“If it’s not a button down, I’m not interested.” This was my mantra from the time I was old enough to buy my own shirts ‘till I was close to thirty years old. Until then, I had no interest in a straight collar, a modified spread or anything…other than a button down.
The Trad Mother Church that I worked in offered one basic style of a straight collar shirt but I never took notice of it. Seems to me that the local preachers preferred it. Our highest volume stock in trade was courtesy of Gant and it was always oxford cloth button down…at nineteen dollars a go. I can’t find a photo of it and I am not dreaming this one up…Gant had a deep, almost orange-ish yellow called maize (surprise I know) that was solely unique to them. It made every other yellow look washed out…not that even the Gant maize color did anyone’s coloring a favor. Ok, I’m digressing.
Why would I need anything other than a button down? My clothing line-up until age thirty consisted totally of single breasted, single vented, mostly 3/2 rolled clothing. The exception was an occasional from the outlets, Ralph rig that might have been double vented. But peaked lapels, sleeve cuffs and double breasted rigs, even though just around the corner, weren’t yet part of my oeuvre.
And when they did arrive, the sartorial components that beg for a shirting alternative to the age-old buttoned down standard, whispered to me… “pin it, pin it…” so I complied. The cinched and secured, elevated visual stance of a well dimpled tie was enough to keep me devoted to the pinned-collar-code to this day. Plus, I could never seem to pull off the unpinned look. Sure, when I did, the unwashed masses would have never known that I was falling short of the mark. But I did. And that’s all that mattered.
Here’s my one exception to the rule where I’m actually comfortable with the outcome. But the tie clasp offers the grounding and securitization that for some reason I think I need. But others through the years have done the unpinned collar rather well. Here’s a few
Sir Henry Cotton
John P. Marquand does it but this look is just too sloppy for me.
Acheson does it but his vest supplies the cinched tie arc that makes this anything but relaxed.
Gable. Strong as nine rows of spring onions.
And here’s my buddy G. Bruce Boyer manifesting Ivy-Trad-Tweed-Cord Sprezzatura all-to-be-damned. Folks, this is about as stellar as it gets…relaxed—unstudied wise. With an unbuttoned button down collar. Sublime.
If you’ve read my stuff for any length of time, you know that this photo of my pimply faced teenage dad is one that still provokes scores of unanswered questions. Fear not, I won’t take you back down that maudlin path again. Suffice it to say that I remain intrigued by the unrequited genesis of his style.
And when LFG and I were home last June, I found this photo of my dad. How do farm boys in Horry County, South Carolina develop this level of style? Soft, unpinned collar and some swanky bit of neckwear to bring it full circle. This looks kinda Ralph before Ralph. Suffice it to say that I never got the hang of pulling together this unpinned, soft collared casual look. My dad was rocking it at ten.
Amidst the previous photo of my father was this one. Looks like some kind of corporate head shot thing for the files. My mom had no answer regarding the photo so that puts me at a complete loss as well. I remained a company man for thirteen years before starting my own gig. My dad lasted about thirteen minutes, listening to others, before he started his. Maybe this was his exit photo. Whatever the case…as much as I love the photo booth shot of my dad, this one doesn’t trip my trigger. Full Windsor knot and an unpinned collar. It’s just not my thing.
So here’s my final verdict on the unpinned, soft collar. I’m neutral. If you can pull the look off, then I suppose that it’s ok. I prefer a tightened up, fountainhead arc of a well dimpled tie preening above a pin. It could be a karmic thing for me, I don’t know. I tried the unpinned caution-to-the-wind collar when last I needed a new driver’s licence. The outcome’s above. Case closed. At least for me.