A distinguishing characteristic of menswear in the ~1860’s-1920’s was the detachable collar. Collars were naturally more susceptible to dirt and deformation that the rest of the shirt. Detachable collars allowed men to achieve the appearance of neatness and cleanliness, while reducing the time and expense of laundry. One could replace the collar, but re-wear the shirt.
The detachable collar was first conceived in the 1820’s by Hannah Montague of Troy, New York, who was tired of washing her husband’s shirts when the collar got dirty. The idea spread rapidly, and Troy became a hub of collar manufacturing, nicknamed “The Collar City.”
Detachable linen and cotton based collars were starched in order to maintain a stiff shape, and they could be washed repeatedly. Other collars were paper based and disposable, such as the Linene brand which was manufactured by laminating a thin layer of cotton to paper. During the 1870’s and onward, another option was celluloid, an early plastic. Unlike paper collars, celluloid collars were waterproof and could be wiped clean easily. They were stiffer than fabric based collars, but did not last as long.
The following are advertising trade cards for celluloid collars and cuffs, highlighting their waterproof, rigid, and easy-to-clean nature. Trade cards were invented in the 1700’s, but were most popular in the 1870’s-1890’s. After 1900 these cards were largely replaced by newspaper advertisements. The cards below were produced using the printing technique of lithography, which has enabled them to maintain their vivid color.