Poll: When Wearing a Collared Shirt and Blazer, Does the Collar Go Out or In?

We’ve been curious about this for a while — ever since we advised that a collared shirt should always stay IN if you’re wearing a suit, and numerous readers wrote to say that they had always been advised (by various career counselors) to wear their collars out. So we thought we’d take a poll.

collars in or out madonna-in-business-suit

For our $.02 — which purely comes from observation, as we have never heard a “rule” on it — a tucked-in collar looks better with a suit. More fashionable women tend to do it (Angelina, Madonna) when wearing a suit; and it gives them a neat, sharp look. It also puts the emphasis in the desired place, as our eyes are drawn to their face, not their clavicle or shoulders. We suppose it’s possible that there are greater rules here that we’re not aware of, for example dealing with fabric (cotton goes in, silk goes out) or the type of collar or lapel. Perhaps it’s a regional rule — e.g., in DC, collars go out with suits; in Hollywood, collars go in with suits. Either way, we thought we’d start a dialog…

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Readers, what say you? Please comment, particularly if you choose #3…

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  1. Personally, I strongly favor the collar out for women. When I see a collar in, it just looks to me like it’s itching to get out. Even in that picture of Madonna you posted — to me, it just looks weird. I’m not sure why it looks so weird to me, since most people seem to think the opposite, but there you go.

  2. I feel like the collar-out look is very late 90s/early 2000s. (and I work in DC.) that’s a pretty old photo of Nancy Pelosi, isn’t it?

  3. Anonymous :

    Oh my gosh I’ve never even considered this before.

    I’ve been wearing my collars out all the time and people must think I’m a weirdo.

    Thanks for raising my awareness of this issue!

  4. Not a fan of Pelosi in anything she does….so i’ll have to say in!

  5. In obviously goes for men (with their stiff collars), but for women, in just doesn’t sit as well most of the time.

  6. I like the collar out. I think it looks nice. I also sometimes wear my collar in, if I’ve got a very fitted jacket or a large collar. I think it’s a choice…like…what buttons to button up on your shirt (all of them, one undone, 2 undone, 3 undone).

  7. So glad you brought this up – a pet peeve. I think having the collar out looks dated. I also think it looks awful… (just my opinion) but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it and thought “That looks good.” I think tucking the collar in is much more modern and less sloppy looking. It doesn’t scream 90’s power woman with something to prove. Collar in all the way!

  8. I think it’s a generational thing to be honest – most women in their 20s and 30s seem to keep the collar in, while older professional women seem to have the collar out. IMO, I prefer the in look – it’s cleaner, and less likely to have malfunctions. And FWIW, having worked in NYC and now in DC, it seems that the generational thing stands in both cities.

  9. I 100% agree with Nicole– collar out looks very dated. Collar in presents a much more modern, fashion-forward look. I twitch every time I see an otherwise chic fellow attorney with her collar out. It’s right up there with nude hose and clunky heels as my pet peeves when it comes to fashion-for-professionals.

  10. I think having the collar out makes someone (who could pass for it) look like an undergrad on her first job interview. Maybe that’s because I’m [almost] 27 and never see women over about 40 with their collars out? (Contrary to City Girl’s experience) I think out looks messy, requires a lot of work, and just sort of seems like the styling on an Express model, not a professional.

  11. out is (usually) dated.

  12. I think if you’re someone who can manage to fold your collar out neatly and keep it looking neat all day, out is fine. I’m not one of those people; I wear it in.

  13. I think it may be regional. To be honest it never occurred to me that people would consciously keep their collars tucked and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve noticed collars in on women. That said I’m in the San Francisco office of an international law firm and we keep things relatively casual when the big bosses aren’t around, so there isn’t that much of an opportunity to observe collared shirts with suits.

  14. i was going to say ‘in’; but looking at the pictures you posted changed my mind to ‘it depends’. pelosi looks way more professional with her collar out than madonna with her collar in.

  15. ‘in’ is hip + young

    ‘out’ definitely makes me think ‘grandma’

  16. This is fantastic! I think the collar in is the way to go, but I’ve been told to wear it out and I always feel guilty when I wear it in. The person who told me to wear it out says that in looks manly. Now I don’t have to feel guilty anymore when I wear a collar the way that looks right…in!

