For an essentially unnecessary piece of fabric around your neck, the shirt collar can be a surprisingly meaningful feature.

If someone asked you to draw William Shakespeare right now, the most recognizable thing about him would probably be that XXL collar that makes it looks like Will got so frustrated with writing, he stuck his head through a piece of paper.

William Shakespeare with a big collar

Despite our modern association of epic shirt collars with old-timey garb, collars did not really show up in the Western world until the mid-1400s.

“Up until the mid-15th century, menswear tended to have necklines that varied from the base of the neck to what we modern people would call a ‘boat neckline,’ or scoop neckline, and likewise, their undershirts kept a similar profile.”

“This continues into the extreme in the 16th-century with the evolution of the neck ruff,” a collar that’s unattached to the shirt and that you might recognize as the thing you think of when you think of an overwrought historical collar.

The ruff in the 1500s just like wearing a $10,000 watch today: unnecessary fashion that displayed your status (although the ruff was probably harder to steal).
“At the height of the craze, in the 1580s and 1590s, ruffs are made up of up to six yards of starched material, with up to 600 pleats in them, extending eight inches or more from the neck.”

Ruff madness didn’t last terribly long; ruffs were difficult and expensive to maintain, so the cravat — the precursor to the necktie, basically — came into fashion, followed by the detachable collar, a great way to do something that you probably did this very week: avoid laundry.

The Polo Shirt was Born

In 1933, tennis player René Lacoste began manufacturing the item that we now recognize as the polo shirt. (He got the idea from the shirt worn by a polo-playing friend — hence the name.)

“Dressing soft” is now more acceptable than ever — living in sweatpants 24/7 is a reality, not a joke, thanks to things like dress sweatpants.

Another practical use of the collar on a polo shirt, is to protect your neck from the sun, a tradition often used by professional golfers, including South African JB Kruger and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño.

Fenix XCell polos not only provide strong collars but use fabrics specially selected for the hot Asian climate and to give UV protection.

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