White collar blues

Der Chef

The often-maligned white collar and cuff has been given a bad wrap. Ever since Michael Douglas strutted his stuff as Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street, donning the white collar and spruiking “Greed is Good,” it has been pigeon holed by many as the ‘banker collar,’ embodying unrestrained greed and 1980s excess.

However, the history of the white collar and cuff has much less to do with alpha male executives and showcasing your favourite pair of cufflinks on a white neutral cuff, and much more to do with limited resources.

It is said that the origins of the white collar and cuff dates back to the detachable collars and cuffs of the 19th century. Back then good manners dictated that you never showed your shirt in public, as the shirt was considered an item of underwear. Furthermore, the body of the shirt was also hidden from public scrutiny, as limited washing facilities and resources meant that it was not uncommon for a shirt to go unwashed for some time. Yet with the collar and cuffs remaining exposed to the public, being able to easily detach them from the body of the shirt allowed the collar and cuffs to be replaced or rigorously cleaned, starched, and put back in place with studs.

It was not too long before detachable white collars and cuffs found their way onto coloured and patterned shirts, creating the look now often colloquially referred to as the “banker collar.”

With that in mind, there is no doubt that the movie Wall Street left a defining impact on perceptions regarding contrasting collars and cuffs that continue to filter through to today, especially amongst English speaking parts of the globe. So much so, it is not unusual for a wearer of a shirt with a white collar and cuff to be described as “doing a Gekko.” Like an actor being typecast because of their most famous role, the white collar and cuff has as much to thank as it has to blame Wall Street for its notoriety. And so today, rightly or wrongly, people are as attracted to the contrasting collar and cuffs as they are deterred by it for being associated with corporate moguls and big time movers and shakers.

However, far from solely befitting the City types, the contrasting collar and cuff is just as stylish in a casual setting as it is in the boardroom. For those of you who wish to argue that it is a ‘rule’ to confine the contrasting collar and cuff to serious power dressing, we would like to remind you that rules are meant to be broken.

The contrasting collar and cuff can very much form part of your casual wardrobe. If anything, combined with a simple barrel cuff or the Philippe Perzi Vienna signature rounded two button cuff, the clean, crisp, fresh look of a contrasting collar and cuff can effectively portray a relaxed and stylish look, which could be said is very much the purpose of any smart casual attire.

This is most evident in Italy. In the fashion world, the Italians lead the way by marching to the beat of their own drum. A passaggiata down the streets of Milan, Florence or Rome will unveil many highly fashionable men casually wearing contrasting collars and cuffs, sans tie. Not only can the contrasting collar and cuff provide a clean and natural break to an otherwise very colorful and strong shirt, they can accentuate or complement the vivid colour and patterns of the shirt.

These Italian men show us that a contrasting collar and cuff, be they white or another colour, can look as seriously stunning with a pair of trousers, sipping an espresso at a café, as it does in the corporate world playing master of the universe.

Contrasting collars and cuff shouldn’t be restricted to shirts with strong, vivid colours and patterns. The look can work just as successfully with soft pastels and light colours, such as, pale blue, lilac or pink, like Fuchsia Fiasco and Greenback Boogie from our most recent shirt collection and pictured below.

The other misguided advice you may hear in connection with contrasting collars and cuff is to ‘dress down’ during tough economic times, and so avoid the contrasting collar and cuff. This advice seems paradoxical to us. If anything, this logic would suggest it is during such times that making a statement of confidence counts the most. But the reality is you need to make every day count, regardless of the economic cycle.

Casually the white collar and cuff can grab the attention for all the right reasons, while commanding a sense of authority in the realms of the executive world. It is no surprise that one of our favourites from the new shirt collection, which is the feature image for this blog, has been aptly named Der Chef – which translates to “The Boss.”

Whatever the situation, the state of world affairs or the perception of the masses, the clean, fresh look of a contrasting white collar will maintain its timeless appeal and epitomize confidence and masculine chic. So make sure you make you own mind up as to what you think looks good and what can work for you. You don’t have to like the contrasting collar and cuff but do not dismiss it because of the opinions of others. At the end of the day, it is Gekko’s attitude and the flair of the Italians that sets the tone. Let your individuality do the same. The white collar and cuff will merely, albeit beautifully, provide the frame to complete the picture.

Philippe Perzi Vienna – What makes us different, makes you different. It’s all in the detail.