Collar Bars, Pins, & Clips: A Guide To A Long-Ignored Menswear Accessory

Collar Bars, Pins, & Clips: A Guide To A Long-Ignored Menswear Accessory 2018-02-28T09:17:26+00:00

A throwback to the first half of the 20th Century, collar bars are elegant alternatives to collar stays. However, rather than being invisible strips of material that keep the collar in place underneath, they’re an outgoing piece of metal.

Collar bars work by pulling the collar ends together and under the tie, which loops over. Enthusiasts love the resulting look as it gives the tie a bit of an arch, which emphasises the torso.

If you’re looking to learn more about collar bars in order to add one to your wardrobe, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will focus on collar bars and how they can be worn both functionally and stylishly.

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The world of men’s jewelry is typically limited to watches, a wedding band, and cufflinks. For men who have a bit more of an eccentric sensibility, however, an additional option exists: the collar bar.

Note that though there are different styles that have different names, we will use the terms “collar bar” and “collar pin” interchangeably throughout this page for ease of use when speaking about these accessories in the general sense.

This page will discuss the details of collar bars and you can simply scroll down to learn more.

You can also jump to the section that you’d most like to read by clicking any of the links below:

A unique look. Collar bars are an elegant blast from the past for a little extra panache!
Collar Bar Guide Reviewed by Charles-Philippe Bowles on .
Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★

What Is A Collar Bar?

For our purposes, a collar bar refers to a piece of jewelry that holds a shirt’s collar points together while passing underneath a necktie’s knot, elevating it. It keeps the collar in place and elevates the necktie so that it doesn’t fall down or reveal any collar band behind its knot.

There are different styles of collar bars, which we detail below.

Collar Bars, Pins, & Clips

Differen-Types-Of-Collar-BarsThere are three main varieties of collar jewelry: collar bars, collar pins, and collar clips.

  • Collar bars are metal sticks, typically with circular studs or squares on either end. These appear similar to a barbell and are sometimes referred to as such. Collar bars do pierce through your shirt’s collar unless the latter is made with eyelets to accommodate the former.
  • Collar pins are essentially large safety pins with a more thoughtful design than a typical safety pin. They’re often made up in precious metals like gold or sterling silver. These pins do pierce your shirt’s collar similarly to collar bars.
  • Collar clips utilize a clasp on each end to hold the shirt together as opposed to going through the collar itself. Clips do not pierce your shirt’s collar.

Collar Bar Sizing

Collar bars come in various sizes, typically ranging from 2″ to 2.5″. It’s important that you get a size that isn’t too big, lest you render the collar bar useless. Interestingly, your body type has a lot to do with what size collar bar you buy, so if you need some guidance as to what yours is, please see our guide to body types.

Generally speaking, smaller men should buy smaller ones, as they have smaller collar measurements and should be wearing smaller collars anyway. The reverse holds true for larger men.

Collar Pin History

Fred-Astaire-With-Collar-BarThe early 1900’s saw the introduction of the collar pin. Turndown collars were still quite new (stiff wing collars were much more common before this time), and men were wearing collars made of silk at the time.

Because silk can’t be starched and made stiff like cotton, someone whose name is sadly lost to history had the idea to connect the collar points via a pin.

This gave men a sharp, put-together look that was further amplified by the way the collar bar treated ties; that is, by elevating them and ensuring that no collar band showed behind the tie knot.

The collar bar was adopted by notable wearers such as Fred Astaire, Richard Merkin (notable American artist & dandy), and Philip B. Miller, former chairman of Saks 5th Avenue.

The accessory gained widespread popularity in the 1960’s in the United States, which is reflected in the wardrobe choices of certain characters in the television show Mad Men. In the real world, Tom Ford has been spotted in collar bars from time to time.

How To Wear A Pin Collar Shirt

No matter what collar bar you choose or what collar you choose to wear it with, there’s one universal style truth as it relates to this jewelry:

It must be worn with a necktie. The bar becomes redundant without a tie and also lacks utility with bow ties. Only a necktie will do if you wish to wear a collar bar.

If possible, it’s best to try and find a shirt with the proper eyelets designed for a collar bar. Whilst collar clips tend to look inauthentic, piercing any collar can risk long-term damage to your shirt.

