TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY DETACHABLE COLLARS
by Tara Maginnis
Collecting vintage clothing can be an expensivehabit, and storing, restoring and moving a collection of vintage clothing can take aninordinate amount of space, time and cash. However, there is one type of antique clothingthat still takes only about a dollar or two to buy, rarely is in need of conservationwork, and can be safely stored in a cookie tin. I refer of course to the detachable"hard" collars mass produced in the late Nineteenth and early Twentiethcenturies.
The detachable collar was first invented in 1827 at#139 3rd Street, Troy, NY, by Mrs. Hannah Lord Montague (1794-1878), a housewife who washaving difficulties with her husband's "ring-around-the-collar." Her husband,Orlando Montague, showed-off his wife's invention to the guys around town, and soon allthe wives of Troy embraced this new invention. Soon after, merchants followed suit, andmanufactured collars in mass quantities for sale to the outside world.
, garrets and store fronts became collar making places as teachers, farmers, carpenters, butchers and ironmongers were drawn to this new trade by its apparent simplicity: a table, a pair of scissors, a bolt of cloth and a spool of cotton was all that was necessary.
Two views of an early seperate collar(probably c.1850), with the closure in the back. This collar, although machine sewn,is only two thin layers of lawn, and could not have have held enough starch to be as stiffas late 19th & Early 20th Century models.
Troy, New York, became "Collar City" tothe rest of America, and went from a sleepy little upstate town to the center of Americanshirt and collar manufacturing.
By 1897, twenty-five manufacturers in Troy wereproducing a total of eight million dozen collars and cuffs a year. Linen collars wereoffered in a breathtaking variety of styles and had become the status-symbol of thegrowing office-worker class (ie. "white collar" workers). Mail order catalogslike Sears-Roebuck, Montgomery-Ward, and Bloomingdale's sent detachable collars to everypart of America, along with the often colorful collarless shirts with which they wereworn. By the Turn-of-the-Century, nearly every man in America had his neck in thevise-like grip of a iron-hard starched linen detachable collar.
Two photos of "Meyrick" acollar by Cluett, Peabody & Co., the Troy manufacturer of "Arrow" shirts. The view on the left shows the lock front in focus, the view at right shows therear hole, manufacturers markings, and old laundry marks.
Turn-of-the-Century collars can be found in a largenumber of variants on the basic styles of poke, wing, spread, and turndown (aka fold)collars. The most popular style of collar in 1900 was the "high-band" collar aturndown collar with a height of from 2 to 3 inches that encased the whole neck in asmooth glossy cylinder of starched linen. Uncomfortable as these are (turning the headsuddenly causes bruises in the bottom of the jaw), they look marvelous, and they made upover 60% of the collar trade in the summer of 1900. The Haberdasher in August 1900noted that perfect rigidity could be maintained in a "highband" collar with a"lock-front":
collars, which were introduced by Earl and Wilson, continue to be the prevailing favorites. This lock-front band insures a fold collar that will sit precisely as it was designed to sit. There are no sagging points, or crooked over-lapping bands in the "E.& W." fold collars.
PDFPattern of this collar All detachable collars are held in place by removable metal collar buttonswhich come in front (long with a beadlike end) and back (short with a flat end) varieties.
A row of metal (far left) and plastic (3 on right) studs made for holding adress shirt front in place in the package. Using any of these but the farleft one will have your collar constantly come undone.
These collars were worn not only with matchingwhite shirts, but also, more commonly, with shirts in a stunning variety of patterns andcolors. While a writer for Men's Wear in 1900 reported on "QUIET COLORS INSHIRTS," his notion of "quiet" was a relative term:
a distinct change of style in colored shirts. Instead of the exceedingly loud combination of colors which have, it seems, had their run, the desirable and correct thing will be white ground, with medium figures of black, blue, heliotrope and some Hunter's green, and stripes of similar colors, also on white ground. The figures will be largely on the geometrical order, diamonds, single, double, and even in clusters...two and three colored clustered figures and stripes are produced with fine effect. Spots will not be popular only as an exception.
