Hannah McKenzie/the Gauntlet

Poppin' collars

Publication YearIssue Date 

Popped collars are a noble tradition that have yet to be recognized by the haute couture fashion designers. American Eagle and Abercrombie and Fitch-- those bastions of cool and incomparable style-- have promoted it amongst their clientele. Rap luminaries, too, are getting into the game-- one of the greatest songs about fashion is from Three 6 Mafia, wherein they promote the popped collar in the ever-sublime "Everyday I'm Poppin' My Collar."

Some unenlightened plebeians say that a popped collar is nothing more than douchebag chic. They're wrong. Like diamond stud earrings, frosted tips and spray-on tans, popped collars are part of the new wave of uber-masculine fashion. These critics need to understand something very important-- there's a long tradition of collar popping.

In the late 1800s it was expected for aristocrats to have upturned collars. The stiff fabric of the shirts would chafe the ears, but they realized early on they needed to suffer for the sake of fashion. This remained for a long time, until Rene Lacoste. In 1929 future frat boys across the world bumped their chests and crushed a beer can on their head when Lacoste helped to create the soft cotton tennis shirt for himself. Lacoste would pop his collar not for fashion, but for pragmatic reasons, turning the collar up to protect his neck from the sun. Not only was his neck pasty white, but it helped spawn an entire fashion movement.

Enter the 1980s. A whole new subculture had formed amongst upper-middle class youths in New England. They were the few, the proud-- they were the preppies. These young upwardly mobiles felt that the upturned collar would help separate themselves from the petty working classes below them and impress women by looking sporty.

At the same time, young black males who aspired to achieve that upper class existence would buy tennis shirts attempting to fit in and show off how much more affluent they were. Like the New England youths, they too would pop their collar. The always great Ghostface Killah, in his song "The Juks," explains that popping your collar was a symbol of being able to move out of the ghettos and climb the social ladder.

The popped collar had finally come full-circle and was now a symbol of cool. As it infected the urban scene, white boys in fraternities saw black youths with their popped collars and decided to copy their style. At keggers all around the country, man-children would throw up their collar because they thought the "bitches would holler."

And holler they did. They hollered far and wide and in great numbers.

Now it's '08 and it's still going strong. Since all those years ago when Lacoste first did it in an attempt to stop the sun from burning his neck, men are rocking the popped collar to show that they are single, available and so very cool. While fashion designers mock the savagery of the upturned collar, it has truly become the most defining fashion choice in the last 25 years. It's now standard uniform for men who figure themselves to be a true player-- that and the noble backward white ball cap.

While people may feel that a popped collar is only for arrogant, self-centred and gullible douchebags who don't understand they look like shmucks, God bless Lacoste for bringing it to us. If he didn't, the world would truly be worse off.