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Pop goes the collar

Nicole Zook | Friday, October 8, 2004

Growing up as I did in the Midwest, I was completely unaccustomed to coastal fashion when I arrived in South Bend. After three years, though, I’m starting to notice a few trends on campus that I just don’t get to see at home. Perhaps the most interesting of these is also the most irritating – the popped collar.

I just don’t get it. Why do people do this to their shirts? Maybe they’re blocking their necks from the sun, wind and rain. Maybe they’re cold. Maybe they’re hiding hickeys. Maybe I’m the only one who is missing out.

Thinking back, I should have seen it coming. Fashion trends recycle, right? And in the 1800s, fashionable men starched their collars in order to wear the cravats that served as ties. The collar’s points framed their faces.

This fad simply never faded away on the East Coast, where prep-school etiquette required that young men sport starched collars even on the weekends. It also appeared on the West Coast in the early 90s when hip-hop artists like MC Hammer told us to “pop ya collar.”

The popped collar is obviously a craze of the past. Why, then, is the J. Crew U. look so prevalent here, now?

Fellow Observer staffer Kelly Meehan and I tried out the popped collar and asked our fellow students what they thought about it. While most agreed that it was fashionable, many said that the majority of collar-poppers are merely imitating those who have the right to pop. And when questioned, the general consensus was that this group consisted of upper-crust East Coasters who have been popping their whole lives.

I won’t go so far as to say that the only people who should wear the popped collar are preppy or wealthy. I don’t necessarily believe that. Some of the coolest people in entertainment history flipped up their collars – think John Lennon, Lloyd Dobler in “Say Anything,” Elvis, the Fonz, Michael Jackson in the “Bad” era, and even Alex P. Keaton. These were men who bravely popped where no men had popped before. They were the truly cool fashion trendsetters among the masses.

But if you think about it, the stiff collar has been sported by many who should have avoided it. Dracula, for one, is a prime example. Star Trek characters, the Bride of Frankenstein, even dogs who have had surgery all get a chance to flip their collars.

My point to you is this: The more liberal American style seems to get, the more and more the trendy attempt to reach back to steal fashions from the past. You cannot reinvent something as classic as the polo shirt, nor is it always appropriate to try. How you dress should be a reflection of who you really are. Don’t let a fashion trend designate how you present yourself to the world. And most importantly, pop your collar responsibly.