Marketing Secretary William Baxter takes us through his top five picks for collars and ties

Written by William Baxter

At Snapchat’s New York Stock Exchange IPO recently, company director Evan Spiegel broke one of the biggest rules of Wall Street. No, not Belfort-style insider trading. Instead, this tech billionaire chose to suit up, with a preppy navy two-piece and an actual tie. Zuckerberg, take note – Spiegel is making your daily grey tee and hoody look seriously out of date. Now, as students we’re obviously not suiting up every day, but if you’re thinking about upgrading your style then use this guide as your bible. Gone are the days when any old tie, shirt and collar combination will do. So, here are five different styles outlined – base these looks around your current wardrobe or upgrade with the pieces suggested to give your style a boost.

Style number one – the collar pin

If your particular retro look is more Mad Men than Jay Gatsby (let’s face it, in an article about ties, now considered outdated by nearly everyone, every option is going to be somewhere on the retro-scale), look no further than the collar pin. Popularised across the pond over the first half of the 20th century, this humble device acts to pull the two ends of your collar together whilst pushing the tie up, creating a very slick smart arc to the tie. These pins come in two styles – the first, which has fallen out of fashion over the last few decades, is for a large safety-pin style link which can be used on any collar, while the second is a straight pin with ends that unscrew to fit through holes in a specially designed collar. For the shirt, this one from Next is a real winner for the student budgets. I’ve had one of the slim fits for over a year and so far it’s stayed fray-free and just as crisp as the day I bought it. A great hack would be to upgrade the collar bar provided with one a little shorter to achieve that neater look – mine was a relic of my dad’s, but hunting around in a vintage or charity shop should get you one for less than a tenner.

As for the tie, the classiest option would be something slim and plain – think navy blue or a deep burgundy. Knot it with a Four-in-Hand for a tight, small knot that will comfortably sit over the collar bar and within the ends of the collar. This is a smart, statement look, and will always work better with a plainer suit, making it perfect for balls that aren’t quite black tie, very smart cocktail bars or any event where you’re looking to impress.

Style number two – the tab collar

The pin collar’s more chilled out cousin is surely the tab collar. In short, the tab collar does a similar job as a pin in that it lifts the tie and creates a more prominent feature to the knot. It’s a bit more casual though, with the collar having two additional pieces of fabric stitched with a loop and a button to create the link. This shirt is a big spend for a student budget, but it has all the features expected of a top Savile Row brand – including a super stylish rounded collar point and great stitching detail on the placket.  For the neckwear, a Four-in-Hand will be the appropriate choice and will look best in a bold striped pattern. Woven silk will always be appropriate, but if you want to look especially dapper consider choosing a wool-silk or even a cashmere blend to add texture to the ensemble. The direction of the stripes is up to you – but remember that Americans favour right to left diagonals, whilst the British tradition is from left to right, supposedly created to mirror the ‘from heart to sword’ attitude of the British soldiers who originally wore stripes as regimental ties.

Style number three – the semi-cutaway collar

A British classic, the semi-cutaway collar design sits somewhere between a full spread and the narrow point of more conventional collars. There’s a good chance you already own a semi-cutaway collar shirt, so an upgrade might not be necessary, but if not this extra-slim fit from Charles Tyrwhitt is a great choice. In terms of style notes, the semi-cutaway was previously seen as the reserve of bankers and sales executives, but recently has been adopted across the board. This style of shirt is more appropriate for day wear than evening, so consider wearing it to a wedding – alternatively, worn at an interview this style of shirt will always look smart without looking too showy.

For the tie, a Half-Windsor knot will fill the slightly more generous collar, and again is the reserve of the smart and conservative. Keep things sophisticated and compliment your suit colours, although if you do want to splash out with a colourful, busy design it’s this collar to try it with. Alternatively, ditch the tie and throw on a crewneck cable knit for a preppy but off-duty style.

Style number four – the extreme-cutaway collar,en_GB,pd.html?cgid=Mens-White-Shirts&prefn1=collarShape&start=0&prefv1=Fully%20Cutaway#zoomedView

This style has become incredibly popular over the last few years, marking a big step away from the slimmer, more traditional collars associated with the skinny-fit revolution of the mid-2000s. This collar is certainly unique, but sporting it will demonstrate that your fashion sense is anything but boring. This shirt from TM Lewin is a good choice for students – at £35 it’s not cheap, but it’s within a sensible budget and will seriously upgrade your smart style. Choose a plain colour (white, sky-blue or pastel pink would be the obvious choices) and team it with any of your suits or blazers for a look that is as smart as it is modern. For the traditional, a Windsor knot will fill the collar and show off lots of your tie’s material. If you’re after a more casual look, a Four-in-Hand would be the smart choice – the small knot should sit dead on the top button so that plenty of the tie’s print can be seen at the edges of the collar.

Style number five – the button-down collar

Leaving the easiest to style last, the button-down is a fashion classic. You should’ve been wearing one for years, so if not it’s time to catch up. Popularised in America during the middle of the 20th century, the button-down was instantly popular across the campuses of the top Ivy League colleges as a more casual alternative to the stiff starched collars associated with the world of business. All of this makes it the perfect option for everyday wear – too casual for a suit, but just right for nearly everything else. This example from Gant is the quintessential American classic – plenty of roll on the collar but cut from a very soft cotton, making this an incredibly comfortable shirt. Good designs can be found at all budgets, so check out Uniqlo’s online store for a good-quality bargain before turning to Mr Porter.

The button down can take a tie, but remember that it’s supposed to be casual. If you’re going to do it, make sure it’s either knitted or made from a material like wool – this way it won’t look like too much of a contradiction.