  17. Wearing a collar out is soooooo old-fashioned. It makes the wearer look like they have no fashion sense whatsoever. Every time I see a woman with the collar out, she’s usually pairing that ridiculous look with some ugly shoes and an ill-fitting suit.

    I’m a young lawyer in DC, and collars out are way out.

  18. tinylawyer :

    Yikes! I wear my collars out and didn’t know I was being viewed as committing a fashion faux pas. I wear it out because I think it looks better on me — less fabric close to my neck, so my neck doesn’t disappear and make me look like Mr. Potatohead. I like the look of the collar in, but not on me.

    Most of the time I avoid this dilemma by wearing a scoop neck, rather than a collared shirt, under a suit jacket.

  19. I’ve heard collar in described as the European style and collar out described as the American style. I used to struggle with this a lot because if your collar is out, it has to be pressed perfectly but when I would try to wear it in (which I always considered more stylish, at least in the abstract) it never seemed to lay right either. My solution: don’t wear collared shirts.

  20. I wear it out because that is the only way my button up shirts will stay put. If I try to wear it in, it moves around under my jacket in weird ways, and ends up looking really sloppy. I suppose a whole lot of starch could fix that, but then I would never want to wear the shirt.

    Most of the other young women who work in the courthouse with me seem to wear it out as well.

    Mostly though, I’m very surprised that people have such strong opinions about this issue.

  21. Pelosi looks more professional than Madonna b/c she’s trying to look more professional–not b/c of the collar.

  22. Delta Sierra :

    When there is such a diversity of opinion, it invariably means there’s no consensus and people can suit themselves. So let’s all cut each other some slack and say that either way is fine.

    Unless it’s a button-down (such a pain to iron) collar, I start out the day being an Innie. Then, despite much oh-so-casual collar-smoothing, I gradually become a bilateral In ‘n’ Outer. Once I’m really wrapped up in my work, I often end the day as an Outie.

  23. No one said this so far: Avoid the conundrum completely and wear a round-neck blouse/shirt/sweater under your suit. That’s what I’ve been doing for years. I think “out” looks dated and “in” looks messy. No collars for me!

  24. The only way I would consider “out” to look ok is if the collar does not extend past, or conflict with the shape of the jacket lapels. Large collars that stick way out past lapels look goofy – it makes me think of the suit my dad wore to my parents’ very 70s wedding.

  25. I always wore it IN before 2L year of law school. Then, when job interviews started for my class, I saw a lot of girls wearing their collars out. So I started doing that. (I worked as a summer associate in DC.) I kind of agree with what someone said about “in” looking mannish. I can definitely see “out” looking more feminine. I also think that it is a generational thing. But I guess it depends on how you want to look.

    Either way, I think that judging someone because her collar is out or in (whichever way you don’t wear it) is kind of harsh. Clearly, women wear it both ways, so it’s not completely inconceivable that a fashionable woman would wear it one way or the other. I don’t think wearing a collar out is a “faux pas.”

  26. I started wearing collars in after an episode of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” where the fashion guy stated collars should always be worn in on a suit. Granted, he was talking about men, but I think it looks better.

  27. If nothing else, the differences of opinion here should perhaps inspire some of the commentors (and others like them) who reflexively judge everyone who wears their collar out as a rube, grandma, naieve college student, or fashion victim to try to be slightly less judgmental. Really, people.

  28. Delta Sierra :

    Hm… Brooks Bros. website. They have some in, some out.

    American Lawyer website, photo of 6 nobody-under-40 female lawyers, only 1 shirt collar, and it’s out.

    I’m home sick with an evil cold, time on my hands.

    Let’s see what Madame Justice Sotomayor is doing… hm, definite collar avoider, but when it’s there, it’s out.

    Anyone care to write an opinion on banded collars? Or tux shirts with little tabs? If you’re in a formal office, and feel you need to be in a real shirt, would these be an option? Would they be all right in court?

  29. Maybe it’s just the suits/shirts I wear but I wear mine out b/c they gravitate towards that anyways. I can never get them to stay in :(

  30. I commented earlier that I like them out. For the record, I’m 32 and I practice in Texas. I looked at the other girls’ photos for our firm site and they’re not wearing collars (which I do not think is a good solution – to me, nothing looks nicer than a collared shirt with a suit). I am actually wearing mine in for photo day…

    I just looked at a big firm’s website. MOST of the women are not wearing any collared shirt. Of the collars, 5 are out and 2 are in.

