A history of tab collar shirts


February 27, 2016 by Ville Raivio

The tab collar is an eccentric detail that stands out from the rest. A small tab, closed with snaps, a loop or magnets, is sewn between its sides and this bit raises the tie knot upwards. The collar type was born in Great Britain sometime in the 1920s but its inventor has been forgotten by my reference books. The collar gained fame and popularity when the Duke of Windsor (who else?) took a fancy to it. The Duke’s outfits were closely watched by all media and menswear shops grew their selections when the future king was seen wearing something novel. On the shoulders of the young prince, the tab collar travelled across the world on state visits. With him being the most photographed man of the times, tab collars spread to commonwealth and friend state stores in no time, ending up gracing the necks of thousands of others.


The most common tab collar have sharp, fairly long points, but rounded club collars have also been popular. The popularity of the tabbed collar continued to the 1930s, but waned after these times just to wax again in the ’60s. Frank Sinatra particularly favoured keeping tabs as part of his style and men followed his suit. The tab collar has its uppers and downers. The finer points include the fabric piece that nicely raises the tie and keeps it in place well, no matter how the head turns during the day. At the same time it also keeps the collar points close to the body of the shirt, a look that’s always clean. Still, tabs lose their shape and appeal if worn without a tie, the tab usually calls for a tiny knot and the collar has become rare. Like all rare and thus eccentric things, it attracts attention — not always for the better. Signs of the tab collar’s return have been in the media for a while now. James Bond, for one, has chosen it for his use in the latest films as this collar has long been the darling bud of Tom Ford, the latest Bond stylist.

The Mad Men series, as well, gathered great popularity in America, depicting the crazy years in advertising during the 1960s, and tabs were commonplace clothes during the times and thus in the series. Boardwalk Empire told stories about America’s prohibition years and marched numerous criminals onto screens, doing evil things in stylish shirts. Despite the ramifications of Donald Rumsfeld’s political positions, the fervour of his tab collars cannot be denied. Finally, Suitsupply, a popular young adult clothier, has offered the shirt for several years. While the collar type is still rare, it has better stayed alive in the USA than Europe, which it only visited to be born.


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