The Importance of the Collar Stay

Posted on February 19, 2013 in Accessories, Dress, Fit Lesson, Office Wear, Shirts, Tips, Travel.

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.

Photo credit: Brooks Brothers.

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.

Photo credit: Indochino.

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).

Photo credit: Macys.

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.

7 Responses to “The Importance of the Collar Stay”

  1. kentyman says:

    Jos. A Bank has 28 collar stays in 3-4 different sizes for only $9. When they were running one of their crazy 70% off sales, I grabbed them for $2.70. They also sell brass stays.

    Then again, you can get plastic stays on Amazon for much, much cheaper.

    dappered.com swears by Würkin Stiffs, which are stainless steel collar stays with a magnet to keep the collar down. Though I would think you could “build your own” with these and these.

  2. mohammed says:

    Agreed. A bad collar looks terrible. They also helps the collar stay flat, instead of curve around your tie.

  3. Ward says:

    Is there any reason not to leave stays in a shirt all the time (except during laundering/pressing)—specifically, any reason not to have stays installed when a shirt is hanging in the closet?

    Seems like this would help the collar keep its shape between wearings and would avoid accidentally forgetting to install the stays before wearing the shirt.

  4. kentyman says:

    Ward, I take out collar stays when I put shirts in the laundry hamper, and put them back as I hang them up. The only time they shouldn’t be in your shirt is when they’re being washed or dried.

  5. CYH says:

    @Ward: Echoing kentyman, I don’t think there is a problem keeping them in your shirts long term. My issues is that I tend to forget to remove the stays before I get them laundered and my cleaner doesn’t return them when they drop off the clothes. One of the reasons I am hesitant about metal stays.

    I forgot to mention in the post that over time the plastic tends to warp and bend. Especially, if your cleaners does not remove the stays prior to pressing.

  6. GMP says:

    After you take the stays out of your shirt (before it goes to the cleaners) here’s a great product to help store, organize and find the right stay in seconds. Go to stayandgobinder.com to find out more…

  7. JeffreyK says:

    I wear collar stays with all my dress shirts and designer shirts. Plastic is the default but they tend to warp over time. Stainless steel is the gold standard these days and verzari.com makes some really good ones

What do you think?