  31. “It’s right up there with nude hose and clunky heels as my pet peeves when it comes to fashion-for-professionals.”

    I know this is an ongoing debate, but can someone PLEASE tell me what’s wrong with nude hose when you’re wearing professional clothing (skirt suits, dresses, etc)? I cannot stand the way my bare feet feel in closed-toe shoes, so if anyone has suggestions on how to solve this dilemma, it’d be very much appreciated!!

  32. oh no, what’s wrong with nude hose? someone? please? help? steph? fwiw i like “in.”

  33. I’m 30, grew up on the West coast, and have practiced in NY, London and SF.

    Some observations:

    –Out can be perceived as either more casual or more preppie (hence, perhaps, dated), depending on the type of shirt. However, as I will detail below, it can also be because the shirt is of better quality, and has special collar detail.

    –Ease of in vs. out depends on fabric (starched cotton vs. silk)

    –Ease of in vs. out also depends on the type of collar (forward, point, button down, etc.)*

    –Regional observations:
    London often has collar out due to bespoke/haberdashery details. I recently bought some very expensive shirts there and they have a reverse-fabric detail inside the collar. Thus, they should, and were designed to be out.
    LA/SF, often out, due to casual nature
    NY–split, most of the time. Because I was a West-Coaster, I was an Outie.

    *(Most people mistakenly think that button-down refers to the placket, or front of the shirt. It does not. It refers to the collar).

    Therefore, as a West-Coaster, who often wears starched, cotton, fancier-detailed shirts, I am an outie. Also, I was a swimmer, so I have wider shoulders and have no problem drawing attention to them!

  34. I think it depends on the material. In the pictures here, for example, Madonna is wearing a silky shirt which IMO lends itself to being in, whereas the cotton blouses I wear tend to get a scrunched up look to them when I try to keep them in. Gonna go check out brooks brothers now…

  35. I definitely prefer the look of collars in. Either way – please iron your shirts (including the collars!) properly.

    Where I live it is difficult to get high quality shirts for women. I pay double what my husband pays for shirts and the quality just isn’t there. I find I have to lightly starch my collars to get them to look right. (If you do this, they’ll stay in, neatly).

    The spread out collars tend to be coupled with polyester suits in blue or purple here. Not a good look.

    For those that wear out – how do you easily take your suit jacket off? For example if you’re going to a meeting wearing a suit and you’re invited to sit down and take your jacket off..

    reminds me of my other pet peeve – people sitting with a jacket on all buttoned up (I always thought you should never do up the bottom button, and especially not when sitting!) – it just makes people look uncomfortable and like they’re playing dressups imho.

  36. In

  37. Our Solicitor General, Elena Kagan, rocks the collar out. Always. I’m not sure where that gets us.

  38. Another thought I don’t think has been mentioned… I think it might vary depending on hair length? I have chin-length hair, and I think the in collar looks particularly mannish on me, even though I like it (in theory) such as in the Madonna picture above.

  39. NC Lawyer :

    I plead guilty to many (so-called) fashion faux pas. I wear pantyhose. I wear comfortable shoes. And I sometimes wear my collar out when I wear a pants suit. It makes me feel bad-ass, like a Charlies’ Angel. Sue me.

  40. I’ve always worn mine in. I’ve had doubts about this, though. I did two internships in D.C. that gave me second thoughts. The first one was on the Hill, and the Congresswoman always wore hers out (the other female staff in the office rarely wore suits). The second one was with a non-profit. Most women at the group wore theirs in, but the employee who was my supervisor wore hers in.

    I tend to feel, nowadays, that it’s whatever you’re comfortable with. I tried wearing mine out and just felt way too self-conscious. So I keep mine in these days.

  41. I agree with those who say that “in” looks mannish. But I also agree that the shape of the shirt collar and the jacket lapels have to be compatible – not all shirts work “out” with all jackets. Personally, I can never find collared shirts that both look okay on me and fit under a jacket properly – I have broad shoulders, and shirts that fit across the shoulders always seem to have too much fabric around the neck somehow to look right under a jacket. So, while I love the way collared shirts look on everyone else, personally I tend to stick with scoopnecks and the like. (Ideally, with some detailing around the neckline to add a little interest.)

