How It Should Fit: The Collar of a Men's Shirt


Neck and Neck

Topper says: “A gentleman is neither a turtle nor a walrus. The neck of his shirt therefore should avoid resembling a cavern that swallows his neck to the chin, leaving him looking like a nervous terrapin; nor should it be a tube of such tightness that the wearer’s neck and head appear to be bulging forward like a sea lion’s.”

Topper does enjoy a vivid turn of phrase. And while an ill-fitting collar may not always have quite such a spectacular impact, it is true beyond any doubt that the fit of the collar on a man’s shirt has long been important. This is not least because many factory-produced men’s shirt dimensions are governed principally by the size of the neck and length of the sleeve. In reality, these measurements are only a part - although an important one - of the whole story of a well fitting shirt.

As one of the pioneers of men’s big and tall shirts we at Westport Big & Tall know that more than 30 measurements actually go into a shirt’s specification. Knowing that, you see immediately that two measurements alone fall somewhat short of telling you if a shirt is really going to fit or not!

Still, we must concede that the collar of a shirt can make the entire look start off wrong if it’s not done well. Conversely, a shirt with the right fitting collar can add a touch of real class - or the impact of (a good) surprise - to an otherwise traditional suit. There are several kinds of collars to choose from, but there are really only a couple of ways that their fit can go wrong.

"The Loose Noose"

Help Me Topper: A closed, loose collar is hanging off the back of my neck and there is a noticeable yawning gap between the front of the neck and the necktie.

Topper’s Diagnosis: A collar that’s too large. (That's a cut to the chase! Helpful hint: we see this a lot when gentlemen shop traditional sizes instead of true big and tall clothing; either because they’re looking for more room in the chest and torso of the shirt, or because they’re trying to get maximum length in a size that doesn’t really fit.)

Topper’s Top Tips: Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that can be done to remedy this scenario, so you’ll have to figure out what your actual size is and then shop for clothes that fit properly. (Helpful hint: find your true dimensions with this big and tall size chart.

"The Neck Roll"

Help Me Topper: My neck, around the closed collar of the shirt, is squeezed upward, creating a “roll” above the top of the collar.

Topper’s Diagnosis: TThe collar size is too small. (Well, you did ask!)

Topper’s Top Tip: Fortunately, you have the option of unbuttoning the collar here. Unfortunately, it’s not always casual Friday and it may not be appropriate to do so. The best solution is to take a tape measure and get an accurate reading of your neck size. Then use the correct measurement to help find shirts that fit you properly everywhere - and not just in the neck area.

"The Cousteau"

Help Me Topper: My unbuttoned collar or v-neck plunges to the depths of my belly, revealing a lot of ‘wildlife.’

Topper’s Diagnosis: You clearly possess an abundance of confidence, for one. Going ‘bear chested’ is not always advisable, even when you’re in the woods. But this plunge into the lower depths usually means that the shirt wasn’t built for your body type. The buttons aren’t allowing you to find the right level of exposure, neither too coy nor too full on.

Topper’s Top Tip: You can button up, but that may look a different kind of wrong. Or you could do nothing, brave fellow. Alternatively, how about finding big and tall shirts that offer the option of your top button resting where it should. Now wouldn’t that make everything a lot easier? (Hint: your top button should be about two inches from your collarbone.)

"The Un-Ordained"

Help Me Topper: Fully-buttoned casual shirts or sport shirts without ties always make me look just that shade awkward. I feel “square” and I think I might be mistaken for a member of the clergy from a distance.

Topper’s Diagnosis: The shirt wasn’t meant to be buttoned all of the way up, or the wearer simply isn’t comfortable with an unbuttoned collar. (You didn't state whether you are a member of the clergy, by the way.)

Topper’s Top Tip: If you insist on buttoning all the way up, find some casual big and tall ties to wear with the shirts you like. The easier – and dare we say, more comfortable – option would be to take the plunge and let loose the top-most button on the shirt. No disasters will ensue, promise.

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