The Ruff and Band Collar
To understand the history of collars and the reason they came to be, we have to go back to the mid-15th century, when the collar first showed up in the western world, known as the ruff collar. This is the one that looks like you have an accordion wrapped around your neck.
The ruff collar was a pleated frill that was in style in Europe from the mid-16th century to the mid-17th century. It was a sign of aristocracy. The bigger your frill, the higher your status was perceived to be. It was the equivalent of wearing a Rolex today. Some referred to it as the millstone collar, after its resemblance to the millstone for grinding grain.
During this time the ruff collar was not the only option. The falling band collar was similar in many ways to the ruff collar but less accordion-like in structure. This distinct lacy collar had rectangular points falling over the chest. The falling band collar was worn in the 17th century but remained a part of the Anglican clerical uniform into the 19th century.
The Gladstone Collar
In the 19th century the ruff collar lost some of its popularity, as it became considered more feminine. At this time the Gladstone collar made its place in history. It got its name after being worn by William Edward Gladstone who was the British Prime Minister at the time. This collar was pressed in a way that enabled it to stick out at the front side of the neck. It is considered to be the inspiration for the wing collar that is worn today.
The Invention of the Detachable Collar
Mens’ white collared shirts were a sign of status. Only the rich would have the ability to maintain a perfectly white shirt. It meant you had many shirts, likely one for each day of the week. It also usually meant you had service people who were responsible for washing your clothes. This is what incentivized Hannah Montague to invent the detachable collar in 1827. She was not rich and was tired of washing her husband's clothing. She saw the detachable collar as the best way to have a shiny white collar all the time while doing less laundry. The collar could be fastened at the front or back using a collar button. This way it could be laundered separately. The invention impressed apparel manufacturers who started mass production of the detachable collar. Now, not only the upper class could wear a white collared shirt.