The trouble was that the starched collar had to be a perfect fit if it wasn’t to cause near cutting of the neck. The housemaid had to be very careful in the exact amount of starch used in the final process of washing the shirt to ensure the correct stiffness. Today of course there are still plenty of folk who like their shirts starched but starch today is not quite the industrial level stuff of the nineteenth century which left so many men in pain.

Somewhere along the line men, or more probably their wives, realized a little trick of making the shirt last more than just a day with the simple expedience of the detached collar. The detached collar of Victorian times called for the design of a collar box for the travelling man. These sometimes beautifully made round leather boxes made just for holding so starched collars, still occasionally come up at provincial auctions around the country.

Later on some other bright spark hit upon the idea of collar stays. Doubtless this must have been the invention of a man and maybe some sadistic wives mourned the invention. It may have been the invention of a very loving and concerned wife who felt pity for the lacerations around her husband’s neck. Initially this clever device was made from slivers of whale bone; the larger pieces of course were used as the bigger stays of women’s corsets. The idea of the stay is to give the impression that the shirt is still crisply starched by keeping the collars straight and tight and free of creases. In the twentieth century, following the invention of plastic, the materials could be plastic collar stays and metal collar stays. Either material is as good as the other and becomes an individual choice.

Plastic collar stays and metal collar stays both have one big advantage over those early days of over starched shirts; you do not have to worry about neck injuries! I think there was a thriller film once where the hero managed to pick a lock and escape captivity with a metal stay from his shirt collar, so maybe there is more than one use.

Source by Donaghys Bows

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