An Ode to the Spearpoint Collar

Oh boy, time to talk about my absolute favorite collar style that kinda seems to be making a return to the greater world of menswear: the spearpoint.

Listen to the Podcast Episode Here!

Duke Ellington in his 5″ spearpoint.

My style has changed a lot since I’ve started the blog.  I used to be heavily into period correct clothing and the typical Igent fare (think skinny chinos and skinny lapel jackets). Then I was into The Armoury. Then ivy. Then Drake’s. Then Brycelands.  And through that time, my aesthetic has changed; my extensive reflection on trousers should show that very clearly.  Other examples could be I’ve been way into more chinos and sportcoats rather than full cut suits lately or that my ties have gotten a bit less bold.  But if there is anything has remained constant throughout my entire menswear journey, it would have to be my love of the spearpoint collar.

I talked about it before, but I think it finally needs it’s own special blog post.

My Introduction

I vividly remember watching 2012’s Skyfall and noticing the weird collar of James Bond’s shirt.  It was much longer than the short points of my $15 H&M shirts (no doubt inspired by Mad Men); they also had a weird angle, where  the points moved downward.  I later found out that this was a tab collar shirt, made by Tom Ford, and featured a long point and an interior strap, which made the points come together when worn with a tie.

That was before I got into vintage menswear.  So imagine my surprise when I started seeing the vintage community/Dapper Day wearing a similar shirt, except that they didn’t have a tab (and  occasionally used a collar bar). Clearly there was something special about these 1930s-1940s style shirts that were specific to era, as they weren’t in any Mad Men episodes.  I tried frantically looking for these shirts, as the stuff from H&M, J. Crew, and Banana Republic were not going to cut it; even Suit Supply (the new menswear darling) had anything.  At first, all I could find was that they were called the “Paramount collar” in some circles since they were favored by the movie stars.  I only found out the term “spearpoint collar” by talking to the extremely knowledgable Benny Reese, Marc Chevalier, and Damian Monsivais, all heavy hitters within in the vintage community with distinct styles.

I was hooked. Add in the 70’s inspired (Goodfellas-esque tbh) shirt from Gangster Squad and you have an addiction forming.

It’s manifest-fucking-destiny.

Spearpoints

Research later showed me that most shirts from 1930s-1940s set films (more so the action ones than the period-dramas like Imitation Game) were wrong. The true spearpoint was something a bit more special and interesting.

I’m going to admit that I have no real idea of how this collar came about.  I vaguely remember reading something in the long lost Esquire’s Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men’s Fashions that talked about how men in the mid 1920s moved away from the stiff, detachable collars and began to prefer longer, soft point collars.  This is clearly evident when you look at old pictures and advertisements from the era.

The spearpoint as I know it is narrower in the back collar band and starts to expand toward the collar points.  Most popular vintage ones tend to have a curve (or teardrop) at this part which makes it different than modern point ones or even 1970’s dress shirts, which treat the expanding collar as a straight line. You might even say that it’s similar to the shape of an OCBD collar, just without the buttons.  Again, this depends on the brand as there were different levels of “dramatic curves” throughout the Golden Era.

Spearpoints typically have a small amount of spread and tie space, which meant that it can be worn with or without a collar bar/pin.  Again, most later incarnations (specifically in the late 60s and 70s) add way too much spread/space which differentiates them again from the 1930s-1940s style.

This is also in contrast to whatever the hell was worn in Goodfellas. I’ve heard reports that it was based on something worn by Italians in the 1960’s, but I haven’t seen any real photographs or illustrations that show that specific style of collar.  That doesn’t mean it didn’t exist, but rather makes it hard for me to judge its versatility.  It’s just so different than a regular spearpoint that it jumps into costume territory (call me a hypocrite).  Hopefully the pictures I show in this article will show you how different they are.

Not a fan of this at all.  Maybe if the tie didn’t sit under the collar points.  The white contrast collar on a black body doesn’t help either.

1970’s. Note the the lack of curve and wide back-off-collar. There is very little teardrop shape!

A lot of spread on the right to make up for the thick 70’s ties.

I like this one though!

 

The main appeal to me is how they work under tailoring. Thanks to the long and curved/pointed collar, it follows the “V” shape presented by a tailored jacket and is always present; the effect is emphasized with a 3PC, since the waistcoat makes a higher “V”.  This is a contrast to regular collars which sit under the lapel.

The collar also wraps around a tie well, which gives it a formal vibe, though it also looks smart when unfastened and laying flat (only if it’s unlined/soft and not stiff).    The spearpoint basically way different than most collars out there: its not as “modern” as the spread collar, not as boring as a regular point, and more versatile than the OCBD since you can pin it or wear it open (it’s not recommended if you’re going for the strict ivy route).

Since the collar is practically begging for it, I seldom wear my spearpoints with a collar bar.  However, I do like it when it’s worn without this restraint allowing it to occasionally flops out for those sprezzatura points, making it similar to the sport shirt/runaway collar.  In short, it can be as lazy or as dressy as you want it to be, and I think you can see that from these Golden Era photographs.

