As I put pen to paper this very moment – or rather, finger to keyboard – I’m still unsure if this article is a good idea. Mainly because I’m second-guessing if any of you are actually game enough to take on the challenge that is the turtleneck.
Hell, I can’t even write the word ‘turtleneck’ without having a little chuckle to myself. But if I’ve got you this far, it means one thing: you’re curious, open-minded perhaps, and I can work with that.
If pretentiousness and geekiness were your first thoughts when you read ‘turtleneck’ in this article’s title, you’d be forgiven for thinking so. As one Shortlist writer succinctly summarised it, the turtleneck, for many many years, belonged solely to, “.. the domain of pretentious art school wankers and kids in bands nobody listened to.”
And they’re not wrong. Maybe though, just maybe, it has been one incredibly misunderstood garment that is about to come back out swinging this winter.
The turtleneck is a very deliberate item of clothing. It’s a clear, premeditated choice. Nobody ever just throws on a turtleneck. You don’t wake up one day and decide to wear a turtleneck. You don’t wear a turtleneck to Friday drinks with the boys. You don’t wear a turtleneck on a date or to the office. You don’t wear a turtleneck to Sunday brunch. You just don’t wear a turtleneck ever. Or so you’ve been led to believe.
The situations that call for a turtleneck aren’t your everyday affairs. Keywords that come to mind include alpine getaway, dinner with the in-laws, a night at the theatre, or perhaps a high-stakes spy mission a la Sterling Archer (see: tactleneck).
Aside from a secret agent’s weapon of choice, however, the turtleneck is many things, and I would be lying if I said some of these things weren’t overwhelming to the everyday bloke, myself included.
At face value the turtleneck is classy and suave, but as we unravel its layers, you’ll soon begin to realise it’s a very powerful addition to your outfit. And this is also why it’s so intimidating.
You have to wear the turtleneck, not the other way around. It’s a very strong look. Some may think it’s flamboyant, but in fact, the turtleneck screams sophistication and masculinity. In a turtleneck, you’ll need to expect the attention, so you better fucking own it. By owning it, you’re quickly the most strapping and intriguing man in the room.
A turtleneck isolates your jawline. If you don’t really have one, it makes one for you. It frames your face, fits any body type, and even if you’re as lanky as I am, a slight push back up the sleeves or pairing with a light jacket will remedy any apprehensions, replacing them all with an effortless sense of cool.
And while everyone is freezing their tits off you’ll be the warmest of the bunch. You’ll also be able to keep your lighter jackets in rotation for longer; pairing it with a bomber or denim option will get you the Michael Douglas circa 1971 look (as depicted above).
Can’t master a double Windsor knot? Or perhaps you’re simply looking to stand out from the pack? Throw a dark blazer over a turtleneck and you’ve got a suave, sartorial ensemble that not a single person will be able to match. George Clooney is a master at this.
The general rule is to always opt for a thickly knitted turtleneck, black preferably (maybe dark navy if you absolutely have to). Don’t ever wear any thin, skivvy-like bullshit turtlenecks, especially not under a flamboyant patterned suit that looks like it’s straight off the runway from Milan Fashion Week. Not only will you look like a proper flog, but you’ll undo all the good the turtleneck can do for you. It may be trial and error, but always try to match the turtleneck to the situation and the season.
Not quite convinced or still unsure on what that situation might be? A quick glance at some of history’s most influential and powerful men will show you they all have something uniquely in common.