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What is a Wing Collar?

By Jan Hill
Updated May 21, 2024
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The wing collar is a collar on the shirt men wear under tuxedos. It is a short shirt collar starched to stand up straight with no turn down. Two small, pressed points commonly protrude horizontally at the front of the collar below the chin. They resemble wings and typically are tucked behind the bow tie.

There are several other types of collars that resemble wing collars. The wing collar originated sometime early in the 20th century and was typically worn exclusively for formal occasions. Wing collars are still worn by men today, mostly at either white- or black-tie events.

The wing collar may be a distant relative of the Gladstone collar made popular by British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. It may also be similar to a Piccadilly collar, though the Piccadilly was commonly made of plastic instead of starched cotton. A butterfly collar typically resembles a wing collar, except its tips are rounded instead of pointed.

The Windsor collar worn during the 1930s also looked something like a wing collar, except the space between the points was wide enough to accommodate a Windsor knot. The notched collar is wing-shaped, although it typically has a triangular notch in it. Notched collars are common in modern blazers and business suits.

The wing-collar shirt is thought to have originated during the Edwardian era in the early 1900s. It may have been popularized by the British monarch King Edward VII, who was typically known for "evening informal" attire. Edward VII might have worn a highly starched wing-collar shirt with a tailcoat and matching trousers.

After the death of Edward VII in 1910, his son tried to bring formality back into vogue, and tailcoats and wing-collar shirts enjoyed a comeback. The formality of the Edwardian era was unable to last through World War I, however. Near the end of the war, tailcoats and wing-collar shirts were reserved for extremely formal occasions, and the more informal dinner jacket became acceptable evening attire.

By 1928, most men continued to wear starched wing-collar shirts for formal occasions, although some of the younger men began to favor double-breasted jackets with cummerbunds and soft, unstarched shirts. During the 1930s, the soft turndown-collar shirt became popular for informal wear. This was seen as an obvious shift toward comfort, a trend still important today.

Wing-collar shirts continue to be worn under tuxedos for formal occasions and remain popular. During the 1990s, the wing collar was modified slightly. Instead of a small part of the collar being starched and pressed to stand out, a larger section was folded at a longer angle to form irregular triangles called "swept wings." The Academy Awards, presented to actors and film industry professionals by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is sometimes credited with popularizing the tuxedo in modern times. Celebrities wearing wing-collar shirts may frequently be seen walking on the red carpet the night of the Hollywood, California, event.

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