Are Collars & Co. Shirts The Ultimate Smart Casual Hack? · Effortless Gent

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With work-professional fashion and the smart casual category constantly shifting and changing, the comfort-dress-hybrid industry has always been around. 

Lately, it seems it’s really blowing up—with not-great products. Usually, hybrid clothes aren’t appropriately dressy enough, or aren’t actually that comfortable. 

Collars & Co. wants to change the game with their stretch polo shirts that come with an actual dress collar, allowing you to wear it on so many more occasions. This effectively streamlines your closet, and minimizes your trips to the dry cleaner.

This new brand has already gotten a bit of media attention, with Forbes Magazine claiming Collars & Co. will change the world of men’s shirts. Are these accolades justified though? And as brilliant as the concept is, how does it fare in execution?

For weeks, I’ve worn Collars & Co shirts in every scenario you can think of, and I’m here to report my findings.

The Bottom Line

Thanks to their well-structured collars and their comfortable, performance-focused wear, I can safely say Collars & Co. succeeds in their prime directive: Providing a shirt design that looks like a dress button-up under sweaters or a jacket and tie, but is way more comfortable and user-friendly.

Moreover, with some experience wearing this new style of shirt, I’ve discovered other ways to expand its adaptability. Read on to get the details!

About the Brand: Collars & Co. Is Filling a Gap in the Market

New in 2022, Collars & Co. was founded by Justin Baer because he hated wearing dress shirts under sweaters. As he explains in his now-viral 2021 TikTok video, dress shirts are scratchy and the long-sleeves make them hot to wear. And he has a point.

Dress shirts are designed to look formal, not to provide performance or comfort.

He decided to build the “dress collar polo,” which is essentially like a golf shirt with an English spread collar. It has four-way stretch, breathability, moisture wicking, and short sleeves. Additionally, the formal collar is equipped with built-in collar stays.

Under a merino sweater, no one would know that you’re wearing a lightweight polo shirt. 

two images of man wearing sweater collars and co shirt and khaki chinos
The Collars & Co. shirt under a sweater is indistinguishable from a regular dress shirt. Image via Collars & Co.

Collars & Co. basically aims to take the most important and versatile staple of men’s workplace style, the dress shirt / sweater combo, and make it more functional and adaptable.

Eventually, Baer’s video went viral, and Collars & Co. became the much talked-about newcomer it is today. They currently have a line of different collared shirts, sweaters, and linen shirts with and without collars.

First Impressions: Comfortable Fabric, Rich Colors

Honestly, Collars & Co. had me when Baer mentioned “built-in collar stays.” As stylish (and often necessary) collars are, they often add a new dimension of worry: Is my tie knot lining up with the top?

Is my collar hanging too low from my sweater’s neckband? Built-in collar stays assuage these concerns.

I tried three different shirt designs:

Immediately, I noticed the vibrant colors printed on the shirts. This is impressive because polyester isn’t as easy to dye as cotton. 

The blue on the tattersall has a periwinkle hue that makes it go well with the purple lines. Meanwhile, the solid light blue polo has a gray undertone that makes it neutral (and therefore more versatile), but not muted or dull—especially with its silky sheen.

The shirts had three buttons starting from the collar, with the button strip plunging down to my upper abdomen, which is lower than on a standard polo. For taller guys, it would likely go just past your chest.

The collars were definitely sturdy, and the drape was clean, which is remarkable since they were packed so tightly.

Each shirt was folded and clipped firmly onto a piece of cardboard on several points. Still, there were absolutely no wrinkles where the clips hit the shirt or where it was folded.

Style: Mission Accomplished

All three shirts, even without outer layers, offer a really unique look, but not one that others can immediately put their finger on. While they’re built differently than other shirts, they’ll still fit in with all of the other classic collared shirts in your closet.

Basically, the well-structured collar just makes them look like really crisp polos, not hybrids.

And as designed, the dress collar polo looks like a full-on dress shirt under a sweater.

Quick note on sizing and fit

I ordered small sizes for all of the shirts. I wear a size 30 in pants and have a lean build, and found these to drape on me as flatteringly as a high-quality golf shirt. So even though the silhouette isn’t as firm as a traditional dress shirt’s is, the lines stayed impressively close-to-body.

Editor’s note: Collars & Co. seems to be going for a more tailored, tapered design with a longer body, meant to be tucked in. Based on the measurements provided on the site, I had to size up—ordered a Large, though I typically wear Medium—so it fits decently in the torso, but the shoulders are slightly too big and the sleeves too long.

So if you consider yourself pretty fit with a V-taper (wider back, slimmer waist) you can feel confident buying your true size and knowing it will fit. If you’re like me—a bit extra in the waist—then you may want to size up, just knowing the sleeves may be slightly longer and the shoulder seams a bit wider. -BC

man wearing blue gingham shirt under navy v neck sweater and white jeans
Sir Nick FAldo in their blue gingham Semi Spread model. Image via Collars & Co.

Material and Construction: Low Maintenance Style

The shirts are made of 100% polyester, which explains why it’s so lightweight and wrinkle-resistant. You can also expect it to be abrasion-resistant, easy to clean, and shrink-resistant (I can confirm all of this).

On top of that, it’s equipped with four-way stretch, which explains why it’s so much easier to move around in than a traditional dress shirt or cotton polo.

And yes, the collar is steadfastly firm, always sits up, and doesn’t get floppy. It’s fortified all around, not just at the points, which makes it more comprehensively supported than collars with removable collar stays.