Perfect sprezzatura (lol)

Following the lines of the inside of the lapel.

A nice but short spearpoint, worn with the rarely seen thick 30’s tie.

Great roll on the left, great spearpoint on the right.

Shorter length on this one. Looks contemporary!

Spearpoint workshirt with eyelets (not in use).

A wide spread one.

Walt Disney loved spearpoints, though he didn’t keep them into the 1950’s.

Less-dramatic spearpoints in the Imitation Game.

Obviously, spearpoints (whether it was actually called that back in the day or if its a moniker developed by vintage enthusiasts) had a variety of models and styles, which made it no different than suits, trousers, or even neckties. A maker, like Arrow or Van Heusen would have different approaches regarding the length, the spread, and amount of “curve”.   Hell, I’ve handled vintage spearpoints that were stiff and others that were completely soft.  And as you can see, it was made in a variety of fabrics and patterns, so it wasn’t just for suiting.

In general, there isn’t a definitive spearpoint but rather a common theme that define shirt collars through the Golden Era. And yes, spearpoints were not the only collar styles worn during the era; it just happens to be my favorite.

Spearpoints Today

Brian Sacawa in Edward Sexton.

While spearpoints can be commissioned via bespoke shirt makers or reproduction places like SJC, longer collars in general seem to be making a comeback. It’s probably because  classic menswear in general is getting tired of the typical spread collar. Or they just want something more substantial and playful, as I think was the sentiment written by David Coggins for last year’s Drake’s Common Thread.

The Drake’s long point, worn open.

Maximilian Mogg in his own collar. Note the straight angle of the point, rather than the curve.

Some shirt makers have either been doing a similar spearpoint collar for a while or are introducing their own versions as the market changes.  Edward Sexton has been a popular choice for many, as his long point collars (pinned or not) are very similar, yet still retain a slight 60s-70s edge.  This vibe is echoed by Maximilian Mogg. Drake’s has also started touting their “long point collars” which is a step in the right direction, but it’s more like a cross between a spread and point collar.  Still, it’s good to see something different than the typical OCBD and spread (and definitely not the cutaway).

Edward Sexton eyelet collar.

Edward Sexton himself with a pinned, long collar.

Most of the time, guys don’t do the spearpoint because of the 1970’s vibes or because they don’t want to look like Goodfellas (which is an entirely different collar style as there is no tie space).  That’s all dependent on the collar shape/design and why the curve/teardrop is so important.  From what I’ve seen, only bespoke makers and certain vintage-leaning MTM brands are best at this.  In fact, the rise of tailoring in Vietnam has lead to a few guys who commission really great ones and wear them on the daily.

Tri Pham of PHAM Tailor.

Spearpoints and Me!

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True Vintage 1930’s pullover spearpoint shirt with short length.

Spearpoints really are my trademark shirt.  I’ve remained faithful to them despite my changing sartorial aesthetics! The best part is that I’ve found them to be really versatile in that regard, providing just a hint of rakishness (or sprezz) as needed. I don’t really think they contrast with my slim 1960’s lapels or look odd with chinos (though I mainly do OCBDs for more ivy leaning looks).  This type of collar (much like my love of the 1930s-1940s low gorge lapel) is just one of my specific things that I like in clothing.

Obviously true vintage ones are hard to find. Either they’re expensive (especially European pullover ones from the early 1930s) or they just aren’t in good wearable condition.  With that said, I’ve owned a few true vintage spearpoints, though they aren’t the first things I reach for in my closet.

My only Luxire shirt that was given away because it was skin tight.

My first ever spearpoint was from Luxire, a MTM/custom clothier that is much loved by the menswear community.  They were referred to me by Josh Mar, one of the preeminent young vintage collectors back when I was first getting started (he has since done more westernwear/casual).  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good experience, as I based my measurements off of my “best” fitting shirt at the time: a stretch-cotton, super-slim fit H&M shirt. As you can expect, the $70 shirt came to me after four weeks fitting like a painted on garment.  It was so fucking tight, and not in a good way!

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This was taken back in like 2016.

Then I found Natty Shirts through the Fedora Lounge, a vintage forum. The spearpoint isn’t a named option, but the affiliate thread assured me that all I’d have to do is mention the spearpoint collar and the desired length in the extra customizations box; I also sent it via email with my order number just in case.  Learning from my previous mistake, I simply made these shirts into a box shape (20″ for chest, waist, hips) and just dealt with it.  I did accidentally do an order with fused collar/cuffs but it wasn’t a huge problem (though I don’t wear those often).

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Natty Shirts is the real budget option, priced at about $30-40 before discounts. To maximize my savings, I’d either do the “3 shirts, no shipping” or the “5 shirts and 6th free, just pay shipping”.  That’s basically how I’ve acquired so many spearpoints. And as you know, having more pieces means they don’t wear out as quickly!  They definitely have a few quality issues, as I’ve had buttons pop off after a few wears, crazy shrinkage in the neck (to the point where I can’t wear it), or even fabric discrepancies. Some have survived, but only because I refuse to let them go.

