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Mandarin collar – to button up or not

Blending  urban minimalism and nonchalant chic, a mandarin collar shirt is the perfect alternative to the standard collar type. However, not being your everyday choice, you might be wondering if the collar should be worn buttoned or not.

In terms of style, when a  dressier look is what you’re after, you might want to wear the collar buttoned, especially if your look includes a suit or sport coat. Even if the outfit is casual, as in including jeans and athletic shoes, buttoning up the shirt collar will result in a sharper, more urban look.

On the other hand, if what you’re after is a softer and casual look, regardless of whether the shirt is worn with formal or casual pieces and especially if it’s a hot summer day, just leave the collar button undone.

In addition to your desired look, consider also the visual effect of each option on your face shape. Which of the two options complements it most?

The mandarin collar, being so minimalist, tends to accentuate one’s face shape, offering little to the wearer to visually balance his face’s proportions. For example, a man whose face shape is round or square, especially if his hair is cut very short or is bald, by wearing the (mandarin) collar buttoned, will only emphasise his face’s width. What he needs is to add visual length, which makes the face appear less wide and more oval, and for this, the collar should be worn unbuttoned.

Mandarin collar on a round face
By adding visual length, an unbuttoned collar will make a round face appear more balanced.

The opposite applies for men whose face is oblong-shaped and who therefore, need to visually minimise its length. Although a mandarin collar will not add visual width in the same way a standard collar does,  leaving the collar button fastened will avoid adding even more depth below the face. A higher collar can also help here, as it visually shortens the neck.

Mandarin collar and oblong face shape
By adding visual length, an unbuttoned collar will make an oblong-shape face appear longer, when the aim should be to make it appear wider.

Final note

Being well-dressed is not just about putting together a stylish outfit but also about how well that outfit complements your shape and features. Next time you’re trying on a shirt, consider how much it flatters (or not) your face shape. Does it accentuate it or make it look more balanced? Of course, other elements usually also come into play, such as one’s haircut and beard shape. These should also balance/complement one’s face shape for more flattering results.

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Wearing the shirt collar inside or outside a pullover

In the absence of clear style rules and with only our own (sometimes unreliable) judgement as guidance, we tend to leave the outcome as to how we dress, to pure chance. Whether to wear the shirt collar inside a pullover or out, is one of those style dilemmas that crops up again every autumn.

Surely, some might say that if there’s no rule, it’s because both options are fine. Yet, whilst it might generally be so, sometimes, one option is better than the other. To us, it’s a matter of how casual one’s intended look is meant to be, as well as the effect on visual proportion, in particular in relation to one’s face shape.


Leaving the shirt collar outside the pullover is the more casual of the two options and works best when the collar is small to medium in size. With higher or more pointed collars, it becomes much easier to end up with a look that’s reminiscent of the ’70s.

Depending on how much the collar contrasts in colour with the pullover, when exposed (and obviously worn unbuttoned), it becomes a focal point, adding visual width to that part of the body. This makes it a better option for men with narrower faces, as the ‘added width’ balances the face’s length, especially when the pullover is a V-neck. A collar worn outside can also make a man, whose shoulders are proportionately smaller to his belly or hips, appear more balanced.


On the other hand, for a more streamlined and elegant look, opt for the collar worn inside the pullover. However, it’s an option that tends to work best for slimmer men, those with wider faces (on whom a V-neck sweater looks more flattering), as well as those who want to appear taller.

In addition, when the shirt collar is in a colour that’s different to the pullover’s, or patterned, that touch of contrast gives an outfit more texture and depth, rendering it visually more interesting.

Final word

Hopefully, these tips will make it easier to decide which way to wear the shirt collar, next time you’re throwing on a pullover. Of course, the end result depends a lot on the pullover’s collar-type too, as well as its fit but looking out for visual proportion can help make the end result more attractive.