What is it about turtlenecks? A tight black turtleneck makes us feel like we’ve read every book on our nightstand, while a mesh Jean Paul Gaultier turtleneck makes us feel like a 90s club kid; knowing how to style a turtleneck made of cashmere makes us feel like we were born with a glass of merlot in one hand and a revolutionary manifesto in the other. They straddle the entire spectrum of loveable, slightly grating TV characters, from Larry David to Frasier Crane—normcore daddies, from the tops of their shining heads to their socks-and-sandals-laden toes—to the iconic silhouette of Steve Jobs, as well as countless beatniks and Black activists. Our personal fashion icon/patron saint, Fran Drescher in The Nanny, is a master of styling turtlenecks:
And who could forget the majesty of this chain-and-fanny pack combo by Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson? That dude really knows how to wear a turtleneck.
Turtlenecks are the outfit equivalent of a wink, so it’s no wonder that they have staying power in closets of all genders. As Kelsey McKinney explains in a *muah* opus on the history of turtlenecks, the turtleneck first gained popularity during medieval times, when bros going into battle in Europe wanted to avoid chainmail chafing. Relatable.
Eventually, turtleneck outfits entered sportswear; they made their way onto Gibson Girl necklines and the wardrobes of intellectuals on the Left Bank of Paris; they became a visual shorthand for individual freedom and a go-to look for the women’s liberation movement and activists of color. Remember that iconic 1971 photo of Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes?
The turtleneck has been busy, baby. And while this is just about the time when we start to panic about assembling a strong fall wardrobe, we can always look to turtlenecks as a versatile clothing staple that can take us from fall through spring, styled for freezing temps and 60-degree days alike. Perhaps you’re bicoastal and still haven’t mastered the art of layering for East Coast frost, but don’t have room for more than a few massive puffers in our closet (same). Maybe you’ve been out here sucking icicles off the veranda for a while, you unhinged Midwesterner, and want a few more turtleneck styling ideas to inspire you as the temps begin to drop in September. Whatever you need, tell it to the turtleneck, your one-stop shop for warmth and ‘tude.
Whether you have a small budget, or many clams; whether you’re seeking a new skirt, suit, or dress to pair with your favorite turtleneck, here are 10 ways for every gender to style a turtleneck, the coolest piece of cold-weather apparel for a date, the office, the dog park, or sitting on top of a bearskin rug in nothing else but your John Deere thong.
Streetwear casual turtlenecks
Maybe you’re heading out for drinks on a Tuesday, picking up a cannoli, or heading into the office. Whatever casual activity you’re doing, you’re doing it in this foolproof turtleneck styling equation. The base layer is, of course, a super-tight black turtleneck:
Pop a large 1999 Deadhead T-shirt over the turtleneck, throw on some Adidas track pants (over wool tights or UNIQLO HEATTECH long johns if you live in colder temps), and BING BONG, you have a cozy and relaxed everyday uniform.
Play with proportion
Take inspiration from the billowing, oversized silhouettes of zoot suits, Jil Sander, Kermit the frog as David Byrne, and the present renaissance of wide-leg, high-waist trousers [Harry Styles has entered the chat], and pair your loose suit with an extra-warm turtleneck. This one from the direct-to-consumer luxury brand Quince comes in a variety of neutral fall colorways, and is made of coveted Mongolian cashmere. You will never grow cold, looking so mid-century hot.
The turtleneck surprise
You’re not like other turtleneck wearers, are you? You’re either ASAP Rocky or someone’s Democratic uncle from Rhode Island who slips this turtleneck bib on for a run to the farmer’s market. You may giggle now, but is there any worse feeling than having too many layers and a neck that’s still cold? This fixes all of that.
Embrace the turtleneck dress
It’s like if you had a turtleneck *puffs joint* that just never ended, man. This look also reminds us of those snapshots of the late, great Joan Didion with her Corvette Stingray, and would look great paired with knee-high boots.
The acid fisherman
What exactly are you fishing for over at Prettyboy Reservoir? You’ll get tackled in compliments with this look, you sensitive ruffian. Just pair a turtleneck with a Carhartt WIP faux shearling vest and, depending on where you are, some cargo shorts.
Channel the Scottish Highlands
A crisp breeze rolls over the sedge-covered hills, and a mist crawls through the halls of the crumbling 15th century estate on a hill whose grounds have seen the footprints of many brave Jacobites. At least, that’s the Scottish fantasy that came to mind when we smashed the order button on these cozy, nostalgic plaid turtlenecks.
Style down a silk dress
If you have a semi-formal event, or just want to look like the Gen Z incarnation of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, try pairing a sheer turtleneck over this 90s silk slip dress (which comes with adjustable straps) with some loud sneakers.
The turtleneck-bowling shirt combo
It’s Tony Soprano meets The Big Lebowski. Pair any button-down bowling/Dad™ top with a hot pastrami sammy and a turtleneck, and you’ll have a look that says, “You owe me money, Charlie. But I’m going to let it slide this time, ‘cause I like you. Ya got spunk, kid.” Plus, just imagine how fuego you will look in a Burberry polo with a tight turtleneck and a ruby pinky ring.
You are a long, loose bean
Wide collar, wider pants. While we dig a tight-fitting turtleneck as an outfit base, the sensation of pairing a wide-collar turtleneck with loose trousers is the closest thing we have to becoming an inflatable tube person.
Crying in the club
This is what you wear to shoot your shot with FKA Twigs at Anomalie Art Club in Berlin. I wore this turtleneck with assless chaps, but it would also look great with a faux-leather skirt and a long Matrix-style duster.
Invest in a statement turtleneck
When in doubt, let an over-the-top turtleneck take the reins. Look for cut-out tops from new wave brands such as Ænrmòus that make you look like you’re in The Fifth Element, unique prints for all your hot Baroque moods, and bright, graphic turtlnecks that will dress up your go-to Levi’s jeans.
Just start answering the door in this
Uber certainly Eats, but you ate in this bodysuit when you answered the door. Consider this next-level, horny hermit-wear. It’s ideal for bong-lounging on the couch, getting the mail (or just thinking about getting the mail), and making jazz hands.
See, doesn’t that feel better? [Enters weighted blanket cocoon.]
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