SUITABLE SHIRT CUTS From button-down to spread, collars offer men a variety of looks


Q: Can you give me any suggestions as to where I can find men's shirts with interesting or different collars? Years ago I had a couple of shirts that I liked with rounded (English type) collars. Are these declasse?

A: The collar you described -- usually known as the club collar -- is not at all socially unacceptable, but it is almost impossible to find. This small, Peter Pan type collar is often worn with a collar bar or pin. Brooks Brothers made it until recently; they called it the "golf" collar. Now they only make it through special order.

You are wise to seek out additional flattering shirt cuts. There is no reason a man must confine himself to only one style; but do choose ones that suit your personality. Widely available shirt collars are:

* Button-down: Never pulled tight to the buttons, the characteristic soft buckling, known as the "roll" of the collar, imparts a casual spirit -- perfect for wear with blazers, tweeds, and natural-shouldered suits. Button-downs are commonly associated with Oxford cloth fabric, but they also come in more formal broadcloth and of late in the seen-everywhere casual weaves, denim and chambray.

* Regular straight point: The most standard cut has points about three inches long, may be crisply starched, and often has collar stays. It can have two personalities: Worn unadorned, it is a go-everywhere and with-everything style; or, pinched in with a collar bar or pin, it has a dressier, more elegant look.

* Spread: This most formal of all collars is perhaps a shade too dressy for the American business look. It is best with dark, pinstriped suits of a decidedly English flare or with double-breasted blue blazers.

* Tab collar: A precise, crisp collar with tiny tabs of fabric that attach under the knot of the necktie. It is a fastidious, but not fussy, look. Some men find attaching the tabs a bother. The nTC nuisance is worth the effort; tab collars are flattering and highly appealing.

Q: I've always had my hair cut the same way. Lucky for me, I still have plenty. But my wife says it could look better. Is there some way for me to change my hair style to update it?

A: Hair is one element of your overall image that you can control. It can change a man's image -- either subtly or dramatically. Even the most controversial politicians understand the wisdom of making adjustments so their hair will be in the mainstream . . . though their politics are not (two examples are David Duke and Jesse Jackson).

Today's man has several new styling options:

* Shortening or lengthening his sideburns,

* Moving the part higher, or further to the side,

* Combing straight back or on less of an angle than usual,

* Combing with a styling product, and either letting the hair dry untouched for a sleek look, or brushing for a fuller look.

Accent your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses. If your face is too round, go for trimmer sideburns. A closer cut minimizes a full face. Men may think it looks sexy; in truth, too much unruly hair can look as if you're trying too hard to seem rugged. If your face is narrow, too-long hair accentuates this feature. At the sides, hair that just grazes the tops of the ears looks current.

The newest look is shorter around the perimeter and longer on top, but men with coarse, curly hair need a short, more blended, even cut.

Slight variations make a world of difference. A hipper, neater cut can make you look younger; a more traditional cut can alleviate a too-young look -- making you appear more professional. If you're thinking of making a change, consider a hair stylist or check out pictures of models wearing your type of clothes and who appear to be about your age. What's hot in fashion for a man of one age may not be right for you.

No matter how you change, you should expect to feel a little bit different or uncomfortable for a day or two. It shouldn't be longer. If it lasts longer, reconsider the style.

Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.

Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.

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