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…

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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 :(

  5. 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.

  6. “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!!

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

  8. 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!

  9. 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…

  10. 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.

  11. In

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.)

  17. 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.

  18. 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

  19. ‘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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

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

  25. 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.

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