The return of the turtleneck
Long the butt of sartorial jokes, the turtleneck is back in business and on its way to your wardrobe.
Turtlenecks, also known as roll-necks or polo necks, are staging a comeback this Winter! The trend has made its way onto the racks of ZARA and ASOS, among many other fast fashion brands, and that’s how you know it’s officially risen from the underworld of fashion.
Men in the Middle East are quite new to the concept of being ever so slowly strangled by a piece of garter around their necks (high street didn’t quite exist in the region in the first wave of the turtleneck), so I’ve had to explain the look to a lot of people who asked what the hell I was wearing.
Today’s kids are only vaguely aware of the polo neck because it was Steve Jobs’ uniform up until the day he passed. With a history dating back to the 15th century, I believe this interesting collar design has long needed to permeate today’s mass consciousness.
Long associated with European intellectuals, philosophers and academics, the roll-neck sweater has a distinctive anti-conformist vibe to it. When it entered American fashion in the 1950s, the style was purposed into a smart, classy form of dress for social rebels who rejected the shirt-and-tie-based notion of formal wear.
American author John Berendt even talked about the turtleneck in an issue of Esquire, calling it “the boldest of all the affronts to the status quo. It was the picture of masculine poise and arrogance, redolent of athletes, sportsmen, even U-boat commanders. The simplicity of its design made neckties seem fussy and superfluous by comparison.”
But even with so many notable admirers and wearers of the look, the formality of the turtleneck has been surrounded by debate, with people arguing over how far it can be taken in terms of dress codes for occasions and venues, where guests would normally be required to wear more traditional formal wear.
I say just wear it where you can, and if your host says you need to be in a suit and tie, then follow the rules that they have set. I’m just glad I can wear it again without looking I just arrived from the 80s.