People notice the state of your clothes and if you’re running around in dirty collars and cuffs, this takes away your polished, professional look.

Victorian men were the most efficient shirt-wearers of the modern era with starched, detachable collars and cuffs easily replaced or rigorously cleaned, starched, and put back in place with studs. (For further reading on historical cuffs and collars, read this great blog.)

By the early 20th century, cuffs and collars grew into the body of our shirts and have remained attached ever since – good for clothing efficiency but not good for instantly removing hard-to-clean grimy cuffs and oily collars.

It’s a shame to have to retire a shirt because of a dark ring around the inner collar or on the inside of your cuffs when the body and sleeves of the shirt are intact, so here’s help.

Collar care

When hanging your shirts up on hangers, whether to air dry or to put into your closet, you can extend the life of your shirt by buttoning the top button to keep the collar band in shape.

Sandwiched in between the back and front fabric of the collar and the collar band is the fusing (also known as interfacing) that gives shape and body to the collar pieces. Doing up the top button will keep your collars rounded and in good shape.

Collar stays
Does your collar curl? Sport shirts have a “soft” collar without as much fusing as a dress shirt because it is meant to be worn open at the neck, and dress shirts have “hard” collars with more stiffening because they support ties that need a firm, shaped foundations. Both types of collars can fall prey to curling collar points.
Avoid premature curling (and dye loss for that matter) by spending a little more on your shirts. Inexpensive shirts are not made of high-quality fabrics with good dyes and fusing, and you may find that after a few washes, not only has the collar curled, but the colour has dulled and the fusing has come away from the fabric and looks bubbly. Money-wise and image-wise, this is not a good investment.
Collar stays stiffen the collar points by sliding between two lines of stitching on the underside of a shirt collar (almost always featured on a dress shirt and some sport shirts). This helps the collar hold its shape and gives it a longer and healthier life.
Most off-the-rack shirts have plastic stays which are fine, but a gent who takes pride in his clothing will invest in metal (brass, silver), enamel, bone, or mother-of-pearl stays. Remember to remove them before laundering so you don’t lose them.

Ring around the collar

Though the body of your shirt is clean, you may still notice a dark ring around the inside of your collar. This is a stain of our skin’s natural oil, grooming products, sweat, and dirt, and it’s hard to remove with regular machine washing. If you’ve got some stubborn collar stains, try this:

  • Wet the collar and apply your choice of: liquid laundry soap or laundry bar soap (i.e. Sunlight) along the soiled band. I have also heard of using cream of tartar, shampoo, and a paste of vinegar and baking soda to remove collar stains;
  • Scrub with your fingers, a cloth, or a toothbrush but take care not to scrub too hard or you could damage the fabric;
  • Depending on the severity of the stain, either wash in hot water or pour boiling water over the collar and let soak for several hours before washing in hot water. Remember to keep your whites separate from your colours or risk tinting your white shirt with dye from the coloured shirt.

If the ring remains on a white shirt, try wetting the collar again and sponge a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide and water, let sit for 30 minutes, then wash again in hot water.

If you just couldn’t be bothered, take the soiled shirt to the dry cleaners and make sure to point out the collar so they know how to clean it.


If you are lucky enough to get your shirts from shirt maker, Marlon Durrant Bespoke Shirts in Toronto, he does a practical collar and cuff replacement program for his high quality shirts. Md’s shirts are excellent investments as it is, and this value-add program says a lot about the integrity and quality of his garments and his business. I also see it as an environmentally conscious program in that it saves creating a whole new shirt.

For those wearing off-the-rack shirts, you may find everyday sweat, oil, and dirt mixed with the day’s food, drink, and anything else you get your hands into ends up on your cuffs. If you wear French-cuffed shirts, you may notice a discoloured strip on the outside fold; barrel cuffs soil inside and out. Follow the ring around the collar steps to clean your cuffs.

There you have it, gents – no more excuses for dirty collars and cuffs!

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Comment by Leah Morrigan on March 23, 2012 at 6:22am
Thanks Chuck!
Comment by Chuck Knight on March 22, 2012 at 8:31pm

I always enjoy your posts, Leah.

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