The Spice Of Life, Collar Pins vs. Collar Bars, And More On How To Talk To People

Life is choices.  Right?


Yesterday was Ivy-interesting.  First, I get this great email from Chris with an article from the Washington Post about Socrates and our lack of civil discourse.  A subject on which, as an aside, I think we have turned a corner, having moved now from “I can’t tell you what it is but I know it when I see it” to “that kinda talk ain’t getting us anywhere.”  It was by George Will, who I read anytime I have the opportunity (yes I know our politics are different, BUT he is a brilliant thinker, a decent writer, and an Ivy guy whose baseball book, Men At Work, inspired me to score an entire Red Sox year.  (2009).


Read this book. If you don’t like baseball, you will afterwards. If you like baseball, you will love baseball. If you love baseball, you will learn why you do. And as an aside, this is an author on the cover in a bow tie. So if for no other reason.


The call for civil discourse is getting old, and this is ME saying it.  Ever play records?  Vinyl.  These calls for civil discourse are the space between songs where the record is spinning, the record player is still technically doing what it is supposed to do, but nothing is happening.   Back to that in a minute.

Will writes about a Mr. Roosevelt Montás, who came to New York from the Dominican Republic when he was 12, with “a head full of lice, and a belly full of tropical parasites.”  Mr.  Montás went to and works at Columbia now (coincidence I am not showing favoritism) and wrote a book on Socrates and Education, and of course because everyone has to, a plea for civil discourse.  He talks about liberal education and has a good line: “education not for making a living but for living meaningfully.”  That’s a good line.  I don’t know that the two are mutually exclusive.  Perhaps it is better put that there is a fulcrum somewhere between making a living and living meaningfully.   Will then goes on to talk about a big library (always good) and how people don’t talk to each other anymore.

On civil discourse.  Gramercy (my daughter) babysits for this amazing couple and their two year old boy.   The couple just moved here, they are young and still have things to say to each other, and G and I met them for an interview and they just wanted a dinner out every other week.  This family gave Gramercy an amazing Christmas bonus (I mean, she is a babysitter and new to the job, and they handed her a bonus) and then gave us a great Christmas present too.  So I said that she needed to take some of that bonus and buy her client (the boy) a present with it as a show of gratitude.  She had two weeks to do it, and it didn’t get done, so this afternoon I will be racing around with her in the small time slot between the end of school and the start of babysitting to buy the gift.  I do not parent alone, and The Mother this morning was on me – how did I let that slip this long?  As I was working through the wisdom of noting that I am not the only one with either (1) Gramercy and (2) a car and time and money, the thought came to my head:

You know, having an opinion about how to get something done is very different than actually doing something.

Wisdom prevailed though, and I put down the phone and saved that gem for the site.  I don’t give a S+#t if my testosterone is getting lower, I am getting smarter.  I wonder if all of these town criers bemoaning the lack of civil discourse are actually having any?

This ties in.  My next email was from a reader looking for a company that manufactures collars with holes he can run a collar bar/pin through.  I don’t know of any, so I posted it in the group and laid the issue at the feet of the masses.  There were some good ideas, use a tailor, maybe Brooks MTM.   Then this one guy jumps on and tunes me up a bit about the difference between a collar bar and a collar pin.  His assertion was that this is a collar bar:



… and this is a collar pin:

Also from


And I don’t disagree with him necessarily, but this guy likes to push my buttons because he thinks that my radical Degage ways have polluted the Ivy air, so he started in with me that I mislabeled them.  See the one there with the heads on it that you unscrew?  J Press calls that a collar bar.  I see the logic of calling it a pin.  Pins go through something.  But if J Press calls this a collar bar, then we have to at least allow for the fact that it might be one.  Am I right?

Of course I am.  But as I say, this guy, who has namedrop reflux (I swear, this could be a sentence he would write:  I went to the grocery store the other day to get goat yogurt and my uncle and father both went to Harvard) kept at me and I was trying to learn French (thank you Claire-Marie Brisson) so I finally asked Mr. Everyone-I-Am-Related-To-Is-Better-Than-Anyone-You-Are-Related-To-And-My-Dog-Went-To-Brown whether he was wrong, or J Press was wrong?  His answer:  I am bored.

