This Season Add Some Neck to Your Knitwear

This Season Add Some Neck to Your Knitwear
Berluti leather jacket/Facebook

Add some neck to your knitwear. Steve Jobs was a towering genius of consumer technology and the visionary behind the world’s most valuable enterprise. But, unfortunately, he was also the turtleneck’s second-worst nightmare come true.


He dragged an item connected with the greatest era of men’s fashion – the mid-20th century – to Silicon Valley, which would be better known as Death Valley in terms of style. Jobs’ black Issey Miyake uniform coupled a proud piece of clothing with the foolish tech-industry attitude that appearance is a distraction from the things that really count, namely brains, money, and power (in ascending order). Simplicity, casualness, fleece vests, and normcore sneakers are all things that come to mind. What a nightmare.


If it weren’t for Jobs’ imitator Elizabeth Holmes of the fake tech business Theranos, who is the first among the turtleneck’s abusers, the turtleneck might have recovered from Jobs’ impact. But, instead, she associated Jobs’ main concept (the black turtleneck as an anti-decorative fashion statement) with her own core characteristics. As a result, I now accuse anyone who wears it of being a deranged megalomaniac.


Let us reintroduce the turtleneck, beginning with a list of its most ardent supporters. It isn’t easy to imagine any of the great dressers of the past 50 or 60 years without recalling their turtleneck moments.

Jil Sander by Lucie and Luke Meier merino wool turtleneck

In blues and browns, Miles Davis is as chilly as ice. Samuel Beckett dressed solemnly in sweaters that emphasized his svelte figure. By matching a checkered, perhaps plastic sport coat with a dark-brown rollneck and frightening sideburns, Richard Roundtree – yep, I’m talking about Shaft – managed to make it look hazardous. In retrospect, James Dean emanated passion and doom in a dark turtleneck, pea coat, and slept-in hair.


I imagine Jacques Cousteau as a turtleneck man, complete with his red beanie, and don’t we all aspire to be Jacques Cousteau? Thanks to him and Captain Haddock, the turtleneck has always been associated with sea adventures (such a beautiful shade of blue!). When he was younger, Bob Dylan made the connection between Greenwich Village coffee shops and his music. The turtleneck was turned dreamy, refined, and Nouvelle Vague by Alain Delon.

Berluti leather jacket

Steve McQueen, the star of 1968’s Bullitt, is the undisputed king of the turtleneck – and the man I aspire to be when I grow up. If the Mustang isn’t available, I’ll take the jumper. “No one looked better in a high neckline than McQueen,” says Derek Blasberg, a fellow turtleneck enthusiast. With the exception of Michael Caine in Alfie. Alternatively, Paul Newman.”


That much history can be scary. What is appropriate for today’s mortal man? With a few exceptions, I believe black should be avoided. It’s too risky, and it’s not only because of Jobs and Holmes. It also has a goofy bohemian vibe, reminiscent of hep-cats with bongos and berets. Finally, and perhaps most dangerously, there’s the tough-guy tactical-ops look, which is why James Bond wears a black turtleneck so frequently. One of the most important laws of men’s style is remembering that you are not James Bond.

Jil Sander by Lucie and Luke Meier wool gabardine shirt

For men like myself who are suffering from the humiliations of middle age, the turtleneck is the best option for hiding excess flesh around the neck. “Practically speaking,” Blasberg continues, “I love a turtleneck because it frames the jawline, which I’ve had a tougher difficulty finding while in lockdown.” But be careful: if your jowl overflows the top of your turtleneck, the result is unflattering (Gene Hackman, I’m afraid, had this problem with his otherwise on-point and off-white turtleneck in 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure).


With a sports jacket or a suit, a turtleneck is a great choice. Yes, as long as the jacket has some texture to complement the top’s casualness.


Where should I go shopping? For autumn, major fashion houses are putting a lot of emphasis on turtlenecks, which come in various colors. How about a Paul Smith dark-blue knit? Miles would have given his OK. A mustardy, loose-fitting Hermès perfectly represent the 1970s. If you have the right skin, Prada has a pale-blue rollneck.


This season, I’ll be hunting for excellent-condition woolen turtlenecks in vintage boutiques. As our list of icons demonstrates, a good sweater never goes out of style.


Have a tip we should know?

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