  42. I like the way in looks, but none of my collared shirts lay right when I try to keep them in. Oh well if it makes me look dated. It was hard enough to find a collared shirt that fits over my bazooms anyway–I’m going to reject it because it doesn’t let me wear my collar in the more fashion-y way? No.

  43. Wow is this a regional debate. I am in flyover land, and “out” is definitely what I see on a daily basis (though yes, the cut of the suit matters). “in” just looks too Annie Hall “why aren’t you also wearing a tie?”

    As to nude hose, if you work at a conservative, 4 day a week “business” dress firm, there is no option. Try for a patterned tight and you look like a Victoria’s Secret model wanna-be. Maybe on the West Coast, but not at an AmLaw firm outside of LA

  44. ‘Cause really, when Im in Court, Im hoping to look more like Madonna than Pelosi. haha.

    Really, though, it depends on the cut of the lapel, the cut of the collar, the fabric of both. I also have a short neck, and therefore dont wear collared shirts under a jacket much since it puts alot of material there.

  45. I shudder to think that the way I wear my collar caused my colleagues to “twitch”.

    Now I’m afraid to leave the house tomorrow. Maybe I should start a blog and post my outfit each morning so I can get feedback before leaving the house.

  46. Can I add a related question please, necklace in or over the shirt? I’m thinking of necklaces a bit larger than a simple chain/drop /short pearls(which fit easily under the shirt) . I’ve always wondered about this, as shortish necklaces worn outside of the shirt can tend to make the shirt buckle up, but worn inside they’re hidden from view.

  47. For me it depends on collar length – a wider collar looks dated “out” but I have two shirts with narrower collars that, besides being difficult to stay “in” look crisp and tailored “out.” Fortunately for me I rarely have to wear a suit, because I hate the way “in” looks on me (suddenly I have no neck, the portion of the shirt that would, in non-suit wear, fall open a little around the neck is all bunchy and in the way, and there’s always the risk that half of it winds up “out” anyway because of moving around…).

    Hose: what earthly color would you wear with a suit if not nude? Surely not white, black with a black suit would look awfully heavy, and it would be hard to match navy exactly anyway… I don’t wear hose in the summer except for with suits, but if you need to be that “dressed,” you need hose on (Philadelphia).

    @Hope – if the necklace could fit under the collar nicely (otherwise you have a necklace-outside-jacket risk – eh) and, while long enough to avoid bunching, hit above the top button of the jacket, I think wearing it over the shirt could be ok.

  48. I can never figure it out either. I think as many people wear them out as in around here… I think in is better for stark white shirts with dark suits though.

  49. Cat – the in-look also makes my neck disappear…

  50. Corporette did a poll on nude v. dark hose a while back–and I’m pretty sure nude won overwhelmingly. I think the no nude hose thing is dated too–particuarly now when they make such good quality, sheer nude hose.

  51. http://corporette.com/2008/08/12/poll-what-color-hose-is-correct-for-an-august-or-september-interview/

  52. candeejaye :

    depends on the size of the collar, the style of the suit, etc. i generally like them in, but a really sharp big white collar over a black suit (esp if the shirt also has nice big cuffs) can look way bertter out than in…

  53. The reason that the ‘out’ is such a fashion don’t is that it is generally also accompanied by shirts with awful, dated collars (resembling men’s disco shirts from the 1970’s).

    Obsviously all rules have exceptions. But “out” is generally out — and I think it significant evidence that the regional preferences for “out” are all in the less-than fashion forward parts of the country.

    I think there is a similar issue with men and collars when it comes to wearing a button down under a sweater — and the answer is definitely that the collar is up or tucked in, but never, ever “out”. To me, it’s just as silly looking in most circumstances to have your collar “out” with a suit.

  54. L: Thanks for the input and the link – taking a look now!

  55. Anonymous :

    what about a woman wearing a collared shirt under a sweater? collar in or out?

  56. In the military, we follow these rules:
    * Under a jacket, collar in.
    * Under a sweater, collar out.

  57. It depends. If it’s a man-style shirt collar with a neckband then generally I will wear it in. But shirts with a softer, blouse-type collar look nicer out, in my opinion. And cleavage isn’t an issue because I don’t wear my shirt unbuttoned so low that I have to worry about it.

