TAB COLLAR Shirt Primer

Discussion in 'General Attire & Accoutrements' started by Marc Chevalier, Sep 26, 2011.

  1. As far as I can tell, no one on the Internet has written about this in any definitive way …so here goes.


    The first tab collars for shirts were semi-soft and completely detachable, and appeared on the scene at the end of World War I. Edward, Britain's Prince of Wales, was famously seen wearing one in winter 1919 on a North American visit. (See photo below.) They were made in every shirting fabric except silk.


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    By the later 1920s, most tab collars sold were soft (though certainly starchable), and were permanently attached to shirts. Surprisingly, they were equipped to hold removable collar stays. Both the detachable and the permanently attached tab collars were fastened at the neck by a removable collarband stud button. (See the brass one in the photos below.) Note how the collar’s edges meet at a nearly 90 degree angle ... not a spear point in sight. Note, too, how both tabs have buttonholes to accommodate the brass stud button.

    Here is an example from the 1930s:


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    In America, tab collars fell out of favor in the 1940s, but were revived around 1960. The collar’s dimensions and silhouette were essentially the same, but two new details appeared: a permanently attached button on the collarband’s front opening, and metal snap buttons on the tabs. Also, the tab collar was now available in a rounded “club” or “golf” version. (See photo below of the Beatles.) Lyndon B. Johnson was an avid tab collar wearer.


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    Last edited: Sep 26, 2011
  2. Here is an example from the early 1960s. Note that the ‘60s tab collar was still made to hold removable collar stays:


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    By 1970, tab collars were once again out of fashion. It wasn’t until around 1990 that America saw a second revival of the tab collar. This time, the tabs’ metal snap buttons were largely abandoned in favor of a tiny sewn-on plastic or mother-of-pearl button (on the right tab) and a buttonhole (on the left tab). Collar stays --removable or fused-- were also abandoned. Furthermore, the ‘90s tab collar tended to be Armani-ish: that is, long, narrow, and downward-pointing. Finally, the tabs themselves were sewn on at a lower place on the collar.

    Here is a 1990s-esque tab collar (but, unusually, with metal snaps):


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    Since 2000, the tab collar has held on: not quite gone, but not quite in fashion, either. Metal snap buttons have returned to the tabs (because the tiny plastic button tended to easily break), and the collar shape is largely back to its ‘20s-‘30s / ‘60s silhouette. Donald Rumsfeld often wore tab collared shirts during the GWB administration. Meanwhile, iconoclastic Tom Wolfe continues to wear a high-necked, custom-tailored version (complete with collar stud button) which he adopted in the 1970s.

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    Last edited: Sep 26, 2011
  3. Mr Badger

    Mr Badger Practically Family

    Messages:
    545
    Location:
    Somerset, UK
    Bravo, Marc! I LOVE tab-collared shirts and have been wearing 'em, when I could find 'em, for a quarter century...

    I spent the 1980s fascinated by such tab-collared 1960s bands as The Kinks, The Pretty Things and The Yardbirds and so naturally gravitated towards the tab collar, back when vintage shirts could still be found... the finest tab-collared shirt I ever had was a mid-1960s 'semi giraffe' Aquascutum number in pale blue Sea Island Cotton, which had double-length barrel cuffs with a slight gather and two collar buttons – one large, the other smaller and offset, in order to hold the taller collar straight without a necktie...

    Speaking of which, when I worked at Chelsea Town Hall Reference Library on the King's Road, the basement held a full set of "Tailor & Cutter" magazine, one issue of which had a letter pledging support for 'our brothers in the necktie industry', who were losing trade because of the popularity of tab collar shirts, sans tie, among 'beat groups'!

    Here's me in 1990, bottom left, wearing that shirt with the group I played with at the time, The Beatpack:

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    And another one from the same year, this time it's an overdyed mid-1960s Brooks Brothers tab collar shirt:

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    Last edited: Sep 26, 2011
  4. DesertDan

    DesertDan One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,553
    Location:
    Arizona
    Very interesting and informative as usual Marc, thank you. I've always wondered how those shirts were "properly" worn as I had only ever seen them worn sans tie. I have only ever had 1 tab collar shirt but never wore it closed due to the fact that I have been cursed with a thick neck compared to my shirt size, properly fitting collars/dress shirts have been the bane of my existance.

    Mr. Badger, you and your band certainly nailed the look! Were you doing era-specific covers or original music?
     
  5. Mr Badger

    Mr Badger Practically Family

    Messages:
    545
    Location:
    Somerset, UK
    The band was VERY era-specific! :D

    When I joined, the band had been going for around three years, and the original material was being written by the singer and the lead guitarist, very much in a 1964-66 beat and R&B style... the non-original tunes were things like Bo Diddley's "Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut", The Outsiders' "Misfit" and The Master's Apprentices' "Buried & Dead"...

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    This is the poster from a tour of France and Germany - good times!
     
  6. herringbonekid

    herringbonekid I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,022
    Location:
    East Sussex, England
    Marc, thanks for the thread. here's one of Jack Buchanan in the classic tab collar:


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    there's actually a variety of collar shapes featuring the tab above, so i see no reason why the spear shouldn't be included.
     
  7. dhermann1

    dhermann1 I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    9,158
    Location:
    Da Bronx, NY, USA
    Very interesting. I have a couple tab collar shirts and I really like them. It simplifies the whole keeping the collar down while wearing a tie business. And it gives the tie just the right degree of lift to make it look sharp. One thing I find is that with tab collars correct fit is even more crucial than usual.
     

  8. Thanks for the great photo! It's pretty clear from this image that Jack Buchanan's tab collar has collar stays supporting it, keeping it upright.
     

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