Tips From Charlie: How to Rock the Roll

When I visited The Andover Shop last month, Charlie Davidson had a handy tip if you’re unsatisfied with the collar roll on your buttondown oxfords. It goes like this:

1) Unbutton the collar.

2) Push it upwards until it achieves an arched shape.

3) Stick the tip of a pencil through the buttonhole and make a small dot on the shirt.

4) Repeat on the other side.

5) Have your tailor/seamstress/wife move the buttons to the new location. Or, if you’re man enough, do it yourself.

6) Wash the shirt, allowing the cotton fibers to close the holes from where the buttons were previously located.

And there you have it: instant collar roll.

“That’s a great tip,” I told Charlie. “But wouldn’t it be easier to just get one’s shirts from you? Surely your buttondown must have the perfect roll.”

“It does not,” Charlie said. “I’ve got a great shirtmaker, and I’ve given him a Brooks Brothers shirt and told him to rip the @#$%& thing apart to figure out how to make the collar roll, and he still can’t figure it out.”

Paul Winston has told me the same thing: At Chipp they used to dissect Brooks shirts, too, but could never figure out how to duplicate the collar roll.

According to Charlie, Brooks uses — or used to use — a simple tool that was stuck into the collar at a certain point in the manufacturing process to give the collar its distinctive roll. I don’t know what their secret is at Mercer & Sons, but they guarantee a perfect roll.

Here’s a Style Forum thread devoted to the topic, while pictured above, in case you didn’t recognize him, is George Peppard from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” — CC

10 Comments on "Tips From Charlie: How to Rock the Roll"

  1. Bill Stephenson | December 22, 2010 at 11:48 am |

    You nailed it in the penultimate paragraph.

    Either go through the masochistic contortion with the pencil mark, move buttons,etc contortion, or just buy your shirts from Mercer.

    This must be some kind of a trick IQ test.

  2. I’m only 27 so I wasn’t around for the original Brooks button-downs, but I’m pretty happy with Ralph Lauren’s collar roll. If it’s laying weird I usually just run some hot water through my hands kinda fluff it out till it starts rolling properly.

  3. I remember my Dad’s J. Press shirts having the perfect roll. I don’t own any at the moment, but wondered if they pass muster.

    Merry Christmas Christen

    =Paul

  4. Interesting. I have a Ralph Lauren shirt I bought in 2002 which is still going strong but with one exception – The collar appears to have lost any shape at all. It became puckered round the fold and there has never been any roll unless filled out with a tie. Brooks Brothers next time but I’d be interested to hear how others fare. Hilfiger? JPress?

  5. Bill Stephenson | December 23, 2010 at 3:00 am |

    It’s possible to get obsessive about collar roll. Most people don’t care, and since they have never had a shirt with the right (bell shaped) roll, it isn’t an issue. (One in the photo that Christian uses is absolutely perfect).Obviously, there are more important things to worry about in the cosmic scheme of things.

    The problem with JP and RL is that they use different shirt makers from year to year, and within the brand. Check out the country of origin tag, and you will see that RL, for example, has some in the same stack, made in different countries. There have been a lot of JP and RL OCBD that have a significant roll. The problem is that it rolls in the wrong direction, inward toward the tie. (If RL sends a pattern to one maker in the Dominican Republic, and the same pattern to one in Sri Lanka, good chance the shirts will vary significantly,)

    For some reason, most of the “own brand” sold by dept stores lie perfectly flat. No roll whatsoever.

    At one time, Mercer had button holes that looked like they were done by hand, by a seamstress that had boxing gloves on. Dave got that totally fixed about a year ago. Again, who reallly cares about stitching around button holes? If you don’t care, you probably wouldn’t be posting here. Your wife, or GF would be buying your shirts, and you would never know the difference.

    The people that read this fine net publication probably care. In this article, we have learned that if “Charlie” can’t figure out how to get a roll in an OCBD, take a pass on Andover shirts. With RL and JP, you roll the dice, and sometimes not the collar. (Try returning an OCBD because the collar roll isn’t proper. Good luck.”I’m sorry sir, I have no idea what you are referring to. Exactly what is a collar roll?”)

    BB, almost always works. Mercer never fails.

    There are only a few things that are sine quo non in ivy. One is the right roll on an OCBD. A purist can spot collar roll, darts, wrong glasses frames, uncuffed trousers, etc in a blink of the eye.

  6. Part of teh perfect roll, I think, was that the first button on the placket below the top button was spaced further away from the top button than the rest of the buttons were spaced together. Nobody does that any more, and it is a shame.

  7. Vern Trotter | December 23, 2010 at 9:39 am |

    I just recently re-viewed the movie, TEACHERS PET, with Clark Gable and Doris Day. Gable was a lifetime Brooks customer; in this he is the perfect Ivy style dresser. Gabardine 3 button suit, knit tie, Brooks shirt with a perfect roll and Lock and Co. hat. Fabulous!

    Brooks shirts with classic roll began to disappear about 20 years ago. If you received a perfect roll thereafter, it was just an accident. It was then that I began to wear bow ties so it did not matter.

  8. I must be missing something as I’m not really able to determine the direction of the roll such as inward toward the tie. How do I spot this?

  9. Bill Stephenson | December 23, 2010 at 2:49 pm |

    Hilton, take a look at the photo that Christian has at the start of the article. That is a perfect roll. Shaped like a bell, particularly when it is buttoned, and tie knot is in the middle of the bell. Buttons are at the bottom of the bell.

    The ones that are totally wrong have the collar sloping in a concave direction, curving in toward the knot of the tie. If you notice, there are a lot of them that do exactly this.(RL has a factory somewhere that seems to specialize in this configuration.) Also, some have one half of the collar in a bell configuration (convex) , and the other concave.

    Most people don’t notice, or care. I’m sure they lead very rich lives, without being burdened with trivia such as this.

  10. Vern, I stumbled across “Teacher’s Pet” nearly a year ago and it’s been on my editorial list ever since. It’s interesting to see Gable, who, style-wise, we associate with his ’30s-era glamor shots, dressed in the mid-century sack suit uniform.

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