Along with things like cufflinks, a collar clip is one of a small handful of men’s jewelry items that can be worn to add a bit of visual interest while still remaining true to classic men’s style. But where cufflinks, pocket squares, neckties, and other items are commonly worn by many well-dressed men, a collar clip is something that you’re not going to see quite as often. So if you know how to wear one, well, you’ll truly be able to stand out from the crowd.
Even if you’ve never worn them yourself, you may still be familiar with them, of course. If you’ve watched stylish TV shows like Mad Men or Boardwalk Empire, for example, you’ll see that many men wore collar jewelry to accentuate their tie knots and give a special extra bit of panache. So, to emulate those earlier styles or just add a bit of extra flair to your more modern outfits, read on to learn about how to wear collar clips well.
The characters of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire frequently sport collar clips.
Collar Jewelry: Pin vs Bar vs Clip
When selecting a collar clip, there are a few initial considerations that you’ll want to keep in mind. The first of these is whether it’s actually a collar clip that you’d like to wear, rather than a collar bar or collar pin. Let’s go over the characteristics of each of these styles, then, so you’ll know how to tell them apart.
As men were moving away from stiff detachable collars to softer turndown collars at the beginning of the 20th century, collar accessories came into fashion–and the most popular of these in the 1910s was the collar pin.
As the name suggests, it has a pointed tip; it’s similar in shape and construction to a large safety pin, and it’s worn by piercing through the collar of the shirt. Be aware that with repeated use and especially with finer fabric weaves, a collar pin may damage your collars over time but when used in moderation and with proper laundering, your collars should be just fine. At Fort Belvedere, we designed collar pins that are especially thin in diameter to make for minimal damage to shirt collars. They’re available in both silver and gold finishes.
The collar bar has an end cap that unscrews. The bar is put through specialty holes in the shirt collar and then the end cap is re-fastened. This end cap can be round (so that the collar bar looks like a miniature barbell), but it can also come in a variety of other shapes, including a cube. Fort Belvedere currently offers collar bars in both yellow gold and silver, with ends that are spherical, cubical, and hexagonally prismatic.
Keep in mind that a collar bar can only be worn with specially constructed shirts that have pre-made holes in the collar. Because of this, it’s the least versatile option, but it’s also the most formal.
First invented in 1921, the collar clip (also historically called a “collar grip”) experienced widespread popularity throughout the rest of that decade, as well as sporadically thereafter (including the early 1950s). It is a piece of metal that uses tension to stay in place on the points of the collar. It can either be a solid piece with bifurcated ends that separate and pinch together, or it can have hinged clamps at each end.
This vintage collar clip has bifurcated ends that hold the collar using tension.
Collar clips are typically going to be the least secure of the three collar jewelry options, because they’re the least firmly attached. They might come undone from one side of your collar if you’re not paying attention, or they might even come off entirely. On the other hand, the collar clip is clearly the most versatile option, as you don’t have to find a specialty shirt with holes in the collar, and you also won’t have a risk of damage to your collar as you would with a collar pin.
As you might expect, our Fort Belvedere collar clips are designed to hold firm on your collar, and they’ve been rigorously tested to ensure this. Our models come with hinged clamps and they’re available in silver, yellow gold, and rose gold finishes to harmonize with your other accessories, such as Fort Belvedere cufflinks, for example. Collar bars are naturally going to sit straight on your collar due to the design of the shirt collar itself, but with collar pins and collar clips, you’ll want to take an extra moment to ensure that the accessory is sitting straight. In contrast to something like a tie bar, where a slight angle can give a dash of sprezzatura, a crooked collar clip is going to look decidedly un-stylish.
Always make sure that your collar clip is sitting straight
How Should You Choose A Collar Clip?
For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to use the term “collar clip” most often throughout the rest of the article, but keep in mind that most of this advice can be applied to all three styles.
Color and Finish
After you’ve decided what type of collar jewelry you’d like to wear, your next consideration should probably be the color of the metal. You’re most often going to have the choice of silver or gold (either yellow gold or rose gold), but you could also consider things like a brushed versus a polished finish. Which color and finish you choose can largely come down to what other metals you’re wearing elsewhere around your outfit. As we’ve said before, trying to match your metals somewhat closely across your outfit is generally a good idea, though they don’t have to match 100%.
It’s always a good idea to pair the colors of your metal accessories, though the match doesn’t have to be perfect. [Pictured along with the collar clip and vintage ring are the Fort Belvedere Eagle Claw Cufflinks with Tiger’s Eye Stones)
Typically, you’re going to find collar clips in about the 1.5 to 2-inch range, although they can vary. Longer collar clips can sometimes be a bit loose and fail to draw the points of the collar together and accentuate the tie knot, but this doesn’t always have to be the case. There are more factors to consider to be able to choose the best collar clip size for any outfit.
More Considerations for Choosing A Collar Clip
Aside from the details of the accessory itself, there are also a few other considerations you’ll want to make concerning other aspects of your outfit.
Type of Shirt Collar
The type of shirt collar you’re wearing is obviously going to matter. A collar clip is typically going to work best with a collar style that has its points relatively close together, like a traditional point collar or spear collar. And if the points are especially on the long side, as would be the case with a spear collar, the collar clip will be able to pull them together and flatten the bottoms out, giving you a bit of a collar roll which can sometimes be desirable.
A vintage-style spear point collar from Revival Vintage in the UK
If you’re going for an especially vintage or traditional look, you could try a rounded club collar or its rarer cousin, the square collar. But obviously here, something like a wing collar isn’t going to work.
