“Next he tried the velvet collar, and smiled a smile of such contentment that it was plain to see that he regarded that as the daintiest thing about an overcoat.” - Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1872
The velvet collar first became a popular sartorial feature on gentlemen’s overcoats in the 1840s, but it was likely used more practically earlier in the 18th century. At that time, the wearing of powdered wigs or “Perukes” was common, and it was said that excess powder settling on the collar was easier to bush off velvet than typical dress fabric.
In the early 1800s, a gentleman’s evening clothes often included a cut-away tail coat with velvet collar. Even the original fashionista Beau Brummell was a devotee of the device.
“In the morning his outward man was quiet, and never varied; it consisted of a snuff-coloured frock coat, with a velvet collar a shade darker and a real cashmere waistcoat” - Captain Jesse on Beau Brummell circa 1800
However, it was with the introduction of “The Chesterfield” coat in the 1840s that the velvet collar rose to prominence.
The velvet collar was also featured on the Covert Coat, introduced in the late 19th century for hunting, riding and other gentlemanly pursuits. The traditional four rows of stitching on the cuffs and hem, known as railroading, were intended to avoid snagging when on horseback. The velvet collar added a distinctive decorative touch to this essentially utilitarian outerwear.
As overcoat styles evolved, the velvet collar remained a constant feature; included when a sense of refinement and elegance were desired. Bolder sartorial statements could also be made by employing contrasting or intensely coloured velvets.
“That evening he was dressed with elaborate dandyism and a sort of florid sobriety. His coat had a black velvet collar.” - Ada Leverson on the arrival of Oscar Wilde at the first performance of The Importance of Being Earnest, 14th Feb 1895
Embraced by stars of stage, screen and music, modern popular culture is no stranger to the velvet collar. From James Bond to the Beatles, a velvet collar has been used to imbue the wearer with a sense of individuality and style.
“The Beatles impacted fashion with mop-tops, mohair suits, Cuban-heeled boots and velvet collars…” - Scott J Allen, Encyclopedia of Leadership, 2004
Today’s iconic Crombie Coat also embraces the velvet collar and its heritage without reservation. Teamed with the distinctive red lining, the understated tonal velvet collar provides a classic and timeless look. Our Covert Coats and seasonal limited edition coats are also testimony to the longevity of the velvet collar as the gentleman’s choice.