The first tab collars for shirts were semi-soft and completely detachable, and appeared on the scene at the end of World War I. Britain’s Prince of Wales Edward was famously seen wearing one in winter 1919 on a North American visit. They were made in every shirting fabric except silk. By the later 1920s, most tab collars sold were soft (though certainly starchable), and were permanently attached to shirts. Surprisingly, they were equipped to hold removable collar stays. Both the detachable and the permanently attached tab collars were fastened at the neck by a removable collarband stud button. The most beautiful representation we have today is broadcast in Boardwalk Empire where the main character Nucky Thompson wears it very proudly. Check out some illustrations after the break !
It is in its principle pretty similar to the pin collar which holds the collar together and raises the tie with the help of a metal pin like Boardwolk Empire’s Charles Luciano likes to wear !
In America, tab collars fell out of favor in the 1940s, but were revived around 1960. The collar’s dimensions and silhouette were essentially the same, but two new details appeared: a permanently attached button on the collarband’s front opening, and metal snap buttons on the tabs. Also, the tab collar was now available in a rounded “club” or “golf” version. (See last photo)
By 1970, tab collars were once again out of fashion. It wasn’t until around 1990 that America saw a second revival of the tab collar. This time, the tabs’ metal snap buttons were largely abandoned in favor of a tiny sewn-on plastic or mother-of-pearl button (on the right tab) and a buttonhole (on the left tab). Collar stays were also abandoned near that time. Furthermore, the ‘90s tab collar tended to be Armani-ish: that is, long, narrow, and downward-pointing. Finally, the tabs themselves were sewn on at a lower place on the collar.
Since 2000, the tab collar has held on: not quite gone, but not quite in fashion, either. Metal snap buttons have returned to the tabs (because the tiny plastic button tended to easily break), and the collar shape is largely back to its ‘20s-‘30s / ‘60s silhouette. Donald Rumsfeld often wore tab collared shirts during the Bush administration. In France, you’ll see Jack Lang or Christophe de Margerie wear the tab-collar very elegantly:
So you see my point : the tab-collar is a good collar for those who want to show off their tie knot. The tab pulls the collar flat around the neck, allowing your tie to really pop. It is classic and very elegant and I hope to see many more in the streets !