Let's Hear It For The Band

The conventional wisdom within classic menswear is that the shirt collar performs the necessary function of framing the wearer’s face. Hence the fixation with collar height, and in particular the structural integrity of the unbuttoned collar, the collapsed collar providing no frame at all. Without such a frame, so the theory goes, the face is but a naked, wilting canvas, wandering through the world utterly bereft of protection, purpose, and presentation.

I’ve come to believe this theory is a bit overwrought. 

I came to this belief by the most honest means known to logic: a counterexample. To wit, the band collar. 

Depending on whether you have more experience with the Catholic Church or Victorian dramas, the band collar may evoke a clerical mood, or the bedroom dishabille of a detachable collar shirt without its collar. Or the band collar may seem vaguely Indian, resembling as it does the closure of a kurta, as well as that of a Nehru jacket. 

Or perhaps you’re not saddled with any of these associations, and can simply enjoy in peace an attractive, practical design. The delight of the band collar is that it avoids the difficulty of collar choice with a casual outfit. If your outfit is casual enough that you wouldn’t want to wear a properly face-framing button down shirt that would likely need to be tucked in, but you’re reluctant to retreat to a smaller, flatter collar, then the band collar is exactly what you need. 

That the band collar finds use in these more casual outfits excuses its abdication of duty as a frame for the face. Such outfits don’t present the wearer as a museum piece. The entire attitude is less structured and formal - more of a sketch than an oil painting. 

The same is true, of course, of other casual garments like t-shirts and sweaters. Band collar shirts offer this same collarless nonchalance in woven fabrics. A t-shirt or sweater in, for instance, corduroy, would be a rare and possibly unfortunate discovery. But a band collar shirt in corduroy, like the one above, is a wonderful and eminently acquirable item. Such a treasure is worth discarding a theory for.

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