Create A Contrast

With Jos giving us a total guide to the lounge suit this week, I thought now would be the perfect time to feature a trend that can easily crossover into your worker wear wardrobe this autumn/winter. That trend is the contrast collar shirt. For those that are too young to remember this trend the last time it was in fashion, the contrast collar shirt is just that; the main body of your shirt is one colour, whilst the collar (and often the cuffs) are of a different contrasting colour. Sounds hideous? Well, you would be surprised at how far men’s fashion has come – we have progressed so far as individuals that we can now integrate pretty much any item into our outfits, and really create a statement at the same time.

If I was honest, this is a trend I never thought would come back so strong – as the last time I remember wearing one of these shirts was around 10 years ago! However, with the majority of men being much more clued up now with regard to fashion and style, all of us are looking for an edge or to stand out from the crowd. Designers have been continuously revamping and re-releasing items/trends with modern takes in order fill this growing need; this is just another one of those pieces that you will either love and integrate into your personal style, or something you will not feel comfortable wearing.

For those ready to dismiss this trend immediately due to the fact it reminds you of unfashionable days gone by, I urge you to carry on reading in order to see how versatile the piece is, and how easily it is to wear this season. It might just take your casual and work looks to the next level.

Contrast Collar Shirts Look Book

The look book below shows how the contrast collar shirt can be worn in a youthful and modern way. It has obvious connotations with Wall Street and Gordon Gekko – but the sixties are trending as a whole right now, and the mad men era is still influencing most formal or worker wear outfits we see these days:

Contrast Collar Shirts Look Book

Current Season Versions

The classic light blue shirt with white collar is an iconic style that is very easy to pair against your black, navy or grey suits. Don’t be afraid of patterns; stripes, gingham and checks are all very popular this year and look particularly great against the solid colour of the collar:

  • Blue and grey cotton shirt
  • ASOS Slim Fit Striped Shirt
  • Selected Cool Contrast Collar Shirt
  • Grey cotton contrast shirt
  • PAUL SMITH - PS 159L-704 Light Grey Shirt
  • Nicole Farhi Grey Micro Hounsdtooth Collar Shirt
  • hardy amies Double stripe shirt
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Blue Fine Stripe Contrast Collar Shirt
  • Ralph Lauren Purple Label Striped Shirt with Contrast Collar
  • POLO RALPH LAUREN A04-C6163 Burgundy Shirt
  • CANALI Bold Stripe Shirt
  • AR RED Light Blue Fine Stripe Shirt
  • polo ralph lauren Stripe shirt
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Custom Fit Round Collar Cotton Shirt
  • John Varvatos Check Cotton Shirt
  • Duchamp POW Collar Single Cuff Long Sleeved Shirt
How To Wear

So how should you wear this piece as a 21st century gentleman? Well, the easiest way is to utilise the contrast collar shirt with a suitable tie and your work suits. The fully suited looks in the look book above show just how well this type of shirt works when you are buttoned up with a tie. Suddenly you have 3 colours (the shirt, collar and tie) working together in harmony in the top section of your outfit, all anchored by the neutral suit jacket. It definitely shows some flair and it would certainly make you stand out against all the other black suit, white shirt and dark tie members of your office.

Something else to consider to really finish this work look off would be to pair a pocket square with one of the 3 main colours. My personal preference is to match it to the collar. Due to most of the contrasting collars being white, you could use a simple white cotton version to subtly coordinate with it – showing attention to detail most others wouldn’t even consider.

Example Shirt & Tie Combinations

So here are a few shirt and tie combinations to get you on your way. Remember to bear in mind Matt Allinson’s tips on pattern matching within shirt and tie combinations.

  • Selected Cool Contrast Collar Shirt
  • ARMANI Glitz stripe tie
  • Nicole Farhi Grey Micro Hounsdtooth Collar Shirt
  • Brioni Knitted Silk Tie
  • polo ralph lauren Stripe shirt
  • HUGO BOSS Dot tie
  • POLO RALPH LAUREN A04-C6163 Burgundy Shirt
  • Burgundy Silk Knit Tie, Nick Bronson
Contrast Collars Outfit Inspiration
Outfit 1: Preppy Inspired

So let’s take a look at some example outfits, in order to show how the contrast colour shirt can work in both formal and casual looks. First off, we will start with the preppy inspired outfit in the look book above [third row right]. This gentleman has got flair and focal points running throughout the outfit, and they are all created via the detailing and accessories. These are the 2 KEY components in my mind that will take any of your outfits to the next level, making you stand out against those with just a passing interest in fashion and looking good.

