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

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.”

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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 :(

  10. 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.

  11. “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!!

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

  13. 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!

  14. 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…

  15. 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.

  16. In

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.