That’s not civil discourse, it isn’t even authentic discourse, but he did get me who preaches civility all the time out of my lane.

I think the time for the discussion of civil discourse, with all due respect to Mr.  Montás and Mr. Will, is over, and the time for the practice of it has arrived.   It is only with practice that we, and I include me front and center, will get better at it.

By the way, here is my answer to the Pin The Bar On The Collar game.  A collar pin can be both a collar bar and a collar pin.  A collar bar can only be a bar, as it does not penetrate anything.

  • JB



17 Comments on "The Spice Of Life, Collar Pins vs. Collar Bars, And More On How To Talk To People"

  1. My dad hates George Will – “the classic I can’t play baseball so will learn everything about them and in my attempts to be pedantic about the sport, I will show dominance over you, the man in the arena.”

  2. Great post. However I do have a question, how much do you think your position in the media, as well as Mr. Will and Mr. Montas, encourages this perceived lack of civility? Hear me out.
    I have been reading Ivy-Style, and I have enjoyed your time at the helm. In fact, after reading it for so long, I almost feel like I know you, and like you, and so of course I would never hesitate to tell a friend when I think they are full of it… But then again I really don’t know you, and you certainly don’t know me, so my comments are coming out of nowhere, telling you I think you are full of it. So maybe I’m not trying to be civil, and maybe it’s just the nature of the medium, this perceived intimacy, that interferes with my civility?
    Anyway, it’s just a question, and not a very well constructed one at that. In this case it does sound like you have a past with the person, and you could tell they weren’t good naturedly egging you on. So keep up the good work, and if I should ever cross the line, please don’t hesitate to call me on it.

    That IS a great question. I think about that a lot, especially as the site gets more popular and the other site launches. In part, I think we are almost completely responsible for it. I mean, people learned to yell at each other over politics and call it entertainment from TV, etc., and they got a dopamine hit for it. The trouble with that kind of media is that it needs the “don’t try this at home” warning label. Followed by the “because we get paid to do it and you don’t” disclaimer. Mr. Will’s column, for example, is dead horse beating. The more you talk about how no one can productively disagree, the more you foster it. Instead, we who put things forward should be productively disagreeing, so that there is a thing to look at and evaluate for readers/watchers. Writing a column calling for Socrates in schools, or writing a member profile calling for inclusion, those are different than actually interacting like Socrates OR actually including.

    That said, THANK YOU. If you think I am full of it, find a way to say it that I can learn from, otherwise it is self-serving. And vice-versa. Which is why I am criticizing myself over that member on Facebook. And I think we do know each other to a degree, and I think we are lucky to have that. – JB

  3. With what does one present a two year old boy? I do not know, but for now, I think we can eliminate a fountain pen and personalized stationary, as well as a collar pin. I’m thinking a book or set of books that mom and dad will enjoy reading to him. Go above his age level as he’ll grow into it. You have to be careful though, because people are sneaking a lot of wierd stuff into childrens books. Maybe Dr. Seuss or Aesop’s fables, unless they’ve both been purged from the shelves.

    That’s a good point. I was going to regift a pen I got, now I have to really go to a store 🙂 – JB

  4. “I am bored.”

    Ah, one of the (now) classic I’m-done-with-this-conversation lines. Ever. It’s so clumsy and lazy–right up there with “Period. Hard stop.” It brings a sudden, insolent, and just plain unpleasant to (and hope for) dialogue. It’s especially tedious when it’s uttered/offered by the person who initiated a controversy.

    And even more so when there’s Ivy-ish namedropping. I mean, really–who cares. Nobody cares. Really. And you shouldn’t want to be around the people who care–or pretend to care.

    Having said that, my uncle by marriage is a Yale alum and Whiffenpoof.
    Okay, now I’m bored. Period. Hard stop.

    SO TRUE. And today, literally today this guy dropped out of the clear blue that his dad taught Ivy. I think they were discussing gas prices or when pasta is done. – JB

  5. Charlottesville | January 4, 2022 at 1:44 pm |

    Like our former host Christian Chensvold, I rather like to wear a pinned club collar on occasion, but have never thought much about the taxonomy of the various forms of collar hardware. My J. Press collar pins (one silver, one gold) look more or less like safety pins and actually pierce the fabric, unless one’s collars have eyelets ( I have always called all other types “bars,” but I see that J. Press makes a distinction among collar “pins,” “bars,” and “holders,” so there is always something new to learn.

