The gentlemen of the mid-19th century, with their straight-up collars which kept the neck straight and the chin thrust upwards, must have welcomed the relative comfort of the wingtip collar with open arms. The wing collar, with its turned over points, began to be worn widely in the 1870s as the fashion for bow ties rather than cravats took hold. The well-dressed gentleman was finally able to look down at his own feet every once in a while and, not surprisingly, the high standing ‘iron collars’ fell out of favour.
The wing collar is a close relation of what is now referred to as a Gladstone collar. The 19th century British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, whom Queen Victoria described as a ‘half-mad firebrand’, wore his traditional standing collar in an unusual way, with the points starched and ironed to stick out horizontally. The wing collar as we know it today is effectively a shorter version of the Gladstone collar.
Both the wingtip and turndown collars of the 19th century would have been stiffly starched detachable collars but by the mid-1920s shirts with attached collars were becoming the norm
The school uniform at Eton College is infamous for being extremely formal, having been codified at a time when morning coats were perfectly normal attire for the pupils. Whereas the majority of pupils wear the now familiar turndown collar, pupils in positions of authority are entitled to wear ‘stick-up’ collars. The points of these wing collars are worn, as the name suggests, sticking out.
How to wear a wing collar if you are not an Eton pupil depends on the occasion. For formal wear, the tips of a wing collar are tucked down behind a bow tie, they do not protrude above it. For court dress the points of the wingtip collar are worn above the barrister bands.
Though wing-collar shirts have developed through men's fashion, they are also widely worn by female barristers in court and by women who prefer suits on black-tie occasions.
Wing-collar shirts have the "wing-collar" attached to the neck of the shirt. Detachable wing collars can also be worn with tunic shirts.
A detachable wing collar is attached to a tunic shirt with two studs, through a single hole in the collar at the back and a hole on each side at the front. The collar is first secured to the shirt with a stud through the hole at the back. After the shirt is put on it can then be secured with a second stud through the holes at the front. If in doubt, searching the internet for pictures of Fred Astaire in his pomp will usually point the wearer in the right direction.
Our wing-collar shirt is available here