Emergency Travel Supplies: Cuff Links and Collar Stays
I’m not the kind of guy who travels with a lot of crap. My dopp kit has some shaving oil, a cartridge razor, a bit of facial moisturizer. And two emergency provisions: some collar stays and a pair of cuff links.
The collar stays ended up in the kit when I found myself at my in-laws house, 600 miles from home, the day before my wedding, and realized I had left home without anything to keep my collar from curling on the most important day of my life. I raced out to a store I usually avoid like the plague, Jos. A. Bank, and bought a little box of plastic stays. They’ve been in my kit ever since, and I’ve never had to worry about forgetting stays again.
Something similar happened to me at a public radio programming conference a year or two later. I’m not a regular suit wearer, but when I’m at a business function, I’ll wear a suit, and with it a double-cuff shirt. I almost always remember to bring a set of cufflinks, but this time, I didn’t, and found myself getting dressed the first day, forced to leave my cuffs unattached.
A few weeks later, I found the above links on eBay for $20 or $30, and leave them in my dopp kit. They’re simple, go with anything, and anytime I forget to bring the perfect links, I’ve got something on hand. Or perhaps I should say on wrist.
By the way - if you watch season two of Put This On, take a look at my shirt cuffs, and you’ll see what prompted me two write this post.

Emergency Travel Supplies: Cuff Links and Collar Stays

I’m not the kind of guy who travels with a lot of crap. My dopp kit has some shaving oil, a cartridge razor, a bit of facial moisturizer. And two emergency provisions: some collar stays and a pair of cuff links.

The collar stays ended up in the kit when I found myself at my in-laws house, 600 miles from home, the day before my wedding, and realized I had left home without anything to keep my collar from curling on the most important day of my life. I raced out to a store I usually avoid like the plague, Jos. A. Bank, and bought a little box of plastic stays. They’ve been in my kit ever since, and I’ve never had to worry about forgetting stays again.

Something similar happened to me at a public radio programming conference a year or two later. I’m not a regular suit wearer, but when I’m at a business function, I’ll wear a suit, and with it a double-cuff shirt. I almost always remember to bring a set of cufflinks, but this time, I didn’t, and found myself getting dressed the first day, forced to leave my cuffs unattached.

A few weeks later, I found the above links on eBay for $20 or $30, and leave them in my dopp kit. They’re simple, go with anything, and anytime I forget to bring the perfect links, I’ve got something on hand. Or perhaps I should say on wrist.

By the way - if you watch season two of Put This On, take a look at my shirt cuffs, and you’ll see what prompted me two write this post.

Q and Answer: Collar Stays
Yama asks: I’ve been getting frustrated with the plastic collar stays that come with most of my shirts. I see a range of higher-end options, from magnetic to brass to titanium and even 24k gold. Some company even sells collar stays that double as can openers. I just want my dress shirt collars to look nice, symmetrical, and “up.” What do you think is my best bet?
A dress shirt requires collar stays - they maintain the shape of the collar and give it the crisp, “finished” look that says “I’m dressed up.”
Shirts typically come with plastic collar stays, and for practical purposes, these are perfectly fine. They’re typically strong enough to keep your collar straight, while being flexible enough to prevent damage to the collar fabric.
You can also buy collar stays in brass, steel and even gold. These can be a touch of luxury for you that isn’t seen by anyone else, but they aren’t functionally necessary.
There are, as you identify, some stays that feature a very small, powerful magnet that you place under your shirt to keep the collar up without buttons. If someone makes these and wants to send me a review set, I’d be happy to try them, but I can’t bring myself to actually spend money on the whole affair. It seems a little goofy.
While I don’t really recommend spending money on metal stays, it can be a good idea to pick up a set of plastic stays. You should be able to buy them at any decent men’s store for five or eight dollars (try Brooks or Jos. A. Bank). It will include stays of various lengths. That way, you don’t have to try and keep track of the sometimes super-flimsy, transparent stays included with your shirts. I also have one of these in my dopp kit, along with some plain cufflinks, so I’m never left unprepared.

