How To Wear Collar Stays | Collar Stay Guide

Posted by Rishi Chullani on

In this blog post, we cover how to wear collar stays – a necessary, but often overlooked men’s accessory that helps to give your shirt collar extra weight and crispness, hence keeping it in place.

You’ve bought that brand new shirt. Everything’s been expertly color and pattern coordinated. Your sports jacket, and heck, even your tie and pocket square, appear to adorn that shirt perfectly. Every angle is right angle – a perfectly curated ensemble with clean lines and angles.

Except, there is one glaring issue. Your shirt collar doesn’t appear to quite hold shape. In fact, just like all your other shirts, the collar of this one will certainly wear down with time, and not hold up with the rest of your ensemble – what may initially appear as a negligible detail comes to the forefront, as you realize that a drooping collar brings the rest of your ensemble down. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats – and the converse is most definitely true. So how do you fix your shirt collar issue? What can you do to ensure that your shirt collar always looks crisp and upright. Cue Collar Stays.

What Are Collar Stays

So what exactly are collar stays? Collar Stays, commonly referred to as ‘collar tabs’ or ‘collar stiffeners’ are flat, rigid pieces of plastic or metal, which are inserted in designated pockets on the underside of your dress shirt collars. The purpose of a collar stay is to give the collar enough weight and crispness, so as to keep the shirt collar in place. Collar Stays give your shirt collars just the right amount of weight, so that it lays flat against your collar bone.

Collar Stays

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Stiff collar points have always been representative of sophistication, and so collar stays are an ideal addition to your accessories wardrobe, to ensure that the finer details are always taken care of.

Collar Stays

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The History Of Collar Stays

The introduction of the collar stay is largely correlated with the history of dress shirts. Like any fashion accessory, collar stays have evolved over the years, from wood versions dated back to the early 19th century! Initially, shirt stays were made from mother of pearl, brass, ivory and whalebone, before transitioning towards plastic and other metals. The history of shirt stays is derived from the evolution of shirt collars, which necessitated an accessory that would keep them looking neat.

During the medieval period, shirts were worn as an undergarment, featuring a ruffle at the neck of the shirt, which was effectively created by a drawstring. This was the birth of exposed shirts as we know them today. These shirts were often worn with detachable collars, that would allow them to be worn for multiple days without having to be washed, with interchangeable collars being used in the interim period. However, ultimately, neat, turned down collars replaced these detachable collars, and the need for shirt collar stays came about!

Men's Clothing 1870's

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Why Should A Collar Stay Be Worn?

All aspiring dapper gentlemen should wear collar stays to round off their look, by paying attention to every detail. Few things detract from one’s overall look like flimsy collars – imagine investing all that money in a discerning suit, classy dress shirt and elegant tie, only to have your shirt collar flap around in a flimsy fashion!

Collar Stays

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Collar Stays from The Dark Knot


How To Wear Collar Stays

Flip up the collar of one of your higher quality dress shirts, and you will find a slot at the end of the collar, and you will find a slot sewn in specifically for insertion of collar stays. Depending on the type of collar, the collar stay slot will generally be around 2.5 to 2.75 inches, or under 2 inches for narrower collars (tapered shirts that are typically worn for casual wear). However, from our research, the most popular collar stay sizes are in the 2.5 inch to 2.75 inch range.

Inserting Collar Stays:

  1. Starting with your dress shirt off, flip the collar up to expose the collar stay pockets.
  2. Insert the first collar stay into one of these pockets, with the tapered side inserted first. If you can see the collar stay peeking out beneath the pocket, this is an indication that this particular size collar stay is too long.
  3. Repeat the same steps on the other side of the collar.

Removing Collar Stays:

  1. After taking the shirt off, flip the collar upwards.
  2. Push down on the collar point, which will help slide down the collar stay’s bottom end.
  3. Remove the collar stay.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Collar Stays

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Removable Collar Stays vs Sewn In Collar Stays

Collar Stays are either removable or sewn in. Sewn in collar stays are almost always made from thin plastic as manufacturers attempt to trade off providing the collars with rigidity, without having the collar stay damaged in the wash.

Sewn in collar stays are not typically found with off the rack dress shirt purchases, as they cost a little bit of extra money and can over time leave a mark in the collar points if over ironed.

Additionally, open collar stay pockets within dress shirts that are off the rack are also fairly rare. Manufacturers who are looking to keep their costs down will most likely skimp on this additional feature. It is therefore imperative that the next time you go dress shirt shopping, be it off the rack or at a bespoke tailor, that you look for or request that your shirts come with open collar stay pockets!

Collar Stay Types

There are a wide variety of collar stays in the market. Choosing the correct collar stay type should not prove to be problematic. Collar stays differ essentially on size, type of point (rounded or pointed) and material.

Regarding size, just as collar sizes vary, so do collar stays. Our research shows that collar stays in the 2.5 inches to 2.75 inches range should generally suffice, but it is best to get a measurement of your various dress shirt collars (both casual and work), and opt for an assortment of collar stay sizes just to be safe!


Plastic is the most common material used to make collar stays. Affordable and easily produced in volume, plastic collar stays are a modern manufacturers defacto choice. Plastic collar stays do the bare minimum, but due to their flimsy material, often result in the dress shirt collar not laying / falling properly, which, is counterintuitive!

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel is the most popular metal for collar stays! Of heavier weight and rigidity than plastic stays, these collar stays do their intended job! With a stainless steel collar stay, you can be rest assured that your dress shirt collar will look crisp and lay perfectly. Some manufacturers of stainless steel collar stays even offer free engraving.

Brass Collar Stays

Brass Collar Stays are equivalent to stainless steel stays, but are obviously made of a higher end metal. The look of brass – especially burnished or polished brass, provides for a classic, refined look.

Brass Collar Stays



The Dark Knot's Brass Collar Stays Gift Set!

Gold Collar Stays

Gold Collar Stays are your most expensive option on this list, and with reason. Gold collar stays are extremely expensive (starting at $600 a pair!), and are to be taken care of with the utmost respect. These make for a great gift to be passed down from generation to generation. 

Men's Ties & Accessories Sale | Men's Ties & Accessories Daily Deal


How To Take Care Of Your Collar Stays

Just like any other accessory, collar stays should be taken care of. Ensure that your collar stays are removed before washing your dress shirt or sending it to the dry cleaners! A collar stay kept within the shirt collar can tear the fabric or even damage the washing machine!

Before having your shirt ironed, it is best to ensure that your collar stays have been removed, as they can crease or spoil the fabric.

Extra Collar Stay Knowledge!

  1. Depending on where you purchase your collar stays from, you can get them engraved, which makes for a great present! Just because collar stays are not highly visible does not mean that they can’t carry some meaning. Whether they are simply initials or a message, these collar stays will feel more personal for yourself or whomever you buy them for!
  2. As mentioned above, always take your collar stays out before washing. This is especially important if you are using plastic collar stays – as wash and dry cycles can easily ruin collar stays.
  3. Collar stays can be magnetic. In addition to the basic collar stays, these come with magnetic studs that stick to the underside of your collar. These magnets help hold your stays in place, keeping the collar even more stiff!

And that's a wrap for this one! We hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as we did writing it!

Please feel free to view The Dark Knot's Brass Collar Stays Gift Set!

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