The Best Collars To Use With Collar Bars

Collar bars function best with point collars, and the less spread, the better. They’re incompatible with cutaway collars and redundant with tabbed collars. They can theoretically be used with button-down collars, but this would leave your collar buttons unattended. Not the end of the world if you’re a guy who likes a bit of sprezzatura, but certainly something you should be aware of. Finally, a pinned club collar is a classic old-school look that dandies will appreciate.

For more on different shirt collar styles, have a look at our shirt collar guide.

Collar stays are unnecessary when using a collar bar.

Are Collar Bars In Style?

Frankly, no, they’re not. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t stylish.

Though collar bars today are somewhat rare, they’re still quite handsome, adding an air of regality to a common man’s ensemble. Pulling them off is a challenge, however. It’s easy to look affected or “try-hard” when wearing a collar pin, especially if you’re a younger man, say under the age of forty. If you choose to wear a collar bar, it’s important that you do so with the utmost aplomb, otherwise your presentation is compromised.

They should not be worn to job interviews or funerals, both of which are occasions that call for sartorial conservatism. Collar bars, at least nowadays, are anything but sartorially conservative.

Wearing A Collar Bar With A Suit

Collar-Bar-With-Vintage-SuitBecause a collar pin must necessarily be worn with a tie, it stands to reason that they would look excellent with a suit. Because of their inherent dressiness, they pair particularly well with double-breasted suits, but they can certainly be worn with single-breasted ones.

If you’re headed out on the town, particularly to a swanky party such as a typical New Year’s Eve event, by all means wear a collar bar. That’s the perfect time for it.

For more information on suits and all the things we wear with them, we invite you to check out our suits home page.

Wearing A Collar Bar To The Office

If you’re high up on your company’s food chain and can wear whatever you like, by all means, wear a collar pin to the office. We do not suggest wearing one to work otherwise, as it will certainly be more of a distraction than anything else.

If you’re not a C-level executive or a business owner in a similar position, we would dissuade you from wearing a collar bar to work.

Materials Used For Collar Bars

Not all collar bars or pins are the same, and they come in various shapes and sizes. Collar bars are typically made from precious metals: gold, sterling silver, and that sort of thing. Stainless steel and nickel are options, as is brass. The ends can be capped with gemstones such as diamonds, or be simple metal studs.

How To Put On A Collar Bar, Pin, Or Clip

Unscrewed-Classic-Collar-BarPutting on a collar bar, collar pin, or collar clip is, thankfully, quite simple. Follow the steps below and you’ll be looking dapper in no time.

  1. Put on your shirt and tie as you normally would, with the tie fully knotted and ready to go. If there are collar stays in your shirt, remove them.
  2. For collar bars, unscrew one end. If wearing a pin, unlatch the pin to expose the sharp end.
  3. Push your bar or pin through the hole in your right collar point while lifting the tie so that the stick passes underneath the knot. If wearing a clip, press a clip and attach it to the right collar point, placing the rest of the clip underneath the tie knot. You may reverse the sides noted here if you’re left-handed.
  4. After passing fully underneath the tie knot, push your bar or pin through the hole in the other collar leaf. If wearing a clip, depress the remaining clip, adhere it to the other collar point, and adjust. At this point, you’re done with the clip.
  5. Screw the studded end onto the collar bar outside the collar leaf, or re-latch the pin if using a pin. You are now done!

Where To Buy The Best Collar Bars

Clip-On-Collar-BarLike most things in life, you buy collar bars inexpensively, or you can go with a super high-end one that costs a significant chunk of change. Below are a few that we particularly like:

Brooks Brothers: A simple, sterling silver with gold plating collar bar, this is a high-end piece that you should take excellent care of given its $98 price point. There’s also a gold collar pin available through them.

J.Press: A classic American men’s clothier, J.Press has a multitude of pins and barbells at various price points, which max out at $49.

Other Resources For Men’s Shirts

We hope you enjoyed this page and found the information helpful. For more reading on the various aspects of men’s shirts, feel free to take a look at these pages:

About The Author – Paul Anthony

Paul Anthony Sidebar PicPaul is a the founder and creative director of Bespoke Unit. His interests range from: suits, shoes, watches, sport, and travel. See his full profile here, and read latest articles.

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