Q and Answer: Collar Stays

Yama asks: I’ve been getting frustrated with the plastic collar stays that come with most of my shirts. I see a range of higher-end options, from magnetic to brass to titanium and even 24k gold. Some company even sells collar stays that double as can openers. I just want my dress shirt collars to look nice, symmetrical, and “up.” What do you think is my best bet?

A dress shirt requires collar stays - they maintain the shape of the collar and give it the crisp, “finished” look that says “I’m dressed up.”

Shirts typically come with plastic collar stays, and for practical purposes, these are perfectly fine. They’re typically strong enough to keep your collar straight, while being flexible enough to prevent damage to the collar fabric.

You can also buy collar stays in brass, steel and even gold. These can be a touch of luxury for you that isn’t seen by anyone else, but they aren’t functionally necessary.

There are, as you identify, some stays that feature a very small, powerful magnet that you place under your shirt to keep the collar up without buttons. If someone makes these and wants to send me a review set, I’d be happy to try them, but I can’t bring myself to actually spend money on the whole affair. It seems a little goofy.

While I don’t really recommend spending money on metal stays, it can be a good idea to pick up a set of plastic stays. You should be able to buy them at any decent men’s store for five or eight dollars (try Brooks or Jos. A. Bank). It will include stays of various lengths. That way, you don’t have to try and keep track of the sometimes super-flimsy, transparent stays included with your shirts. I also have one of these in my dopp kit, along with some plain cufflinks, so I’m never left unprepared.

Q and Answer: Collar Questions
James from Vancouver writes: Gentlemen, I recently bought a few shirts that have  a little hidden button underneath to keep the collar flap down.  When considering the spectrum of formality, would this fall closer to traditional  button-downs, or normal non button-down?
Also, what’s the deal with collar stays, or darts,  or whatever they’re called? I was at a store recently where someone tried  to sell me brass ones to replace the plastic stock units.  Brass?  Really?  I asked why I needed brass and he said “so you can bend them and they stay.”   Isn’t the idea that they keep the collar straight??
Those little hidden buttons can be a nice way to keep your collar points in check without the relative informality of the traditional button-down collar.  The question, I suppose, is what purpose they serve.  They suffer a bit from hybrid disease: they lack the informality of the button-down, but they’re no better than a standard collar when you’re wearing a tie.  Overall, we say: neutral.
As far as collar stays, we hadn’t thought of that explanation for brass stays, but we have to give the sales guy credit for creativity.  There really isn’t a reason, besides a general preference for metal over plastic.  I must admit that a couple years ago for Christmas my mom got me some gold-plated stays, and I enjoy the idea that the most precious part of my outfit is hidden to the outside world.  Functionally, though, stout plastic is just fine.
(One addition, per Un: brass stays won’t melt if ironed.)

Q and Answer: Collar Questions

James from Vancouver writes: Gentlemen, I recently bought a few shirts that have a little hidden button underneath to keep the collar flap down.  When considering the spectrum of formality, would this fall closer to traditional button-downs, or normal non button-down?

Also, what’s the deal with collar stays, or darts, or whatever they’re called? I was at a store recently where someone tried to sell me brass ones to replace the plastic stock units.  Brass?  Really?  I asked why I needed brass and he said “so you can bend them and they stay.”   Isn’t the idea that they keep the collar straight??

Those little hidden buttons can be a nice way to keep your collar points in check without the relative informality of the traditional button-down collar.  The question, I suppose, is what purpose they serve.  They suffer a bit from hybrid disease: they lack the informality of the button-down, but they’re no better than a standard collar when you’re wearing a tie.  Overall, we say: neutral.

As far as collar stays, we hadn’t thought of that explanation for brass stays, but we have to give the sales guy credit for creativity.  There really isn’t a reason, besides a general preference for metal over plastic.  I must admit that a couple years ago for Christmas my mom got me some gold-plated stays, and I enjoy the idea that the most precious part of my outfit is hidden to the outside world.  Functionally, though, stout plastic is just fine.

(One addition, per Un: brass stays won’t melt if ironed.)