Collars are more flattering with tailoring – but do you care? – Permanent Style

I’ve regularly worn T-shirts or crewnecks under tailoring over the years. Not as frequently as a collared shirt, but when you’re always looking for more ways to wear suits and jackets, the more relaxed look of a T-shirt has perennial appeal. 

I’ve written before about what kinds of T-shirts and sweaters work. Tips in that article include knitted tees over normal ones, the virtues of pattern, and why double-breasted jackets can be easier than single. 

But one thing I haven’t spoken about much is the extent to which a T-shirt under a jacket is flattering or unflattering. Given this is often the argument put against the look, I thought it was worth a discussion.

Collars are, in general, more flattering on men. The collar frames the face, hides a long or thin neck, and creates that complimentary V down the front of the body. Even if you have a shorter, wider upper body, a smaller collar and the open front will often be the most flattering.

But some people need it more than others. If you’re thinner or less muscular, there’s greater benefit in the structured lines of by a shirt or a jacket (and indeed well-cut clothes in general). I’m personally on the taller, slimmer side of the spectrum, with sloping shoulders, and know that in general a collared shirt is more flattering on me. 

I like the image above, for example, pictured front-on in a knitted T-shirt and suit. But the one below, showing the same outfit from the side, reveals something of what you lose without that shirt collar, with my longer exposed neck. 

Other aspects of your body can also make a difference – not just shoulders, neck and general upper-body. 

For example, as I’ve grown my beard out over the years, I’ve noticed that more facial hair helps this kind of look. Compare the two images below of me in navy jackets and navy tees, for instance. They’re not the same angle, but I think you can see that the second flatters more than the first. The beard helps fill in some of the gap. 

This applies to hair in general. It’s one reason women can get away with a greater range of looks, and I’ve always thought it was why guys with longer hair find it easier to wear hats. 

The gap can also be filled by things like scarves, or collars on the knits. 

The flattering height of a half-zip is one reason they’re so popular, for example, and we all know how flattering a shawl-collared cardigan can be. In the first outfit below the collar of my cardigan effectively replaces the collar, and in the second image a scarf does the same job. 

The other option is to turn up the collar of a jacket, as I’m doing in the PS Shetland Tweed shoot at the bottom. Ralph Lauren does this on all its mannequins, just lifting the back of the collar to frame the neck. But a popped collar is not for everyone, or always appropriate. 

Now as with many things in menswear, the key is to recognise these points – then decide whether you care.

On PS we’ve always argued that fit is an under-appreciated aspect of clothing. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only one: quality, relevance and personal style will always be important too.

When it comes to T-shirts under suits, I put more weight on physical flattery than others and so most of the time wear a collared shirt. But I still switch it up sometimes, just because I feel like it that day. Flattery and style swap places, briefly, in the pecking order. 

For thoughts on what knits and tees look better under tailoring, see previous article here. 

For more on the necklines of crewneck sweaters, and what flatters you, have a look at the article here.  

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