If you’ve ever shopped for a tallit, the issue of the atara may have come up. The tallit atara (or neckband) is really just a trim, which can range from a subtle white-on-white design to a bold and colorful embellishment.
The custom originated to ensure that the prayer shawl was worn the same way each day. The idea is not simply to make sure the tallit is not worn upside-down, but to keep the same two tzitzits in front and the same two tzitzits in back every time the tallit is worn. According to the Shlah, this is in keeping with the teaching that in the Tabernacle, the northern boards had an established merit to occupy the north side, the eastern boards the east side, etc.
Atara on the traditional tallit
If you prefer a traditional tallit made of wool, there are several options for the tallit atara. The most common option is a very simple white atara, which comes standard on most classic wool tallits. Some Sephardic Jews are careful to wear a tallit that is entirely wool – including the atara and corners.
Sometimes the tallit atara has the tzitzit blessing embroidered on it, but many Orthodox Jews who wear a tallit seven days a week will eschew the blessing, which can come across as “amateurish” and superfluous. Some people have a special Shabbos tallis with an ornate atara featuring rich embroidery work or embedded metallic squares.
The modern tallit atara
In the realm of the modern tallit, anything goes. Often the atara is designed to highlight a motif in the prayer shawl itself or to match the corners.