Collar stays – those little flimsy plastic pieces to go into the tip of your collar of your dress shirts aren’t just frivolous packaging that came with your shirt. They serve a very important purpose that isn’t at all dandyish – to keep your collar tips crisp and straight. Without them, the tips of your collar will start to do this upward bowing erection thing. Not cool.
I will admit to being tempted to nix the stays while wearing a shirt with a robust collar, only to find in the middle of the day it starts to bow upwards. Resist this temptation! Always, always put in stays. Additional benefits of the stay are when when you go sans-tie your collar won’t flop over, and when you do the shirt with sweater look it keeps the collar inside your sweater.
Even though they’re very important for you to not look stupid, the ones that come with the shirt are usually too flimsy to be used regularly. I don’t know why. The good news is that there are several inexpensive options to replace the original junky ones.
I tend towards the cheap and disposable because I inevitably lose them or don’t forget to remove them when having them laundered. Aside: your cleaner really should be removing your stays prior to pressing or they’re liable to melt it into your shirt. I have purchased several of the stays below from Brooks Brothers for only $9 online, and even cheaper if you have an outlet store. Advanced user note: quite a few airports have B Brothers now and they do carry stays.
You’ll notice there are 10 large collar stays. Since most modern shirts have collars that are slimmer than Brooks Brothers, their “large” stays are totally unusable. This is actually a great litmus test: if you are not a big and tall guy, and you can use one of their large (2.75″) stay without getting your neck stabbed then you probably have to upgrade your shirt. I tend to mostly use the small stays so I buy several of the vials at at time. P.S. I freaking love the vials but haven’t figured out what to do with them once I’ve lost all the stays.
Others will opt for the more durable option. I think this is fine if: you wear a dress shirt infrequently, need some added heft to weigh your collar down (say, while unbuttoned), or you are a responsible individual and don’t lose things all the time like me.
Indochino has a pair for only $9. Since they’re up to date on fashion, I would suspect their length is appropriate for most modern men’s shirts (the measurements aren’t online). Again, the only problem I foresee with these are losing them. I just did an Indochino purchase so will update once I have them in hand. Macy’s has several brass stays for $18 (no measurements though).
Bottom line: buy some stays and keep them on hand. Throw some in your dopp kit and in your car and you’ll be prepared for anything.