    There certainly is. And bigger fish to fry. I love those safety pin collars. – JB

  6. I grew bored with George Will years ago. Pat Buchanan is much better.

  7. For what it’s worth, George Will has probably grown bored with/by George Will.

    Still, one of the last (public) remaining stalwarts of 3-buttoned, undarted, OCBD’d, repp tied trad orthodoxy. He seems ever the Young Fogey, even with the accumulation of decades and wrinkles.

    One of my G.F. Will favorites:

    “I’ve said before, I will now say again that the most important decision taken in the 20th century was not Germany’s decision to side with Austria 1914 and not Hitler’s decision to invade Russia in 1941. And not Deng Xiaoping’s decision to modernize China. The most important decision taken in the 20th century was where to locate the Princeton graduate school.

    As President of the University, Woodrow Wilson wanted the graduate school on the campus. His nemesis, Dean Andrew Fleming West, wanted it where it is–up on a hill, near the college. Wilson had one of his characteristic tantrums and resigned. He went into politics — and ruined the 20th century.
    I simplify a bit and exaggerate somewhat.”

  8. The name-dropping collar bar/pin pedant you describe reminds me of an Ivy League joke:
    — How do you know when someone went to Harvard?
    — Because they tell you.

  9. Evan Everhart | January 4, 2022 at 7:21 pm |

    That first one is actually a collar clip, a sincere abomination of anti-style. No one should wear those. If you lack the gumption to pierce yr collar with a safety pin, then have the eyelets installed in an appropriate place on yr collar by yr tailor and procure and use a collar bar. I didnt even mention collar clips because they are beneath consideration.

  10. On what you call a bar, the thing with the loops like a safety pin, how do I wear it? I am assuming the loops show on the collar? I have some old ones from my dad?

  11. George Will wrote another baseball book,
    “A Nice Little Place on the North Side”,
    about the Cubs but focusing on Wrigley Field.
    I’m just over halfway through but strongly recommend it
    if you like baseball at all.

  12. Dutch Uncle | January 4, 2022 at 11:01 pm |

    Here’s a photo of a gentleman wearing a collar clip:

  13. Nearly any available picture of German textile entrepreneur Wolfgang Grupp – who is known (in a country with meagre sartorial expertise in public environment) as an eccentric dresser – shows him wearing both a pinned collar and a tie chain (opinions welcome).

    On this particular photograph Mr Grupp is sporting an additional exotism previously unheard of: a suit pocket placed in the lapel:

  14. Charlottesville | January 5, 2022 at 8:27 am |

    Stanislaus – “Eccentric dresser” is putting it mildly. Quite a look.

    Dutch Uncle – I believe that Mr. Boyer is wearing an actual collar pin; it is difficult to tell from the picture, but in the article he refers to it as a “pin through the collar.”

    I also note that the collar clip is what Press refers to as a “collar holder” so the terminology can get confusing. I think I will stick with the pins.

  15. GW believes the old saw, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it”. In some circles it’s what you say that matters.

  16. As an observation, not meant to be critical in any way — In reading this blog for five years or so, I read more information and comments about non-button down collars yesterday than cumulative in the five years. The last I recall was Christian’s having been given a purple uni stripe club collar shirt by the late great Spencer Bennett of Michael-Spencer shirts. But even then there was no discussion of collar bars/pins/clips/holders. Ha. I have a few, whatever one wants to call them, but have not worn them since Jack Kemp left the scene. Although, there aren’t many politicians who are style setters for sure. For a group of guys who live and die by the OCBD, this has been an interesting chain of comments to read. I would disagree and say that George Will is a decent thinker and a better writer, not the other way around. He is quite set in his ways and quite proud of his opinions. But the baseball book, ‘Men at Work,’ is fabulous, I think. Just the insights about the great Willie Mays alone were worth the read. Happy New Year, Ivy stylers, and God bless.

    Hi! And fear not. I got sent a ton of pictures and comments and even an article by Mr. Boyer about using a collar bar with an unbuttoned OCBD. I only wear OCBD’s so I got you covered. Happy New Year friend! – JB

  17. Above comment meant in observational humor, not critical at all. Quite interesting back and fort on collar devices.

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