Q: When you discuss shirts, you always include ones with tab-collars in your list of handsome choices. But they are a pain (literally) in the neck. They're hard to fasten, and they're too high and tight and uncomfortable. Aside from that, I guess they're terrific!
A: In the limited world of choices that men have, a tab collaoffers an appealing option -- very different from the usual button-downs, straight-point collars, and English spreads. Items worn close to the face make an important contribution to how a man looks. The tab collar's pinched-in, ultra-crisp look has tremendous -- while staying within the realm of professional dress.
Ever wonder just which clothes helped Fred Astaire look so terrific? Basically, he was not a great hunk. But his debonair choices were always meticulous. Fred loved tab collars and collar bars. Almost every picture of him shows him wearing one or the other.
I noticed Pat Riley looking his immaculate dapper self, even after his tough decision to give up coaching for the broadcasters booth. No man could be better dressed or more perfectly groomed. Alright, custom- and Armani-designed clothes are part the reason, but his tab collar also contributes to his always-polished image.
Tab collar shirts are made in two ways: They have two small tabs of fabric that fasten together under the
necktie knot -- either with the traditional buttonholes and a stud, or with the newer snaps. Both systems end up looking the same. You don't see the tabs, but you do see their rather precise effect on the shape of the collar.
For a man with a short or heavy neck, this style does not really work. And, while I don't advocate open collars with neckties, reality often intrudes. If you tend to open your top shirt button and loosen your tie, a tab-collar is not for you.
Though fastening it may present a small bit of hassle, if a tasuits your build and your style, the look is too elegant and distinctive to be overlooked.
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.
Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.