The Rollneck. A modern wardrobe staple with all the comfort of a crew neck sweatshirt, but with the added benefit of being considerably smarter, it’s fully earned its spot in the menswear hall of fame. The rollneck or polo neck sweater has a high, close-fitting neck that is worn folded over – a high neck that doesn’t fold is called a turtleneck – and dates back to the Middle Ages. Traditionally it has been worn casually, though the likes of Sir Noël Coward started the trend of wearing them as a more formal piece in the 1930s.
Today, however, it is largely seen as an acceptable and less fussy alternative to the shirt and tie in all but the most formal of occasions, acceptable when worn with suits or as a twist on the traditional black tie. A great advantage of the rollneck is that it is both comfortable and flattering, elongating the face and helping to hide incipient double chins. But a secondary benefit is that there is a plethora of ways you can wear it.
Dress like a 70’s Superstar.
To nail the look, opt for a mid-weight knit and experiment with tucking it into a pair of trousers before capping off with a shearling jacket for bonus points. Leave the flares at the back of your dad’s wardrobe.
Experiment with contrasting block colours – patterns may end up looking fussy. Under a white shirt, go for darker colours such as black, navy or burgundy. Deeper shades of green work well, too. With chambray and darker shirts, try cream or off-white underneath. If you want to make a statement, you could wear a fine gold chain outside the rollneck.
Going to office? Go for a classic spread collar and keep the top two buttons undone to keep the neckline clean. To avoid getting all bunched-up around the waist, make sure both the rollneck and the shirt are fitted, and pull them down before doing up your trousers – you may find that pleated styles are more comfortable than flat-fronted with this look.
In true 1970s style, think about pairing this with a double-breasted blazer, but again make sure the sweater and the shirt are fitted as you will be adding an extra layer of material around your middle. If you are concerned about your waistline, single-breasted blazers work just as well. If you want to avoid too many layers, a single-breasted tailored coat cut to above the knee will work well as an alternative to a jacket.
A heavy knit looks best worn casually, twinned with jeans and under either a leather jacket or, as a nod to maritime tradition, a navy peacoat. (Though if the weather is warmer, you might want to consider a denim jacket instead). Twin the look with a suitably substantial pair of shoes – motorcycle boots work particularly well.
One disadvantage of the chunky knit is that it can do its job too well, and if you walk off the street into a centrally-heated space, you may feel like melting. So, if you think you might want to take it off, you will have to consider what you wear underneath. Luckily, because a chunky knit should never be body-hugging, you can get away with wearing it over a shirt – a button-down collar is ideal as it will keep the neckline looking clean.
Whether it’s for a casual Friday getup that looks good outside the office or as a way to tackle party season without having to truss up in a tux, a light-gauge roll neck is the perfect partner for a suit. Nowadays, red-carpet rules have been relaxed, a rollneck is a great way to shake things up if you don’t want to wear a bow tie to a black-tie event.
The look is minimal so you can play around with a statement tuxedo rather than having to stick to a traditional dinner jacket. Velvet works well with a rollneck – bottle green is particularly stylish as black can look dusty under artificial light. Blues and burnt oranges are cool, too. Or you could go for an eye-catching patterned jacquard or brocade. Simple shawl collars work particularly well. Don’t wear anything under the knitwear as this will be very obvious under artificial light, so go for a piece that feels comfortable against your skin.
During colder season, turtleneck/rollneck are one of the essential pieces in my wardrobe. It’s the best pieces to own when you need something to warm you up.