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A starched-stiff detachable wing collar from Luke Eyres.

A detachable collar is a shirt collar separate from the shirt, fastened to it by studs. The collar is usually made of a different fabric than the shirt, in which case it is virtually always white, and, being unattached to the shirt, can then be specially starched to a hard cardboard-like consistency.

History

Some believe that Hannah Lord Montague invented this collar in Troy, New York in 1827, after she snipped the collar off of one of her husband's shirts to wash it, and then sewed it back on.[1][2] The Rev. Ebenezar Brown, a businessman in town, proceeded to commercialize it. The manufacture of detachable collars and the associated shirts became a significant industry in Troy.

It was later that the benefit of being able to starch the collars became apparent, and for a short time, various other parts of the shirt, such as the front and cuffs, were also made detachable and treated to rigid stiffness. As comfort became more emphasised in clothing, this stopped, and the stiff collar is the last surviving use of such heavily starched cotton in daywear, while a full dress shirt (worn with white tie and occasionally black tie) still has a stiff, but attached, front and cuffs to accompany the stiff detachable collar.

Using a detachable collar

A pair of collar studs; the longer left one is the front stud

The collar is attached to the shirt by a pair of studs like those shown. The shirt has a tunic collar, a short upright band of fabric with a hole at the back and one on each side at the front. The stiff collar is attached at the back before the shirt is put on (and the tie placed under the collar for a turndown collar), then the shirt is put on, after which the front stud is pushed through the collar to fasten it.

Detachable collars are often used by barristers in the UK and Canada, many of whom wear a winged collar when in court, specifically Criminal Court, to allow the use of bands, however, on the way to and from court, a turndown collar and tie is worn. Another common use of detachable collars now is a clerical collar (or "Roman Collar"), though these are now often made from flexible plastic for ease of washing, and are not always now attached in the traditional way with studs. Also, at Eton College, all pupils wear stiff collars, mostly turndown collars, but students in positions of authority wear 'stick-ups', which includes a wing collar.[3]

Outside these situations, detachable collars are less common. Stiff collars in particular with daywear in the twenty-first century are generally rare, but if one is worn, it is usually a turndown collar, though morning dress is seen still with a wing collar. Older styles, such as the imperial collar (a high collar with no wings last worn by the Edwardians), are not now seen. A more common use of detachable collars is with eveningwear, in which case a high wing collar is worn.

To starch a collar, it must be rinsed in boiling water to remove any starch, then laundered as normal. After soaking in a concentrated warm starch solution, it is left until nearly dry, then ironed until hard. While ironing, the shape is added by curling, or using a collar press.

References

  1. ^ "A General History Of Detachable Collars On Custom Made Business And Formal Shirts". RavisTailor. http://www.ravistailor.com/customtailor/A_General_History_Of_Detachable_Collars_On_Custom_Made_Business_And_Formal_Shirts.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-09.  
  2. ^ A fictionalized account of this invention can be found in Grandfather Stories.
  3. ^ "Some notes on dress at Eton College". http://www.archivist.f2s.com/bsu/Miscellany/eton/eton-notes.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-09.  
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