A History of the Turtleneck, From Medieval Knights to Elizabeth Holmes

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The classic sweater—sometime all about protection—is on trend again in bright colors and spirited prints. Here, the turtleneck’s past and how it represents intellectual and creative prowess.

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More practically, turtlenecks are a classic that is comfortable and reassuring. Perhaps that’s why so many brands—from Givenchy, Paco Rabanne, and Prada to Officin General, Alex Mill and Ann Mashburn—have enthusiastically endorsed high-neck knitwear this season, offering it in both strong colors and allover patterns. It’s a trend that’s been building up since Raf Simons donned a brightly colored turtleneck on the Calvin Klein runway in 2017.

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There is a sense of nostalgia behind the revival, said Somsack Sikhounmuong, design director at Alex Mill. “Everyone can remember a picture of a stylish parent or teacher or writer wearing it. It’s familiar. Given all that is happening, who couldn’t use something familiar?” Furthermore, he argued, turtlenecks radiate cool, something that confirms their inclusion in many winter collections.

Not everyone shares the views of Mr. Sikhomuong. Turtlenecks induce binary responses—either you love them because they remind you of your favorite intellectual/jazz musician/folk singer or they make you feel like you’re slowly being strangled. But that high neck isn’t a flaw, it’s an asset. It protected the wearer, mainly from the cold, although medieval knights lay basic turtlenecks under their chain mail to prevent chafing. And the uncompromising profile that the neck-mounting fold creates is strategic.

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“It creates the silhouette,” said Pierre Maheo, designer and founder of Officine Generale. “It puts emphasis on the face, and the rest disappears.” This is especially true of the black turtleneck, which Mr. Maheo called the “tuxedo of sweaters”.

The origin of the turtleneck as we now know it 19 . happened inth century and was worn by athletes, fishermen, manual laborers and polo players, which is why it is known as the polo neck in England. Playwright Noel Coward gave his nod to turtlenecks in the 1920s. Although he insisted that he chose them for comfort rather than influence, the air of harsh disregard for conservatism he gave them – this was when middle-class men who always wore shirts and ties, caught on especially in creative circles. went. By the 1930s, stars such as Carole Lombard, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich were photographed wearing turtlenecks, often in black, better to set off their lighter-faced faces.

The black turtleneck took on a new prominence after World War II, when French chanteuse Juliet Greco made it a part of his uniform, with black trousers, kohl-rimmed eyes and long, loose hair, seemingly irregular accouterments for the time. . Greco’s bohemian style was the inspiration for Audrey Hepburn’s philosophy-spotting bookstore-clerk look in the 1957 film “Funny Face,” a beatnik-light guise that was emulated around the world.

From Angela Carter to Steve Jobs, the black turtleneck came to represent maverick genius. When she was the CEO of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes, who estimated in a 2015 interview that she owned “probably” 150 of them, she consistently wore black turtlenecks. But in her trial for fraud, which this month ended in a conviction, she left the lone-talented look for a less outspoken wardrobe separated from a neutral-toned business.

Whatever the color, the turtleneck makes a strong statement, and it is associated with strong personalities. Gloria Steinem became a pillar of her style in the 1970s, when she was the leader of the American feminist movement; His lesser-known colleague, Dorothy Pittman Hughes, also supported him. The two posed in turtlenecks in 1971, their fists raised in unison.

On HBO’s “Succession”, Siobhan’s character as “Shiva” Roy shifted from left-leaning political operative to scheming power-player in his family’s media empire, wearing a turtleneck, often with high-waisted trousers. . Shiva’s new elegance channels another turtleneck aficionado, Katharine Hepburn.

,[A turtleneck wearer] Someone who is comfortable with himself. It is quite sophisticated. You really have to grow into a turtleneck,” said Ann Mashburn, co-founder of her namesake brand. “They’re sexy in a sensible way,” she said. “It makes [one] Look back at what you’re wearing.”

The woman wearing the turtleneck is completely covered; There is no suggestion of décolletage or a hint of the collarbone. Instead, the turtleneck directs the eye upward, toward the person. Gloria Steinem wasn’t talking about turtlenecks in particular when she said, “Fashion in the past meant conforming and losing oneself. Fashion in the present means being unique and discovering oneself.” But her feminist style embodies—be true to yourself—that turtleneck.

Businesshala is not compensated by the retailers listed in its articles as outlets of the products. Listed retailers are often not the only retail outlets.


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