When Tom Ford featured himself in the FW09 campaign of Grey Vetiver (photo above), he had a lot of guys asking less about the new fragrance and more about that massive safety pin piercing his necktie. I know it may look like the collar pin is puncturing that poor tie, but it’s actually sitting behind the necktie, propping the knot up and pinning the collar down.
Collar pins made their début in the early 20th century, at a time when there were no collar stays and collars tended to be flimsy and curl upwards as the day progressed. One of the earliest photos of someone sporting a collar pin was that of Australian aviator Norman Brearley in the 1920s. Fred Astaire wore collar pins in the 1920s and 1930s, as did actor Paul Muni in the 1932 version of Scarface. They disappeared for a while in the 1940s, but came back into style thanks to Frank Sinatra in the 1950s. The ebb and flow of the trend continued into the 1980s, where we saw a young Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele and Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko both brandishing the collar pin. The modern-day resurgence of the collar pin may very well be credited to a combination of Tom Ford, the AMC hit 1960s themed TV show Mad Men and HBO’s 1920s themed Boardwalk Empire.
Collar pins come in three varieties:
1) The Classic Collar Pin looks like an oversized safety pin. It’s designed to be worn predominantly with rounded club collars and narrow collars. I was mortified at the thought of piercing holes through my dress shirt, but the holes do disappear after the shirt is washed. That being said, I’m not sure how many piercings a shirt can endure before the wear on the collar begins to show. Collarpins.com sells these anywhere from $7 for nickel-plated to $269 in solid 14kt gold.
2) The Straight Collar Pin is similar to a barbel tongue piercing. It has little cubes or decorative elements on each side and at least one of them screws on and off. For this collar pin, you need a special shirt collar that already has stitch reinforced holes in it. You simply guide the bar through the holes and you’re done. Good luck find one of these shirts though. You’ll either have to get lucky at a vintage store somewhere or have a bespoke shirt made for you to said spec. Ties.com sells these for around $20 each, as does Collarpins.com.
3) The Collar Bar is not really a pin per se, works as a clasp to hold the two sides of your collar together. The benefit of this is that it doesn’t poke any holes through your expensive Prada shirts. The disadvantage is that you’re not going to get quite the same effect. I don’t know how tight the clips hold to your collar, because I’ve never used them. If you’re looking to find some, Paul Stuart sells these for around $20 each, as does Collarpins.com.
Collar pins work well with either rounded club collars or smaller collars. Try to keep the knot of the tie small by staying away from large knots like the Windsor Knot, or thick, heavy, woven/lined ties. This way you avoid wrinkling your collar and your knot won’t look like it’s about to punch someone in the face. Go for the smaller collar pins as well, something around 2-2.25 inches long. The collar pin gives the suit a more elegant look, adds personal style, and by drawing the eye to the knot with the collar pinched in – will make you look leaner. Maybe even cool.