The light blue contrast collar shirt is very versatile and can be utilised like you would your denim shirts; so pair with beige chinos for an easy to wear combination that anyone can pull off. Using a solid dark blue tie is perfect, as it contrasts against the sky blue backdrop, but also coordinates within the same colour family. Notice how he uses a tie pin here (mentioned in Jos’ article) in order to add another focal point, and some classic gentleman styling.

This time we skip the belt and utilise a preppy pair of braces. Warren made a great point this week in his article on how to wear trousers correctly – many men neglect their belt and opt for safe choices, when they could use something as simple as braces in order to make a real statement and stand out from the crowd. Takes confidence in order to pull it off, but when you do it looks superb. These brown braces coordinate brilliantly with the brown brogues, tying the top and bottom half together.

The final focal point comes in the form of the striped red/navy socks. Again, the stripes are a very preppy inspired print, which just subtly emphasises the whole aesthetic we are going for. The navy also coordinates with the navy tie and light blue shirt – creating consistency throughout the whole outfit. Give the hems a couple of folds in order to really show them off.

With just a few tweaks we could change this from a smart outfit into something much more casual. Lose the socks and tie, slip on some loafers, roll the sleeves up and undo your top 2 buttons. Maybe even let the braces hang down if you want that true ‘off duty’ look.

  • Turnbull & Asser Cotton Shirt with Contrast Collar and Cuffs
  • ZEGNA Knitted tie
  • Scotch & Soda Braces
  • Dockers Stone San Francisco Tapered Fit Chinos
  • Paul Smith Shoes & Accessories Contrasting Stripe Socks
  • GRENSON William Brown Grain Shoes
Outfit 2: Smart Casual

This is such a simple outfit, but perfect for a night out on the town or smart casual events. This time the look we are going for utilises key pieces that every man should already own in their wardrobe [bottom row left]. A navy blazer and a pair of dark indigo jeans are essential pieces you should all have by now; they are very versatile and will adapt to all current and future fashion trends that come along.

This time we opt for a patterned shirt, as the other two pieces are neutral anchors. We want to inject some life into the outfit, so a plaid or gingham version of the shirt is ideal. These two patterns are slightly more casual than a striped shirt, so they lend themselves well to being worn without a tie or belt.

You could opt for any bold coloured shirt within this outfit, as the navy blazer will neutralise most of the brashness. We have gone for a refined pink gingham check, as it is a colour not often worn by men and contrasts well against the blue – making even more of a statement with its white collar. Zara actually do the exact same shirt in a navy check should you wish to keep it subdued.

  • Ted Baker Herringbone Hacking Jacket
  • john varvatos star usa Authentic fit denim jeans
Outfit 3: Beckham Inspired Formal

Who else but Beckham would show us exactly how it is done? I love this outfit for so many reasons, but in my eyes this is exactly the sort of sartorial flair you should want to show at the office or at an event. He looks smart and put together, but so much more stylish than Jimmy Kimmel standing to the left of him – who actually pulled off stripe pattern matching himself.

So where do we start? I love the combination of the purple striped shirt and burgundy/brown tie – two colours you wouldn’t expect to work so well together but contrast beautifully. Not only that, but he shows how to pattern match by varying the pattern on the shirt and tie and also the size of the pattern as well. The white contrast collar really sets off the outfit and creates 3 distinct focal points in the top section segmented by his blazer. Here I should mention that with such bold colours, a black suit is the perfect option to not only anchor the bold patterns and colours, but create a dark backdrop for them to really come alive against.

I like how David matched the pocket square to his tie, but we couldn’t find an exact colour match to our tie choice online. However, like we mentioned earlier, you can instead coordinate it with your collar. A white pocket square is subtle and refined – perfect for adding character in a business environment. Never forget the finer details, such as your tie pin and a great slim leather belt.

In the look book picture you cannot see the bottom half, but David is actually rocking purple socks as well in this look. This creates yet another focal point when he sits down and crosses his legs, whilst at the same time ties the top (shirt colour) and bottom half together with style. See the video below to really appreciate the whole look.

  • Ralph Lauren Purple Label Striped Shirt with Contrast Collar
  • ASOS Skinny Fit Black Suit
  • HARRODS Spotted Silk Ascot Tie
  • thomas nash Grey mini tie clip
  • Forzieri White Silk Pocket Square
  • ASOS Lace Up Leather Sole Derby Shoes