The History of The Turtleneck
Turtleneck season is upon us, and it’s no secret that we have a sweet spot for the monarch of classic layering. Making its debut as a piece of protective armor, the turtleneck has graced the wardrobes of historical figures, powerful entrepreneurs, and modern day style icons – offering an endlessly chic essential for all. Though now known as a fashion staple, join us here, as we bring you along the history of the turtleneck – the queen of closet-staples.
What Is A Turtleneck?
A timeless fall look isn’t complete without a hug from the soft fabric, layered underneath a vest, blazer, peacoat, jumper… An ‘evergreen’ piece, some might agree. Admirably worn now by both women and men, the turtleneck has a sophistication that embodies the tradition of sport, work, and play – the three traditions our beloved J. McLaughlin was founded on.
Whitney Houston styles a turtleneck while performing live, 1987.
The History of The Turtleneck
First invented to be a layer of protection, knights in medieval Europe wore black turtlenecks underneath chainmail armor to protect and prevent neck abrasions. Soon, factory workers, athletes, fishermen, and those in the Navy wore this fitted fabric sweater – making the black turtleneck a closet staple for protection, warmth, and exclusively, men.
The artists’ uniform – The Beatles styled their turtlenecks with blazers and dark pants, 1966.
Receiving popularity in the 19th century from top athletes like polo players, the turtleneck is often referred to as the “polo-neck.” Many in Europe still refer to the turtlenecks original nickname.
Marilyn Monroe outside her home in Hollywood, California in May, 1953. Photo by Alfred Eisentaedt.
An icon: Elvis Presley in a knit turtleneck, 1956.
In the 20th century, turtlenecks were introduced to the fashion industry by historic figures like Ernest Hemingway, Elvis Presley, and of course – the infamous black turtleneck photos from The Beatles, Audrey Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe. With turtlenecks continuing their world tour, throughout the years many public figures have continued to show off their simple, sporty style – via turtleneck.
Muhammad Ali styles the classic turtleneck, 1977.
With icons from Muhamad Ali to Julie Andrews, Taylor Swift to members of the Royal Family, we can’t help but realize how fitting the turtleneck is for every walk of life, throughout every time period. Of course, we’d have to argue that Steve Jobs is one of the most iconic to sport a turtleneck – simply because when we hear his name, it’s assumed we’re all visualizing his infamous portrait in a black turtleneck.
Steve Jobs’ infamous black turtleneck.
The turtleneck is one of the only fashion staples that we would consider to have an endless lifespan.
Types of Turtlenecks
The more the merrier – a turtleneck for every mood.
With a silhouette to fit every time period, occasion, and body type, the turtleneck is a piece everyone should have folded in their wardrobe – perhaps in multiple colors, too? From cashmere to cotton, even tissue-thin turtlenecks meant for layering, we find ourselves grabbing a turtleneck more often than not… The more, the merrier!
Après-ski, anyone? For a true fall or winter weekend-away-from-the-city roadtrip, we love to picture ourselves sitting in a ski lodge by the fire, sipping on a hot toddy of course. There’s no better way to stay cozy than feeling the comfort and warmth of a cashmere turtleneck. Pairs perfectly with a buttery, flaky pastry… Well, the hot toddy of course. The cashmere turtleneck, though, can be paired with straight-leg denim and suede booties for ski-slope chic.
Get The Looks:
We mentioned above that J. McLaughlin was built on the traditions of sport, work, and play… But how do you style a cotton turtleneck when your days are a combination of the three? A turtleneck, a pair of straight-leg pants, and a velvet loafer. For sport, toss a pair of white tennis shoes in your bag. For work, toss a romantic, seasonal coat over your cotton turtleneck. And for play? Pop a punchy-printed scarf around your ballet bun.
Shop More Turtleneck Styles From J.McLaughlin:
Get The Look:
Turtlenecks have been worn for centuries now, and with there being no wrong way to style a turtleneck, they’re fitting for every lifestyle. This season at J. McLaughlin, we’ve enhanced our turtleneck game. Our tongue in chic staple? New this season in a rusty Heather Harvest, the Artlette turtleneck is a cotton sleek ribbed top featuring a three-button cuff. It’s loved by magazine editors, CEO’s, tastemakers, and every woman we know. This thin turtleneck made of drape-y stretch microfiber is perfect for layering, though don’t hide it! We do love allowing the print to speak for itself. Of course, if you’re ISO something simple, this white turtleneck is a staple, too. We’d stay clear of red wine while wearing it, though.