The best part is that they’re machine washable. You can iron them too, but you mercifully won’t need to worry about doing that often.

Overall Functionality: My Experiences

I’ve worn these shirts with every outer layer imaginable (sweaters, cardigans, zip-ups, etc), and not once did I get asked if I was wearing a golf shirt. They easily pass as dress shirts when you wear them with a suit and tie, since the tie covers the buttonless bottom front of the shirt

closeup of man in white shirt and tie, brown seater and blue suit jacket
A layered look perfect for the colder months. Can you tell this is a polo shirt? Image via Collars & Co.

At Work

These tops are genuinely way cooler and more breathable than actual dress shirts and cotton polos.

This has made my summer commutes so much easier, since my office has a fully formal dress code. In past summers, on really hot days, I’d walk to work in a t-shirt and my suit pants, then do an almost full costume change in the bathroom before I sat at my desk.

In fact, the dress collar polo can still pass as a dress shirt without a tie, as long as you keep your suit jacket buttoned. 

The only issue I came across when I tried this was during a board meeting. I knew it would take hours, so I wanted to be comfortable, and decided to wear the dress collar polo instead of a traditional dress shirt. The meeting ended up being an all-day affair, and most of the guys hung their suit jackets on the backs of the chairs.

closeup of man in blue suit jacket and red tie
The Collars & Co original with a tie and under a blazer… can’t tell it’s a polo.

Of course, I couldn’t do this since my polo is short-sleeved, but I stayed secretly comfortable even with my jacket on.

Depending on your office culture, you can even wear the button-downs with a suit, since the collars are so structured, giving a formal silhouette.

At Play

When you’re wearing these tops without any outer layers, again, they fit like a golf shirt. However, I found you can wear the button-downs as a summery shirt at a rooftop, boat, or beach situation, by folding the sleeves to give it a more tailored, albeit vintage Elvis-esque, aesthetic. 

Since golf shirt arm holes are made for mobility, they’re bigger than a regular polo’s arm holes. So, you’ll first fold one of the sleeves vertically, pinching the fabric tightly at the area by your under arms, closest to your sides.

It’s almost like a pleat, to ensure the sleeve is snug around your arm. From there, you’ll fold it up at least twice, to lock both the tightness and new shortened length. 

This technique admittedly takes practice, though you can also use mini bobby pins to discreetly pin the folds down by your inner arm.

Here’s how comfortable and wrinkle-resistant these shirts are. Once, when I got home from an evening out at 3am, I actually fell asleep in my blue dress collar polo.

The next day, the shirt remained unwrinkled, collar intact, and it was actually pretty comfortable to sleep in. This makes them effective travel shirts too.

Plus, You really do save time taking it off and putting it on thanks to the stretch and the minimal buttoning.

Since there’s so much structure around the collar though, at first it was a bit difficult to get the top button through its hole, but once you’ve broken it in, it’s perfectly doable.

Overall, these comfortable shirts are adaptable and able to transform, depending on how you style them. The collar allows you to pair them with a suit, but also adds grown-up looking structure to casual outfits.

Want A Great Deal On Collars & Co. shirts?

I worked out an awesome deal for EG readers! Head to their site and when checking out, use code GENT for a special limited time discount off your order.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Collars & Co.?

Pros

  • The stretchy polyester construction of their shirts is truly comfortable and provides much more mobility than a traditional dress shirt or a cotton polo.
  • There are several available colorways, each vibrant, with a satiny sheen that makes it look extra premium.
  • The collars on the shirts really are sturdy, which makes it easily paired with professional attire, and also adds a crisp neat look when you wear it casually.
  • The website is a helpful resource, even explaining the differences between different collar types, which ones are more modern versus more classic, and more casual versus more formal.

Cons

These mostly pertain to business formal settings:

  • If you’re wearing the dress collar polo directly under a suit jacket, it’ll be obvious your shirt is not a real dress shirt, which is fine for most casual Friday dress codes in strict business formal offices, but probably not Monday to Thursday. Your mileage may vary on this one.
  • Similarly, you can’t take your suit jacket off, or you’ll expose the short sleeves. Again, fine for casual Fridays and business casual offices (most likely).

FAQs about Collars & Co. Clothing

How do you take care of Collars & Co. shirts?

You can machine wash them on delicate, then hang them to dry. They’re also able to be ironedironable, if you somehow manage to get a wrinkle in them.

What fabric are Collars & Co. shirts made from?

They’re made with four-way stretch polyester, which is breathable, durable, and offers a full range of mobility.

Want A Great Deal On Collars & Co. shirts?

I worked out an awesome deal for EG readers! Head to their site and when checking out, use code GENT for a special limited time discount off your order.

A Rare Success in the Comfort-Dress-Hybrid World

Not only are the Collars & Co. tops perfect for layering, as they were designed to be, but you can wear them on their own at the golf course, while traveling, at the beach, and so much more.

In their attempt to create a low-maintenance, comfort-focused alternative to a traditional dress shirt, this new brand has created one of the most adaptable shirts on the market.

If you want to try some of them out, head to the Collars & Co. website, and use code GENT for a special limited time discount off your order.

Do you know which shirts you’re going to try? DM us on Instagram to let us know how they work out for you!

Thanks to Collars & Co for partnering with us on this brand overview. We were also provided shirts for review, but are under no obligation to positively review them. You can read more about our editorial guidelines here.

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