GQ’s Obsession With The Baby Collar and The Value of a Full Spread:
I have always questioned the logic and taste of stylists working in magazines. It seems as though they feature pieces that major designers push, regardless of appearance or details, and this is especially true when it comes to dress shirts. The main offender in this instance is GQ and its love affair with the baby point collar.
Without fail, Jim Nelson (EIC of GQ, pictured below) appears in every photo sporting a shirt with a tiny collar. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wear a spread that reaches under the lapels of his jacket. You might say that he wears the collar to appropriate the 1.5” width of his ties, but honestly, that’s another issue. If you’re the Editor in Chief of the world’s biggest menswear magazine, you should look like a man, and your collar should look like a man’s collar.
So what is technically wrong with a small collar?
There are a few things that a small collar accomplishes, and none of them are positive if you’re more than sixteen years old. Firstly, a baby collar takes years off your image, and that’s not in a good way. A smaller collar gives the impression that the wearer is young, a bit too young to be wearing a suit. The collar also makes your head appear much larger than the proportions of your body dictate, inspiring another characteristic of children.
A small collar also calls for a readjustment in proportion to your entire outfit. Primarily, a small collar needs a smaller tie knot; if you have a small opening between your collar points, a knot measuring more than an inch and a half can leave your neck looking constrained, drawing attention away from your face. Creating a need for a skinny tie is never a good thing, in my opinion, unless you’re headed to a Mad Men party or your pop-punk band’s first show outside of the garage.
When it comes down to it, the real problem I have with the baby collar is that it doesn’t rest under the lapels of a jacket, open or closed. In my book, if you can see the tips of your collar, you’re doing something wrong (unless we’re talking about a button-down collar). If your collar tips are showing, there are two unnecessary points of focus on your neck. taking away from the fluidity of your kit and highlighting the shirt as an individual piece, as opposed to a functioning part of a whole.
What it’s really all about is maintaing the image of your kit as an entire kit, not a bunch of singular pieces. When you look at an outfit, you want a sense of solidity and appropriateness in relation. If your shirt is standing out as a singular aspect, due to exposed collar points, that takes away from the seamlessness of your kit. The spread collar above remains nicely under the edges of my lapel, maintaining a fluid flow from tie to shirt, shirt to jacket, jacket to gillet. There is no interruption in that progression.
I buy my shirts with full spread and cutaway collars; I won’t buy a shirt that I am expecting to wear with a tie unless it will safely stay beneath my lapels when I am sitting, walking, or doing whatever the hell it is that I do. I own a few point collar shirts, but I wear them more casually, without a blazer. You can see, in the pictures above and below, that the tips of my collar are nowhere to be seen. The cutaway contrast and plaid collars and the spread blue striped collar achieve this qualification perfectly.
Some strict menswear aficionados will say that you should choose your collar solely on how it frames your face; Although that makes sense, I respectfully disagree. When choosing a shirt collar, the length and ability to nest under my blazer is the main priority. That being said, I think the full spread collar is the best option for the average man. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, Italian, or dramatic, go for a cutaway.
I will say that GQ is starting to do a better job, incorporating appropriate spreads into their editorials and features, and they aren’t the only offender in supporting the baby collar. There are plenty of magazines, blogs, and millions of people who promote and wear collars of underwhelming size. It’s an epidemic of massive proportions and little recognition. My only advice is this: the next time you go to buy a shirt, wear a jacket, respect your neck, and don’t buy a baby collar.