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.)