How Tight Should a Dress Shirt Collar Be?

How Tight Should a Dress Shirt Collar Be?

Choosing a dress shirt in the right size is important. Dress shirts, of course, are designed to be worn in formal outfits, such as suits. If your dress shirt doesn't fit, it won't compliment the appearance of your formal outfit. You may, in fact, struggle to wear a necktie with your dress shirt if the collar is the wrong size.

All dress shirts have a collar. It's a band of fabric that runs around your neck when worn. When choosing a dress shirt, you should consider how the collar fits. Otherwise, you may end up with a poorly sized dress shirt that's unattractive and equally uncomfortable to wear. So, how right should the collar be exactly?

Will You Button Up the Collar?

The way in which a dress shirt collar fits is generally only a concern if you intend to button it up. If you look at the top of a dress shirt, you should discover a button. The highest button on a dress shirt is the collar button. As you may know, it's used to secure the collar in place.

For a formal appearance, you'll need to button up the collar. Most men wear a necktie with their formal outfits. If you're wearing a two-piece or three-piece suit, you should typically button up your dress shirt collar. After all, you can't wear a necktie unless you button up the collar.

Neckties are worn underneath the outermost band of fabric around a shirt's collar. If the collar is unbuttoned, your necktie will remain loose. Not only does a loose necktie look messy, it will likely shift out of position as you move. Buttoning up your dress shirt collar prevents this from happening. With the collar buttoned up, your necktie will remain in place while projecting a clean and stylish appearance in the process.

Follow the 2-Finger Rule

Assuming you plan on buttoning up the collar, you can follow the two-finger to ensure it fits. What is the two-finger rule? As the name suggests, it involves squeezing two of your fingers into the collar of your dress shirt.

For the two-finger rule, go ahead and put on the dress shirt and button up the collar. Next, take your index finger and middle finger and slip them between the shirt collar and your neck. Keep in mind, your index finger and middle finger should be perpendicular to the collar.

The two-finger rule states that a dress shirt collar should provide just enough space to fit two fingers. If you can't comfortably slip your index finger and middle finger into the collar, it's too small. If there's enough space for three or more fingers, conversely, the collar is too big. A dress shirt collar should only provide enough space for two fingers, which is the basis on which the two-finger rule works.

Don't Forget About Shrinkage

Dress shirts, as well as their collars, can shrink. Therefore, even if the collar fits when you initially test it with the two-finger rule, it may not fit a few months later. Dress shirts can shrink to a smaller size. It usually doesn't happen overnight, but shrinkage is still something to consider when choosing a dress shirt.

While dress shirts aren't immune to shrinkage, there are precautions you can take to preserve the original shape and size of the collar. Washing your dress shirt in cold water, for example, will lower the risk of shrinkage. Hot water promotes shrinkage by forcing fabrics to expand and then contract. If you wash your dress shirt in cold water, the fabric from which it's made will remain intact.

When ironing the collar, use a low-heat setting. Pressing the collar with an iron will remove wrinkles and creases. If you the iron is too hot, though, it may cause the collar to shrink. You can protect your shirt collar from shinkage by turning down the heat. For most wrinkles and creases, a low-heat setting should suffice.

Test With a Necktie

When trying on a dress shirt, test the collar with a necktie to determine whether it fits. Neckties consume space. To wear a necktie, you must wrap it between the inner and outer bands of the collar. If the collar is too small, it may not provide a sufficient amount of space for a necktie.

Keep in mind that some neckties will consume more space than others. A wool necktie, for example, will consume more space than a linen or silk necktie. Wool is thicker than linen and silk, so neckties made of wool consume more space.

Regardless of the fabric, you should test your necktie by wearing it around the collar. Doing so will give you a better idea of whether the dress shirt collar has enough space. If the collar restricts your neck, it's safe to assume it's too small. If the collar is loose and allows your necktie to shift, on the other hand, it's probably too big. The only way you'll know, however, is by trying on the dress shirt with a necktie.

Consider a Stretch Dress Shirt

If you're worried that the collar won't fit, you may want to choose a stretch dress shirt. Stretch dress shirts are made of a hybrid material consisting of a traditional fabric as well as an elastic fabric.

Stretch dress shirts aren't just comfortable; they tend to fit better than many traditional dress shirts, especially around the collar. Stress dress shirts have collars that are made -- at least partly -- with an elastic fabric. With an elastic fabric, the collars are stretchy. This means they'll be forgiving if they are too big or too small.

In Conclusion

The easiest way to tell whether a dress shirt collar fits is to use the two-finger rule. After putting on the dress shirt and buttoning up the collar, try to squeeze your index and middle finger into the collar. The two-finger rule states that the collar should provide just enough space for two of your fingers.