Colored, patterned, and striped shirts were sopopular that smart New York dressers wore them with frock coats to the Horse Show, anevent noted in the 1900's for it's sartorial splendor. The most popular colors in men'sstriped and patterned shirts in 1900 were light and dark blue, oxblood red, heliotrope(blue-purple), pink, and Hunter's green, a kind of olive color. However, coloradvertisements in Men's Wear and other magazines of the time also show figuredshirts in red, peach, aqua, black, lilac, and in combinations of black and rose, red, blueand black, red and blue, light and dark blue, red and pink, and pink and black.
wing and poke collarsbecame more popular, especially for evening wear. White shirts also gained in popularity,although colored and patterned shirts were still seen everywhere. 1902 saw theintroduction of brown and sage-green to the repertoire of shirt colors, and Men's Wearreported that dark background colors were proving popular among patterned shirts for Fall.Someone also introduced a fold collar in 1902 with a slight spread, but this was denouncedas dubious taste by people of high class, for whom spread collars signified laborers. Forexample, The Haberdasher suggested appropriate collars and shirts for differentsocial occasions in their "Correct Dress Chart" for 1903: For formal eveningfunctions (ladies present) the appropriate collars were "straight stander justmeeting, lap front or poke" worn with a white shirt with a linen or pique boiledfront and tails. Evening stag parties required a wing or fold collar and a plain orpleated white shirt and Tux. Business dress required a poke, wing or fold collar and awhite or colored shirt, worn either with a cutaway or sack suit. Sportswear included aNorfolk jacket or a sack suit worn with a flannel or Madras shirt and a fold or wingcollar. Sunday church-going demanded a frock or cutaway coat with a white shirt and awing, poke or fold collar. Nowhere does the chart consider spread collars appropriate.
Click here to see more images of
Women who wore "man-tailored" suits andshirtwaists also wore hard collars and neckties. A wonderful
ad forCutter and Crossette neckwear in 1902 shows a modern couple in shirts, fold collarsand neckties showing each other (in intimate proximity) their identical tie company labelsas "his" arm steals around "her" shoulder. She wears a red spottedblack tie with a white shirtwaist, and he wears a red tie with white figures with a boldred and white striped shirt. Both wear very high white fold collars with sharp corners.One of the satisfying things for women about collecting hard collars is that since most ofthem were made for men they survive in sizes that fit a normal, modern woman's neck. Thismakes them a perfect item for women who don't fit into the frequently tiny sizes ofantique women's dresses. A modern copy of a shirtwaist is immeasurably dressed-up with theaddition of a hard collar and tie. Men, of course, will have a harder time finding realperiod examples that fit.
However, there are several
modern sources for thekinds of collars and shirts worn in the 1900's. sells neckbandshirts in white and colored stripes for $45-50, and "linene" (cotton bonded tocard stock) and "linex" (linen textured cardstock) collars in an assortment ofstyles from the 19th and 20th centuries for $45 per 25. They also carry metal collarbuttons (used to attach the collar to the shirt) and cufflinks. The Gibson-Lee collarcompany has been making cardstock collars since the 1900's and continues to sell collarsand shirts, mostly to theatre companies.
Paper andcelluloid collars: Top-a pressed paper collar from the Turn-ofthe-Century , so flimsy it'samazing it ever survived. Lower Right-a modern sturdy "Linene" collar fromGibson. Lower Left-celluloid collar from the Turn-ofthe-Century.
Gibson has a "starter set" that includesa white or striped shirt and 10 assorted style collars to fit it for around $65. Those whosew can make a shirt using the Folkwear #202 Victorian Shirt pattern which has a bibfront. It was popular during the first few years of this century to do the bib and cuffsin one pattern, and the center front placket and rest of the shirt in another patternusing the same color. These were considered "swell" items sold by betterhaberdashers to clients who took a real interest in dressing in the height of fashion.Hard collars continued to be popular through WW I, and even after, but the comfortablesoft collared shirts worn in the trenches permanently impressed their wearers, so throughthe Twenties the public slowly learned to love spread collars, and discarded the iron-hardpoke and highband fold one by one. By the 1930's the hard collar was only the preserve ofolder men and conservative dressers, except for the wing collar for formal and eveningwear.
---Tara Maginnis, Ph.D.
James Morske, "And It AllBegan With One Woman" in THE ARROW MAN: Collar City Chic (Troy: New York StateCouncil on the Arts, 1987) 5.
"Collar & CuffChat" in The Haberdasher v.32 #2 Aug 1900, 59.
Strathmore, The New York Men'sFurnishers" in Men's Wear v.10 #1 11 Jly 1900, 28.
"Correct Day DressChart" and "Correct Evening Dress Chart" in The Haberdasher v.37 #1,1 Jan 1903, 40-41.
To learn more about Hard collars go to the