c. 1300, coler, coller, "neck armor, gorget, something worn about the neck," from Old French coler "neck, collar" (12c., Modern French collier), from Latin collare "necklace, band or chain for the neck," from collum "the neck," from PIE *kwol-o- "neck" (source also of Old Norse and Middle Dutch hals "neck"), literally "that on which the head turns," from root *kwel- (1) "revolve, move round."
The spelling was re-Latinized in early modern English. From late 14c. as "border at the neck of a garment," also "band put around the neck of a dog or other animal for purposes of restraint or identification." From mid-15c. as "neck-band forming part of the harness of a horse or other draught-animal."
1550s, "to grab (someone) by the collar or neck," from collar (n.). Meaning "to capture" is attested from 1610s. Meaning "put a collar on" is from c. 1600. Related: Collared; collaring. As a past-participle adjective, collared "wearing a collar" is from late 14c.
The white collar men are your clerks; they are your bookkeepers, your cashiers, your office men. We call them the 'white collar men' in order to distinguish them from the men who work with uniform and overalls and carry the dinner pails. The boys over on the West side got that name for them. It was supposed to be something a little better than they were. [Malcolm McDowell, quoted in Chicago Commerce, June 12, 1914]
White-collar crime attested by 1957 (there is a white-collar criminaloids from 1934).
1520s, in jewelery, "the ring or flange in which a jewel or group of jewels is set," from French collet "little collar" (13c.), diminutive of col "neck," from Latin collum "neck" (see collar (n.)). Meaning "a band or collar" is from 1560s.