A wing collar isn’t going to work with collar clips
Also, don’t wear a collar clip with any type of collar that has its own fasteners built-in, like a button-down or tab collar. While it is true that collar jewelry was sometimes worn with these collar styles when it was first introduced in the 1920s and again in the ’50s, we would strongly advise against trying to pair them together in this day and age. It’s a look that’s just a bit too busy and affected. In other words, one element of visual interest on your collar is going to be enough. Furthermore, if you’re wearing a shirt with a collar that typically takes collar stays, the stays are going to need to be removed before you put on the collar clip.
Make sure to remove collar stays before you put on a collar clip
Collar Clip Length
With collar clips of a typical length in the range of 2 inches, you’re going to want to stay away from spread collars, because the collar clip isn’t going to bring the points of the collar together attractively, and might not even reach all the way across properly. With that said, however, we’ve received numerous requests from patrons of the Fort Belvedere Shop to introduce a longer version of our collar clips to accommodate the wider spreads of modern shirt collars–and we’re happy to report that we’ve done so! You can now find longer versions of our yellow gold, rose gold, and silver collar clips in the Fort Belvedere Shop, and don’t worry, because the original designs are still available, too.
While these new designs are longer, they’re just as slim in profile so you won’t have to worry about any added bulk–and the hinged clips are just as secure, as well. You’ll want to position them higher on your collar to make sure that they reach both sides of the spread collar comfortably. As before, we wouldn’t recommend them with extreme spread or cutaway collars, but they should harmonize well with any standard spread collar (just as our original collar clip designs work ideally well with the classic point collar style).
Type of Necktie
While you may have seen photos of celebrities or fashion models wearing collar jewelry with no neckwear, we really wouldn’t recommend this look. After all, it’s just that — a fashion statement, rather than a look rooted in classic style. In addition to keeping your collar points close together and secure, one of the main reasons for wearing a collar clip is to accentuate your tie knot by puffing it out slightly. Many men will try to achieve this look of an arched tie just by playing with the way they tie the knot. However, a collar clip achieves this effortlessly.
Wearing a collar clip without neckwear isn’t a look we would recommend.
Whether wearing a traditionally sized collar clip and a point collar, or a longer collar clip and a spread collar, in both cases we would recommend that you go for a tie that has a thin interlining or no interlining at all; and also go for a smaller necktie knot such as the four-in-hand or the oriental knot. It goes without saying, then, that the collar clip should be positioned under the knot of the necktie. Of course, wearing a collar clip with a bow tie is also a no-go, since they’re really just going to get in the way of one another.
Oriental Tie Knot with a purple Fort Belvedere tie
Overall Outfit Formality
Finally, consider the formality. You’ll want to keep in mind that generally, any type of collar jewelry is a relatively formal accessory. After all, wearing a piece of collar jewelry is going to necessitate that you’re wearing a tie; therefore, you’re probably going to be at least into the smart casual realm of dressing, if not even more formal. A collar clip will work well with any typically business-appropriate, long-sleeve, button-up shirt, and it might work somewhat better with a suit than with a combination of a sport coat and odd trousers (though the latter look definitely can work). Because of their metal buttons and slightly more formal construction, blazers will go well with collar jewelry, too.
A blazer’s metal buttons and formal construction make it a good complement to collar jewelry.
Another particularly interesting option is to pair a collar clip with a cardigan or other type of sweater–children’s television host Fred Rogers would be a great example of this look. If you want to make the look especially casual, going for something like a knit tie and corduroys in addition to the sweater, remember that a collar pin would probably be the least formal type of collar jewelry.
Fred Rogers pairing a collar clip with a cardigan
Stylish Ways to Wear Collar Clips
To provide some additional style inspiration, what follows are six example outfits featuring collar jewelry.
1. Business Outfit
We’ll start here with a typical business outfit, which might be characterized by something like a darker blue or gray suit paired with a white shirt and white pocket square, in addition to a collar clip. This will give you a very polished and formal look overall.
2. Business Casual Outfit
One step down from there would be a business casual outfit, with a tweed vest in blue, a madder silk tie, and a silver collar clip paired with a white shirt. This is going to be slightly less formal than the typical business outfit, of course, but still office-appropriate in most situations.
Tweed Vest business casual outfit
3. Country Outfit
Moving from town to country, we could focus on an outfit with something like a tweed jacket (in houndstooth with an over-plaid) and a rose gold collar clip that goes well with the jacket’s warm tones. We’re using a yellow knit tie with an oriental knot. The shirt is off-white and has a herringbone pattern and a club collar that works particularly well with a collar clip. Here, a madder silk pocket square completes the look nicely.
4. Summer Outfit
An especially summery outfit would consist of a summer sport coat paired with a purple madder silk tie with tones of red and green, a white pocket square, and a light pink boutonniere to give the look a uniformly summery feel. The collar clip here is silver, as are the other pieces of jewelry around the outfit (including cufflinks and rings).
5. Blazer Outfit
Moving from an outfit featuring a sport coat to one featuring a blazer, this outfit also features a Winchester shirt (which is one that has a contrasting white collar). In this case, it’s a club collar, and we’re also using an English printed tie with a reddish tone that also has some yellow and beige to harmonize with the gold collar clip. Adding additional character are the white pocket square, blue cornflower boutonniere, and the blazer itself, which has a faint windowpane pattern.
A collar clip paired with a classic navy blazer
6. Casual Outfit
Lastly, we have an example of an especially casual outfit. We’ve got a gray and green knitted wool cardigan paired with a vintage red silk tie, and a collar clip in gold to add an extra element of visual interest.
Gray and green knitted wool cardigan paired with a vintage red silk tie and a collar clip in gold
Collar jewelry is a great addition to classic outfits, as it will emphasize your tie knot, as well as add luster and visual interest to your look. If you’re looking to add collar clips, bars, or pins that are stylish and built to last, check out the Fort Belvedere Shop!