For the last week of US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s groundbreaking tenure, her coworkers are offering an homage to her distinctive sartorial style:
Yellen, the first woman to run the US central bank, chaired her last meeting of the Federal Open Markets Committee today, as the Fed governors unanimously voted to keep interest rates steady—just like the gravity-defying upturned shirt and jacket collars of her fond coworkers:
As it turns out, or up, the popped collar has a long legacy, dating back to the birth of casual fashion extending to the modern age, where it has become a symbol of hip-hop empowerment and pretentious bro entitlement.
A brief history of collars: The English word dates back to the 1300s, when it referred to an actual piece of neck armor. The fashion waxed and waned over the centuries—check out this amazing Shakespearean popped collar, for example.
Then came French tennis star René “The Crocodile” Lacoste. Frustrated with playing in a shirt and tie (yes, really), in 1927 he invented the tennis shirt, later known as the polo shirt, and inadvertently gave birth to the leisurewear industry.
René popped his collar—of course!—but only to keep the sun off his neck while playing. But he was so fashionable that people are still doing the same almost 90 years later.
- In the 1950s and 1960s, rebel-types like James Dean and Marlon Brando (and, later, Fonzie on “Happy Days”) popped the collar on their leather jackets.
- In the 1980s, the popped collar took on a whole new dimension, with the publication of The Official Preppy Handbook.
- In the 2000s, hip-hop culture embraced the popped collar:
…and Three Six Mafia…
More recently, Prada has gotten in on the act.
Here’s a tip—skip the polo shirt, just like Janet Yellen, who favored a popped suit jacket collar. The Cut advises using a men’s dress shirt with collar stays for a “popped collar that will stay crisp all day.”
But can the popped collar ever escape the spectre of bros who have owned the look for decades?
“We live in a post-Jersey Shore society these days,” fashion blogger Michael Nguyen told Esquire. “That show has forever scarred our sartorial psyche. These days, we must forever be vigilant against any douchebaggery, which certainly includes collar popping. Remember: Every time you pop your collar, a kitten somewhere starts fist-pumping.”
Any non-ironic collar-pop these days must evoke sprezzatura, the Italian concept of fashion nonchalance and nonconformity. So go ahead and pop if think you can pull it off—and do it for Janet Yellen.
An earlier version of this post referred to Wednesday, Jan. 31 as Yellen’s last day as chair; in fact, her last day is Friday, Feb. 2.