When you get right down to it, fashion is subjective and mostly a matter of personal taste. On forums and blogs throughout the web, there’s plenty of room for debating the informal rules and accepted standards for how people should dress in certain situations, most of which are based on either opinions or obscure traditions. Yet, there is one thing that most people concerned with fashion seem to have reached a consensus on: the tackiness of the popped collar.
But while the popped collar seems to be a relatively new phenomenon which peaked five or six years ago back among the 20-something crowd it’s actually a look that’s well over a century and a half old and predates even the modern dress shirt.
During the 1850’s, it was very common to see fellows out in public wearing rigid upturned collars which reached almost to their ears. Usually such collars lacked buttons around the throat and so had to be secured by thick ties, scarves or cravats wrapped around the neck to make them look more formal. Of course, the collars of this time were quite different from those featured on shirts today, yet there are still plenty of portraits from this period which depict blue collar men and gentleman in casual situations with collars draped over their shoulders.
At the end of the Victorian era though the stiff upturned collar look faded with the advent of the modern dress shirt and the neck tie. Although high, stiff collared shirts which covered most of the neck were still fashionable throughout the Edwardian era, it wasn’t until the late 1920’s that the popped collar became popular once again, this time among tennis players, cricketers, golfers, croquet players and other upper-crust sports enthusiasts who used their upturned collars to block out the sun. Most likely it was this athletic/aspirational vibe people tried to tap into when the popped collar again resurfaced back in the 1980’s.
But for whatever reason people turned their collars up in the past, they most likely weren’t as reviled for doing so as they are today. Doing a quick scan of the abundant anti-popped collar rhetoric floating around online, you can see some pretty choice language (most of which we can’t repeat) is used to describe people who flip their collar. While haters today may go to extremes with the profanity and name calling, they are basically onto something: popped collars just look bad.
This probably has a lot to do with the notion that people who arrange their collars thus are obnoxious, self-important and trying too hard to look stylish. Whether or not this is actually true, it’s the belief of many that the popped collar look has run its course and deserves a place next to mesh shirts, mullets and embroidered jeans in the fashion graveyard.