What’s the deal with collar pins?

20 April 2017

"The collar pin can add a traditional touch to an otherwise modern look."

Thanks to period dramas like Mad Men, Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire, today’s men have developed a healthy obsession with classic style. Pocket squares have seen a resurgence in popularity. White dinner jackets have started taking over red carpets. Men everywhere have shifted their wardrobes to look like Don Draper. However, one classic touchpoint with less fanfare is the collar pin. What are they and what purpose do they serve? Are they intended for one-time use or can they be worked into everyday style?

Collar pins were first designed to hold the two ends of dress shirts together. There are three types available. One version consists of a bar that slides through the eyelets of the shirt collar. The ends can be screwed on or off to hold or adjust the bar. The second type more closely resembles a safety pin. The third is a bar with clips on both ends that latch onto the collar.

Despite the collar pin’s function, it’s intended as more of a jewellery piece. It reached peak popularity in the early 1900s. Since then, it has been shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding.

The good news is that there are still some great choices available for men interested in wearing collar pins. Luxurious gold and silver options with novelty designs on the screws are a hot buy. However, unlike suiting accessories such as tie bars or cuff links, collar pins don’t work into your wardrobe as easily.

Ideally, a collar pin should be worn with a dress shirt that has a pinned collar. A pinned collar is one which has pre-fabricated holes where the collar pin would be inserted. Most men’s dress shirts have collars that are hole-free. Some shirts have button-down collars, but these tend to be more casual.

The collar pin can add a traditional touch to an otherwise modern look. However, this isn’t a style move that can be pulled off spontaneously. It requires planning, and for that reason, it continues to be a favourite of dandies, cosplayers and hipsters. Collar pins aren’t an everyday style move. They’re reserved for very special occasions.

GQ UK’s fashion director Robert Johnston says collar pins “make me think of people who drink cups of tea with a ‘politely’ crooked pinkie”. As evidenced by his take on the jewellery piece, they’re perceived as unnecessarily formal. If you’re interested in wearing collar pins, you should indulge. Just know that this is an accessory intended for very special and limited events.

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