In Defense of the Turtleneck

Protect ya neck, and look good doing it

By The Editors
December 21, 2015 9:00 am

What is it about the turtleneck sweater that draws the ire of men?

If we are to play a game of Free Association, we’d find our answer: Wide-wale corduroy. 1940s Hollywood Regency. Safari suits. French cigarettes. Army Surplus Beatnik camo. Tactilenecks.

Turtlenecks by nature bring with them a whole host of unsightly connotations and Connery Bond-era caricatures, and we as men fight them off without even knowing it. But recognize this: the turtleneck sweater as utilitarian undergarment has no wintry equal. It’s shirt meets scarf, lightweight but warm, sharp but sporty.

That’s the bottom line. And if we can all agree on that, we can collectively take a step forward to more stylish napes. Second of all, consider calling it a roll-neck, which we’ll switch to now. It’s the British term. It’s got a genteel ring to it, whereas “turtleneck” conjures rosy-cheeked tots waiting for mom and dad to pick them up from ski school.

The fact is, the roll-neck is so polarizing it suffers from inverse effects: i.e., its reputation is bestowed on you, dear wearer, not vice versa. So exercise caution. Herein, three particulars to keep in mind this winter to help you do just that.

1. Roll-necks are not a suit and tie substitute. Call us traditionalists, but we think abuse begins here. The jacket you rock with a rollneck must be considered, and the combination should never be treated as a replacement. There is a time and place for roll-necks with a suit, and it’s not “every cocktail party you attend.” There’s a certain gravitas that comes with a comfortable, jaunty roll-neck, so experiment with the look in more semi-casual weekend settings. See next point on why.

2. If you’re not a roll-neck guy, you’re not a roll-neck guy. If it doesn’t work in a semi-casual setting like, say, under a jean jacket or even a top coat, it ain’t gonna work. Save the look for the rest of us and don’t force it. How do you know it’s not working? Simply if it doesn’t agree with you, or prompts more jeers than cheers.

3. If it works, own it and then look back. This puts you in the league of the extraordinary gentlemen of rollneck past. The Hemingways, McQueens, Deans and Dylans. Flex your sartorial powers accordingly and sparingly for maximum effect.

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