There’s nothing worse for an impeccably-dressed man than an unruly shirt collar. Whether it’s a collar that curls in on itself or points outwards, it can ruin an entire look.

This is even more frustrating if you’ve spent hours working on the outfit to fit a particular dress code. However, maybe you’ve inadvertently overlooked one of the fundamentals of an immaculate shirt?

As they’re never even seen, collar stays tend to be a subject often omitted when discussing menswear. Yet their role is vital in maintaining a shirt collar’s presentation.


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A collar is arguably the most important part of an entire shirt. It frames your face and provides an important fulcrum on which the shirt/tie/jacket combination sits.

This entire presentation hinges on two invisible strips of material that live inside your collar: collar stays.

This page will deal with collar stays specifically

You can read it from start to finish if you like, but you also have the option to jump to the section that you’d prefer to read first. Just click any of the links below:

An unsung hero. Collar stays ensure that your shirt is always impeccable.
Collar Stays Guide Reviewed by Charles-Philippe Bowles on .
Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★

What Is A Collar Stay?

Pile-Of-Collar-StaysA collar stay is a strip of material (typically plastic or metal), ranging in length from 2″-3″, that fits inside a shirt collar leaf.

It’s purpose is to provide structure to the collar and prevent the points from curling in an unsightly way.

Most shirts have collars that allow the stays to be removed, with little pockets on the collar’s underside allowing for this to happen. Other shirts -often more cheaply made ones- will have irremovable collar stays.

Button-down and wing collars do not take collar stays.

How To Use Collar Stays

Thankfully, collar stays are simple to insert and remove. Below are quick, step-by-step guides on how to do so:

Inserting Collar StaysHow-To-Wear-Collar-Stays

  1. Starting with shirt off, flip collar up to expose “pockets” which will house the collar stays.
  2. Insert first stay into one of these pockets, making sure that the tapered end is facing up. Note that if you can see collar stay peeking out beneath the pocket, it may be too long for the collar.
  3. Repeat step two on the other side.

Removing Collar Stays

  1. After taking shirt off, flip the collar up.
  2. Push down on the pointiest part of the collar point, which will expose the collar stay’s bottom end.
  3. Remove the stay.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Shirts With Unremovable Collar Stays

As we mentioned above, there are some shirts that have collar stays, but there’s not way to remove them as the lack the opening for the stay pocket. While it’s great that there are stays present, being unable to remove them poses a couple of problems:

  1. Such stays are often cheap, bendable plastic, but can’t be replaced with higher-quality metal ones purchased à la carte.
  2. Ironing your collar becomes dicey, as you have no choice but to iron a collar stay imprint into your collar leaf.
  3. They can’t be removed before laundering, which can result in damage to your collar.

In light of all this, we recommend that you avoid purchasing shirts without collar stays whenever possible.

Different Types Of Collar Stays

Not all collar stays are created equal. There are many different varieties in terms of both material and size.

Collar Stay MaterialsRows-Of-Different-Colalr-Stay-Sizes

  • Metal: These can be brass, stainless steel, and even precious metals like gold. Metal stays are relatively inexpensive, perform well, and look great. The only caveat is that you must be absolutely sure that their size is correct; if they’re too long, they can pierce the collar.
  • Horn: Extremely rare, you’ll have to do some serious Internet sleuthing to find a pair of horn collar stays. Perfect for collar stay aficionados.
  • Plastic: Plastic stays are acceptable based on their thickness. Thin plastic that bends easily is next to useless and should be replaced as soon as possible. Thick plastic, though -the stuff that holds up against some pressure- works very well as a collar stay, particularly if you’re not wearing a tie. This is because their lack of weight won’t pull your collar down.
  • Magnetic: Magnetic collar stays, popularized by the brand Würkin Stiffs, are a clever invention indeed. The collar stays themselves are metal, but they’re magnetized and come with small magnetic discs that sit on the inside of the shirt. The magnet is extremely powerful and is awesome for men who don’t often wear ties, want their collars to sit upright and at attention, and prefer the weight of metal collar stays.
  • Engraved / Personalized: Engraved collar stays make wonderful gifts and add a bit of personality to an otherwise mundane accessory. Engrave the stays with your child’s birthday, anniversary dates, initials, or whatever else you can think of. Note that these will cost more than the average set of collar stays.

Collar Stay Sizes

three different sized collar stays

Just as collar points come in different lengths, so do collar stays. Typically they range from as short as 2″ to as long as 3.25″, but there are surely exceptions here and there.

While a proper fit is obviously ideal, it’s more important that the stays not be too long. A stay that’s too short can still do its job, but a too-long collar stay will make your collar fold over awkwardly at best, and pierce your collar points at worst.

Your best bet is to own a few pairs in multiple sizes and give yourself an extra thirty seconds when getting ready in the morning to make sure that you’re using the right size.

Best Collar Stays To Buy Online

As small things that come in pairs, collar stays are incredibly easy to lose. Thankfully, they’re available in a wide range of price points from various companies:

  • Würkin Stiffs: The originator of the magnetic collar stay. Pricey, but exceptionally high quality.
  • Smooth Stays: A set of 50 stainless steel collar stays for $13 is an incredible value. You’ll never worry about losing one again.
  • Cuff-Daddy: Three pairs of metal collar stays for $18, but they’re adjustable and will fit any shirt.

More Men’s Shirt Resources

Though collar stays are tiny, they add to the impact of your image. We hope you enjoyed this guide and found it informative.

For further reading on all aspects of men’s shirts, we invite you to take a look at the following pages:

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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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