Your collar, like your accent, instantly places you. It says something about who you are before you open your mouth. It’s a fashion judgment almost as old as the hills. Long before there were new-season It bags, there was white collar and blue collar, and – arguably the daddy of all fashion statements – the flash of white on a dog collar. A neatly pressed collar is such a powerful message of conservatism that you can give your look a subversive edge just by swerving it: a collarless grandad style immediately relocates a shirt from office to artist’s studio. Pop the collar upwards on a classic blazer and your look switches from Sloane Square to Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
All this is a justification for the fact that I’ve spent 10 months – not full-time, but in more idle moments than I care to admit – trying to figure out a name for the style of collar I’m wearing today. In March last year, at Nicolas Ghesquière’s first Louis Vuitton catwalk show, I fell in love with a collar shape that was slightly oversized, elegant in a retro kind of way, unfussy yet quirky. At Vuitton it came in contrasting colours on leather jackets and belted coats; since then, it has been infiltrating the fashion world. But what’s it called? I tried “donkey jacket collar”, but that’s ugly and sounds like a terrible party game. I experimented with “denim jacket collar”, but that was confusing. Square collar? Big square? Don’t think whoever came up with Farrow Ball’s Elephant’s Breath and Lamp Room Gray was quaking in their boots.
Anyway, drumroll: Cuban collar. That’s what it’s called, it turns out. The Cuban collar is a wider, more open version of a classic shirt collar. (I didn’t make it up: it’s a Thing. Google it.) The Cuban collar is an unpretentious, everyman shape; self-confident, but no airs or graces. The jacket or shirt will have pockets for storage, and a simple, boxy shape, designed to be untucked. It’s classic Havana, but woven into Americana. (Check out Bob Dylan’s jacket on the cover of The Freewheelin’.) At this point, fashion pedants will grab me by the scruff of my neck and yell at me that a Cuban collar should be open at the throat, and requires some notch element I don’t really get, but I’m holding my ground: this is a Cuban collar. The name suits it. Which makes it, in my book, the right name.
Photograph: David Newby for the Guardian. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair and makeup: Sharon Ive at Carol Hayes Management.
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