Looking around Pitti, I wanted to photograph the people that were more visually interesting to me. Sometimes, those were characters who bordered on the absurd. But in general, my goal was to photograph those who I felt would be more interesting to users of Styleforum, people who tended to have a more conservative or classic aesthetic.Continue reading
As soon as sweater season rolls around, you can be sure to see menswear guys post pictures of Steve McQueen in Bullitt and caption it with “mood.” It’s a no-brainer, the turtleneck look is absolutely killer and has gone on to influence countless gents around the world. Not only is it stylish, but it’s pretty practical and is perhaps one of the easiest things a guy can wear due to its minimalistic, yet sharp look. The best part is that no shirt or tie is necessary (unless you really want to wear them, despite them not being seen).
Now, most people know the progression of the turtleneck thanks for the copied content across different blogs. Some of the more romantic bloggers say that knights wore one of the first variations, an undershirt to protect themselves against their chainmail and armor. It then was adopted as a sweater, no doubt to keep the wearer warm and to prevent the need for a scarf, which featured an extended neck. Then, they briefly touch on Noel Coward before ultimately landing at the 1960s and later, calling it the uniform of the anti-establishment, citing beatniks, the Beatles, Steve McQueen, and Steve Jobs. This alone should be enough to point you in the direction of this loved sweater. If not, that’s why I’m here.
More personalities than people imagine wore the turtleneck back in the Golden Era. You could find it across everyone from film actors to the naval officers to even university students. In general, the chunkier turtleneck (whether plain weave or in the cable knit) was the main one worn, no doubt due to it’s more utilitarian nature. The finer weaves were reserved for loungewear at home rather than to be worn out. Early pictures and advertisements will have the turtleneck done in bold block stripes or with embroidered years or motifs, something that seems to have been lost today. Still, many guys back then wore them on their own or with full tailoring.
Inspiration can be found across all eras. While everyone likes to bring up Clark Gable and Noel Coward for Golden Era moods, one of my favorite has to be a 1910s illustration of a student wearing a cream roll neck with a stingy billed cap, grey flannels, and opera pumps. Pretty rakish, but I’m sure that it provides plenty of inspiration for your own outfits. I also have found photographs of the Prince of Wales wearing one with jodhpurs and the beret combo from an old archive of 1930’s European family pictures.
The 1960s-1970s definitely reflected the shift away from mainly utilitarian use and more as a true replacement for the shirt and tie combo. The chunky cable knit ones were still in play, but it’s the thinner, finely woven ones that took the spotlight. These newer turtlenecks were more form-fitting, echoing the trends in the mod and disco phases. Now they were available in much more than dark navy, black, or cream: you could now see them in saturated colors and earth tones. Though they were a classic item, they were definitely a trend during this era.
In some cases, the growth of their popularity was indeed a rejection of corporate culture (think artists and musicians) as other people have noted. In others, it’s more of a futuristic fashion trend that negates the need to think too much about shirts and ties. For example, a solid turtleneck will contrast or help mute a tailored outfit making for a sharp, minimalistic look. Even if you were against neckwear from the beginning, you could achieve a more formal vibe with a turtleneck than if you simply wore an OCBD and a crew neck sweater; this is all thanks to the high, closed neck that subtly harkens back to the tunics worn by royalty back in the day. Michael Caine even doubled down on this “high neck closure” by wearing it with a double-breasted suit.
Looking back now, we have a plethora of different examples to follow if you want to rock the turtleneck. Obviously the most common is that minimal 1960’s look with a nice, slim finely woven variation. It’s not a bad look, as it looks fantastic with most tailoring and serves as the starting out point for many. Navy blue is probably the best choice to get since it will work across a variety of outfits, but you could always experiment with something in light browns or burgundies/yellows to evoke the earthy palette of the 1970s. It especially helps when you feel like the patterns in your suit or sportcoat are too loud and need a bit of grounding. If you want to go for that look, I suggest looking at merino wool, since it’s supposed to be ultra fine in its texture. Luckily, you can find these at most stores like Uniqlo and J. Crew at a great value. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with the different colors they offer (pairing it with simple grey trousers is great), but keep in mind that they won’t be as versatile as the navy or black ones.
Despite the fact that I live in California and merino are the only pieces I can wear without vigorously sweating, I definitely have a soft spot for looks that incorporate chunky turtlenecks. These make more sense if you’re wearing selvedge denim, heavy peacoats, double-riders, and scratchy tweed. It feels a bit more nautical and workwear-focused, that’s for sure, but I’ve always been a fan of a more rugged take on tailoring. Cream is probably the way to go, but soft greys and intricate weaves or even fair isle patterns can also work. North Sea Clothing is a place to consider if you want a solid wool one that echoes the traditional maritime ones, complete with a wide ribbing on the neck, cuffs, and hem. Lambswool variations can be found at Drake’s (whose latest lookbook has plenty of turtleneck ideas) while the cashmere ones can be found anywhere from Uniqlo, Todd Snyder (at $300), and at Berluti ($1000+). I personally wish they made heavy guage in cotton for warmer climates, but a guy can dream!
Overall, I really recommend that you guys try the turtleneck out if you haven’t already. The utilitarian benefits are clearly there, but I like the added bonus of being able to look sharp without having to wear a tie or even a shirt. While I like that this “throwback” piece of clothing has stuck around, I just hope that the horrid v-neck sweater/turtleneck hybrid doesn’t make a return appearance. That simply belongs in the mid-1960s and should stay there forever.
Remember when I said that I almost never wear black? Well, I’m here to tell you about the one exception I make: the black turtleneck. Because in Denver, the weather has finally turned, which means that it’s the season when I wear a black turtleneck every other day.
We’ve discussed roll-necks in the past, but I’m specifically talking about the cotton, shirt-weight black turtleneck, which is the ultimate cheater’s garment. Let me explain: it is a t-shirt that looks fancier than a button-up. Well, not always. But a lot of the time, wearing one instantly takes you from “slob” to “suave” (zing) in perfect comfort. Besides, it fits every style out there, regardless of whether you pine for James Bond-ian masculinity or Creative Artsy Dude Vibes(tm).
Although you can find these anywhere, in a wide range of fabrics, my favorite black turtleneck comes from Uniqlo. It’s very unassuming – thick-ish cotton, relatively relaxed in fit, and it only cost me 15$. I like to wear it under my quilted ts(s) blazer, under an SNS Herning “Stark” cardigan, or alone under a piece of long outerwear or flight jacket. The point is that it looks really good with everything I can think of at the moment. It’s an especially great option for the dreaded company holiday party, when you don’t really know what to wear but you sure as hell don’t want to wear a tie.
The black turtleneck is the kind of shirt that you could stock up on, wear every day of the week, and look great. And as a plus, that whole myth about black being slimming isn’t entirely a myth, which – if you’re as predisposed to holiday overindulgence as I am – can come in pretty handy. The only downside to these cotton pieces is that they don’t insulate as well as wool. So, if you plan on sweating a lot, a good way to combat that is to wear an insulating undershirt beneath it and stay nice and toasty. Of course, Uniqlo also offers Heattech turtlenecks. I have no experience with those, but I’ve worn plenty of “athletic” undergarments under casual clothing, and the idea is sound.
It’s the ideal garment for days when you want to look good but can’t be bothered to try looking good: choose pants and shoes, put on black turtleneck, and outerwear goes on top of that. Done. That’s the kind of ease I can get behind.