03 June 2010

On Stiffeners

Allow me a brief word on stiffeners. I am not referring to cocktails or Viagra, but to the slim metallic inserts in men's shirt collars. Collar stiffeners, or, as they are known in your country, collar stays. I mention them now because twice in the past fortnight I have been on the receiving end of puzzled inquiries into their use, if you can believe it. The first time a young banker asked me as we were riding the lift how I kept my shirt collars from curling. The query astounded me, but I was prepared as always with an authoritative-sounding explanation and referred him to the nearest men's shop for a pair of brass ones. Speaking of brass, recently over premium-strength cocktails a good chum expressed surprise at my use of brass stays, as his are plastic. I took them out for his inspection and they were passed around the group. Brass, I explained, is not the only option; collar stays are also available in sterling silver, gold, palladium, and titanium for the sporty set. Aristocratic bankers in Japan use razor-sharp bamboo stiffeners, whose fragility helps them maintain correct neck posture, avoiding sudden motions, when meeting with eminent clients. In the photo (above) you can see my pair of brass stiffeners lounging about in a box made of Russia calf recently acquired from Cleverley, along with a few trinkets for which I no longer have much use. In life as in love, it is important to keep not only a stiff upper lip, but a stiff collar as well.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Only one pair? The Admiral must use one and only one bespoke shirtmaker, who uses but one collar style and length. For whatever reason my bespokes, even from the same maker, often require different "stiffener" (stays?) lengths and widths even in the same style shirt, same order. And I've always used plastic, fearing a sudden jolt or other abnormal involuntary movement (as the medical pros would style it) might result in a piercing.

The Ancient said...

I seem to remember that it is still possible to buy the sort of collar stays my father wore when he was young -- a gold band ran around the back of the neck, under the collar, culminating in two collar stays that fit perfectly into his bespoke shirts.

(It was ridiculous, but it worked for him.)

((Of course, he was also the sort of person who wore a coat and tie while fishing.))

Main Line Sportsman said...

My God...what sort of man does not know about and utilize collar stays...
You are to be commended for edifying the Philistines.
By the way....One of the few things I have purchased at Jos. Banks in my life is their brass collar stay set...it is resonably priced and includes several lengths and widths for different shirt collars.

v. Braun. said...

Thanks for directing my attention to them...I also seem to have run through those stages- at first, for a very short time as a child, I had thought that they are only some packaging-item to be discarded, now I'm still at the plastic-stay stage, although I am buying some metal ones now and then when I lose former. Reading your motivational statement there, I for some undefinable reason, thought of wanting some marine ivory ones..

K.S. Anthony said...

The best are from Tiffany & Co, engraved with some caddish motto ("Age Quod Agis") and ALWAYS taken out before you take your shirts to the cleaners.

The VERY best double as lapel or thumb daggers. (guffaws)

http://pmimages.worthpoint.com/thumbnails2/1/0808/16/1_00d8ded32cd209f7945f2141027698c3.jpg

Lisa said...

My mom always buys my dad a nice dress shirt for his birthday. As a kid, I remember going with her to Nordstrom's or Bullock's and taking out all the plastic stays out of the shirts, and using them to make picket fences to keep my toy horses at bay.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather wore monogrammed silver stiffeners, 24 carat gold was deemed 'too soft'. He was very particular. We made sure he was buried thus attired.

John said...

"Speaking of brass, recently over premium-strength cocktails a good chum expressed surprise at my use of brass stays, as his are plastic. I took them out for his inspection and they were passed around the group."

That would make a great scene in a movie.

initials CG said...

Also known as "bones" in some places...

Reggie Darling said...

I confess, I use plastic ones, as the are easily procured and I have a tendency to send such things to the cleaners (miserably, I once sent a pair of gold links that had been passed down generations to the cleaners, never to be seen again). I bought an antique crystal oval and silver container (the ones that 19th century fashionables used to adorn their dressing tables) which is filled with collar stays in various lengths and widths. Brooks Brothers sells vials containing an assortment of them, which I handily picked up at the airport recently...BTW, Cod I linked to your post on Belgians on mine yesterday.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

I've always called them collar bones.

And everyone has told me to stay away from the brass as they age the collar quicker. I've never had that problem. But with 100 + shirts in rotation.... I've always felt secure knowing that my collar could turn a knife edge. Sort of Bondonian in my opinion.

They all live in an old aqua glass handblown ashtray.

Anonymous said...

My favorite set of collar bones are mother of pearl from Thomas Pink.

~Hilton

brohammas said...

my favorite collar bones belong to my wife, but I use a brass pair from... believe it or not... Express Men.

Stop laughing, they had a whole set that I got with a nice fitted wide spread collar shirt.