  58. Gabriela Belbey :

    It depends on the shape of the collar and the blazer’s lapel. If the collar can sit outside and not hang over the lapels, then the collar can go in or out. See how Pelosi’s blouse collar hangs over the edge of the lapel? I don’t like that look. Hers should be in.

  59. I prefer collars IN for both suit jackets and sweaters. Much neater and more classy. I think out looks dated.

  60. And yes, I too, cringe when I see a collar out, and yes, it tends to coexist with clunky shoes and too-short hems and matchy jewelry.

  61. anonymous :

    I’ve always liked both looks (on other people). And I think “it depends” is the right answer here. It not only depends on the jacket collar and the shirt collar you’re pairing, but it also depends on what your body type is – how long your neck is, how broad your shoulders are. Take all of that into account, and then you’ll find the right look for you.

    For me, I usually wore my collar out but felt ridiculous because the shirt felt too open and pulled away from my neck. And as others have said, it’s hard to maintain the collar out look through the entire day. But when I wear the collar in, I feel as though the suit is strangling me. And often the collar doesn’t sit evenly under the jacket. I agree with the other women who have posted that the best solution is to avoid the problem altogether – a button down or collared shirt is an out with a jacket. Just wear any other neckline instead.

  62. I’ve been thinking about this question for almost a week now (because it’s not like there’s anything else pressing in my life, I guess, like my husband’s unemployment or anything, ANYWAY…) and I realized this morning that lady judges and Supreme Court justices wear those white doily collars on top of their robes when they don’t have collars on their outfits to put out there, so I guess that might be clue about the correct answer. I would have guessed in, but if Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg say out, then “out” is is. I think it follows Angelina’s military rules — if collared jacket, then shirt collar in; if sweater, robe or otherwise non-collared outerwear, then collar out.

  63. Look at pictures of the Forbes Woman list of most powerful women in the world. You won’t find collars tucked into suits.

  64. Experienced Practitioner :

    Collar IN especially if cotton or shirt with body. Very French., chic. Exception is if silk and your suit references a thirties or forties look.

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  66. I suppose “in” is best, but sometime if the collar is buttoned up, the collar sometimes get twisted up or is sticking out.

  67. Anonymous :

    I think it’s a bit superficial about the concern over whether your collar is tucked into your suit or outside your suit. “Oh my goodness…what will happen to my collar if I take my suit off and then have to put my suit back on?” Pleeeease! If you’re a good-hearted person who does your job well, you shouldn’t be judged on what your collar looks like…just don’t be a slob.

    Case in point, I was at an airport at a rental car counter where a nice young lady was helping me with my car rental and she was wearing a suit and tie as part of the rental car company’s uniform. Her tie was crooked and the back of her collar was twisted, making one side of her collar stick upward. She didn’t notice this and I pointed it out to her. Since she didn’t have a mirror on hand to straighten her tie and fix her collar, I offered to help her. She let me straighten her tie and I fixed her collar by folding the back of her collar down and tucked the side of her collar that was sticking up inside her suit. She thanked me and we chatted for a bit and, since that time, we’ve become good friends.

  68. I think the collar in is more jazzy and the collar has point stands out with your suit.
    The collar in makes me tug a day .
    So out is better.

  69. Anonymous :

    I can recall one time when I had an embarrassing moment with my collar while I was wearing my suit. At that time, I had my blouse buttoned up to the collar and prior to starting work, I was listening to a walkman radio with headphones. For a short while, I had the headphones wrapped around my neck while I wasn’t listening and one of the earphones ended up under my collar. When I removed the headphones, it made my collar stick straight up on one side and I spent most of the day at work looking kind of strange with my collar sticking up. I didn’t know it until someone said to me, “hey your collar is up.” I didn’t know what she meant until she fixed it for me. It’s always a good idea to check your collar when wearing a suit to make sure the collar isn’t twisted up in the back or the front of your collar might stick up.

  70. Anonymous :

    My embarassing moment came when I was attending an all-girls Christian school about 12 years ago and our chorus sang at a special event that was taped for television. We appeared in our school uniforms which included dark brown blaser, light brown blouse, brown striped tie, and black skirt. We lined up on the risers with me in the front row just off to the right and sang for about 15 minutes. I watched it on TV at a later time only to find that the right side of my collar was sticking upward and my tie was really, really crooked. I was in full view of the camera most of the time and I don’t know how my tie got to be so crooked, but it was a little embarassing to see myself on TV looking like a slob.