Please note that I can’t give them my full support, but they’re worth a shot if you don’t mind cheap shirts. Their website is really sketchy and I think they’re made somewhere in Asia.  They also don’t really  respond to emails very often and can be hard to contact.  I’ve had a few friends have mild success and others have a terrible time.  Use them at your own risk.  Again,  I haven’t used them in years.

These shirts have collars that range from 3.5-4″ and either have fused collars or are completely soft.  You can probably tell by the looking at the pictures.

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I wear this red pencil stripe one a lot.

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Diamond weave for a western flair. Shorter points to make it more casual.

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Casual green gingham in an unfortunate stiff collar.

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Soft yellow-blue check. One of my favorites and one out of two checked shirts.

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Tan university stripe. Check out the casual unlined collar!

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Blue stripe is my favorite!

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Pink university.

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Red stripes are kinda hard, especially when they’re this saturated.

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Red gingham that had it’s collar shrink significantly.

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Dark denim (with mistaken stiff collar).

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The real GOAT though, is Ascot Chang. And I’m not just saying that because I work for them. It’s because they literally are the best I’ve ever had.  While we can talk about all day about fit (I’m a big fan of loose, full-cut shirts), the real thing is in the details and fabric.  Obviously the fabric they use are high quality, which contrasts sharply with my experience with Natty shirts.

For my first order, I got a basketweave (but not oxford) white shirt and a navy blue linen; they felt like no shirt I’ve had before.  The fit was perfect and definitely hassle-free since it is made for my body and has a generous fit in the places I wanted.  The 4″ collar was based on one of their existing collars (which is different than my Natty one) and has no interlining.

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Ascot Chang, Mark II.

For my second order (blue stripe and pink stripe, in oxford), I decided to go all-in with the Natty one, since I really loved the shape.  I convinced them to follow my sample, recreating the curves and 4″ point.  Because AC is a bespoke maker, I was also able to adjust the collar band height and tie space to my liking, a level of customization you can’t get from some cheap-o online MTM service.  Besides the collar change, I decided to create one of my favorite pockets: the pleated, button-flap patch pockets. It’s carried over from vintage OCBDs, so the inclusion on my spearpoint is a perfect meld of my favorite things!  I also made the fit a bit roomier,  extended the shoulder for comfort, and increased the length.

I think I’ve finally found the perfect shirt. And no, there really is no substitute for a bespoke shirt that’s made to your fit and style specifications.

Pleated, button-flap pocket and my monogram.


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With my favorite vintage sweater vest.

Conclusion

So there you have it, the Spearpoint collar.  Thanks to its unique shape and vintage-call back, it’s something that certainly stands out among the greater classic-menswear world. From what I’ve seen, this shape (or ones similar to it) is usually reserved for more formal shirting, especially when it’s meant to be worn with a pinned collar.  I actually like to use it as an OCBD, wearing it with everything from full suits to more ivy separates, whether or not it’s “period accurate” for that particular garment.

Ultimately my goal with this post was just to expose you to my favorite shirt collar and provide a bit more details on the history (with old photos to boot) and show you specifically how I wear mine.  Many guys ask me about my shirt collar and tend to say that they wished they had the confidence to wear it.  Hopefully now you can see that it’s pretty versatile and completely wearable today, as long as you don’t get it made too long and get it with soft (or no) interlining.  The OCBD connotations are obvious!

Now, you don’t have to wear the spearpoint collar for yourself if it’s not your jive.  It’s admittedly a rakish and dandy style of shirt that may not work for everyone’s regular style.   Virtually none of my contemporary style icons wear them, so it’s proof you don’t exactly need to wear it to be stylish! I definitely think it’s worth a shot, especially if you’re into the 1930s-1940’s aesthetic.

If you do decide to get the spearpoint collar, custom is really the way to go.  My heart belongs to Ascot Chang and I will use them probably the rest of my life! They really nailed the collar and the ability to change everything else (like the pocket to the fit) is just icing on the cake.  I haven’t used other bespoke shirt makers (think 100Hands) or MTM like Luxire, so you can try them if you’ve had experience with them or don’t live near an Ascot Chang.  Or you can try your hand at finding vintage! It’s hard, but might be worth it for a cool, absolutely unique/rare piece of clothing.

Let me know if you guys are interested in getting one from Ascot Chang. I’m pretty sure if you order, you can just mention that you want the same collar as Ethan Wong and they’ll be  able to do it!  Maybe someday I could convince them to make a small run of RTW to sell on the blog, similar to how they parter with The Armoury and Brycelands.  Something for me to think about…

Don’t Forget the Podcast Episode!

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

@ethanmwong

Street x Sprezza 

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6 comments

  1. Pingback: The Spearpoint Collar « Fashion
  2. Eric Hall · March 6

    Great article on the spearpoint collar with a wonderful collection of images! Is that first photo Cab Calloway?
    I’ve done a few experiments with removing normal collars and recutting spearpoints out of the same fabric (two matching shirts from the thrift store). This has inspired me to give it another go-
    Cheers!
    Eric

    Like

  3. Reginald R · March 16

    Great article. How much are the Ascot Chang shirts?

    Like

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