collar may not look as professional as the spread or semi-spread collar.

Tab Collar

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The tab collar has its roots in British fashion and is of a more formal, traditional style. Tab collars are also a bold choice that will make you stand out in a crowd, but may come off as too stuffy or formal for certain settings. This collar has a buttoned section in its opening that pushes a tie knot up and out to make it the focal point of your outfit. Again, this means you want to choose a nice tie and an attractive knot. (Remember how that Windsor knot is going to be your new best friend?)

Dress shirts with both the cutaway collar and tab collar are available but not necessarily required for your wardrobe. Wear each type of collar according to your personal sense of style and comfort level.

Club Collar

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And then there's the club collar. It's so named because these types of shirts were historically worn by high-class men when they visited exclusive English clubs. Today they can stand out in contrast to pointed shirt collars. However, in my opinion, the rounded edges of the collar give it a more casual feel, so while it might work for a casual group outing or even a day at the office, I don't recommend wearing club collar shirts to your next fancy dinner or gala. Club collars tend to be more narrow, so stick with the four-in-hand or half-Windsor for these collars. Since these shirts aren't traditionally worn with a suit, wear a shorter tie with them.