Popped collars: more than just a fad

Are you poppin’ yo collaz? (Shades optional.)
Are you poppin’ yo collaz? (Shades optional.)

This week marked an important milestone in my life. No, it wasn’t celebrating my 19th birthday yesterday that brought on this sense of wonderment and awe. It was something much greater: I bought my first polo shirt.

But I’m now faced with a great dilemma, a decision that has faced our generation and at least one generation before us: to pop, or not to pop?

In case you’ve been living in the dark ages, standing up the collar of one’s polo or other collared shirt is called “popping” it. Everywhere I go these days, collars are “popped.” Popping the collar is making a statement—although just what that statement is not entirely clear. It’s a little ambiguous—it says “just try and box me in.” Am I a jock or a rebel? Am I the Fonz or Andrew McCarthy’s preppy character in Pretty in Pink? The trend is also inclusive—both male and female fashionistas alike can be spotted with their collars upturned.

This is a trend I could see myself liking (who doesn’t love seeing boys in pink shirts?) but before donning my new polo, I need to know more. I turned my search to that bastion of modern-day glory: Google.

It seems collar-popping originated in the ’80s, during the days of the first emergence of the yuppie. What was once a sort of declaration of independence from their parents’ generation by young suits during their off-time has become the trendy thing to do for university kids—who probably weren’t even born during the original popping.

Others agree the upright collar originated in the ’80s, but in New England boarding schools and Ivy League institutions. Either way, the style is being radically morphed as it’s being promoted by rap stars and worn by pretty much everyone. This time around, the polos are a slimmer fit, with a wide range of brighter colours. Brands that have been out of the picture in recent years, like Izod, Lacoste, Polo Ralph Lauren and Penguin, have returned, ready to capitalize on this trip back in time. Even MC Hammer came back to release his Active Duty album, featuring the song “Pop Yo Collar.”

As a proud new polo shirt owner, I had a few questions even the Hammer couldn’t answer. Are all these collar-popping people naturally that preppy, or are there poser poppers in our midst? How do they get those collars to stand so perfectly straight? What if—God forbid—their collar should flop?

After consulting a few professional poppers, it seems that the most common collar maintenance methods involve drying the shirt with the collar up, ironing the collar up once the shirt has been tumble dried, or a combination of the two. This apparently tends to fend off the greatly feared midday flop.

As for the social studies of such a trend, it’s hard to say exactly why each person puts up their collar. In his aptly titled song “Pop Ya Collar”, Usher tells listeners to pop as a statement to the world that you don’t care what they think. Lines include “Pop ya collar, don’t let what people say bother you.” I think it’s safe to say that the guys or gals you see putting up their collar after entering the bar, or halfway through class don’t share Usher’s theories on collar-popping. But you’ve got to give them points for the effort.

Everyone seems to be in favour of this trend. Terror Squad and Young Jeezy are telling me to pop it, and so is the cute boy working at American Eagle, with his layered collars carefully upturned. From what I can see, though, this fad has reached the saturation point and is on its way out. In September, a Washington, D.C. café posted a sign asking patrons to turn their collars down. How embarrassing to be caught outside that establishment fixing your collar!

At the risk of disappointing the cute AE boy, you won’t catch me with my collar up. Let’s be honest: I “summer” in Cobourg, I’m a very angry golfer, and I live in a Ghetto. What people say doesn’t bother me, and I don’t need my collar up to prove it.

—With files from dcist.com, jrn.columbia.edu.

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