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…

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


  1. 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.)

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. ‘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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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…

  12. 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.

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

  14. Anonymous :

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

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

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

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

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

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

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

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

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