It is hardly twenty-five years since the advent of the paper collar. Prior to that time the average man wore neck-gear made from linen fabric, or was content to go without collars, except on Sundays and legal holidays. Then the collar was frequently built in with the shirt and worn with a loose, limp and decidedly comfortable manner. The mechanic going to his daily work despised collars altogether, and in order to see an aggregation of white linen, stiffly starched and held about the neck with satin stocks, it was necessary to attend church or go abroad at a Fourth of July celebration, Then it was that some genius discovered that there was nothing like paper, and produced that useful, convenient and always done up article the paper collar. It struck the popular fancy the paper collar did-as a cyclone strikes a Western hamlet, carrying everything before it, and so complete a revolution of gentlemen’s toilet was never before effected in so short a time. Everybody, or pretty much everybody, appeared out in clean paper collars. Their advantage over any other collar was apparent. They never needed the careful attention of the washer-woman, and after one had been worn until it was in a state of dilapidation, another, bright, clean, folded without a wrinkle, was ready in the box to take its place. The banker if he was not too old-fogyish, wore paper collars; the business man, the society man, the workingman, even the dudes of those days wore paper collars.

The manufacturers grew rich, and covered the labels of their collar boxes with patents and re-issues until there was scarcely room for the size of the collar to be inserted. The shelves of the gentleman’s furnishing stores were filled with masses of paper boxes of paper collars, and the man who didn’t use up a box a week was considered far behind tile age. But there came a time when there was satiety of the paper collar. It never had that inexpressible cleanly look that its linen competitor enjoyed and although attempts were made to bring it to tile standard by covering it with thin cloth, in order that linen fabric might be more closely imitated, it was a failure. In fact, such an attempt was a confession on the part of the paper collar makers that the article they had been selling was not, all things considered, quite the equal of the linen collar. Society set its face, or, rather, its neck, against it and the edict went forth that paper collars were no longer considered proper at receptions and parties. Then the battle of the collars began. It was paper vs. linen, and the struggle was a hot one. The Troy laundries determined that the paper collar must go, and the paper-collar manufacturers determined that the linen collar should not come. Troy gathered the dirty linen collars of the country weekly, laundered them, and returned them to the wearers with all the gloss and finish of a new collar fresh from the collar foundry. The paper collar men put their wares into unique boxes, pasteboard cottages, pasteboard palaces, little wooden pails, little tin pails, until the purchaser of paper collars cared more for the decorated box than he did for the collars inside.

But as soon as the paper-collar men began to curry favor with the public in this way, the day of their doom was scaled, and the approach of linen-collar supremacy was neigh. The paper collar could no longer stand alone, although it was equal to its linen brother in pasteboard stiffness. It went. Practically, the day of the paper collar has declined. It no longer crowds the furnishing goods stores, no longer is it seen at society receptions and church picnics, but at best is only upon the necks of those who, having formed an affection for it, formed such affection lastingly. And yet the paper collar had a mission, and fulfilled it well. It taught the average American citizen that a clean collar was a necessary accompaniment to a correct toilet. Hartford Post.

Want to own one of these paper collars? We found a website where you can purchase these from a company who began the business in 1862, which would have been at the height of its fashion:
Amazon Dry Goods. Of course we are not affiliated with this company, just merely passing on the link.
Link updated 1/8/12