How To Wear A Turtleneck

How To Wear A Turtleneck

Oftentimes, we go from wearing turtlenecks as a child to stay warm to hating them as a teenager because they seem cheesy to wearing them as an adult to stay warm.

Hopefully, your fashion game will have improved by the time you’ve reached adulthood, but if not, then this is the article for you.

After reading this guide you’ll understand how to wear a turtleneck, which pieces look best with a turtleneck, some styling options, and what you should avoid when you’re trying to protect your neck.

And beyond just learning how to wear a turtleneck, you’ll want to keep reading if you’re interested in any of the following terms:

  • How to wear a turtleneck sweater
  • How to wear a turtleneck men
  • How to wear a black turtleneck
  • How to wear a turtleneck with a blazer
  • How to wear a turtleneck collar
  • Men’s turtleneck
  • Black turtleneck sweater
  • Turtle neck tops
  • Turtleneck shirt
  • Women’s turtleneck
  • Turtleneck outfits men

What Is A Turtleneck?

How To Wear A Turtleneck

Although everybody recognizes a turtleneck and could probably draw one from memory alone, most of the time they’re thinking about a turtleneck sweater.

While you will learn how to wear a turtleneck sweater here, I want to drive home the point that that’s not the only style of turtleneck.

The name ‘turtleneck’ is of American origin and it refers to any shirt that’s neckline goes up the neck. Some necks are longer while others are shorter. This is the main feature uniting all turtlenecks, and I’ll cover more of the variations later in this article.

History of Turtlenecks

How To Wear A Turtleneck

Turtleneck outfits have gotten a bad rep as being the uniform of Frenchmen and philosophy majors—or worse, French philosophy majors. It wasn’t always like that though, and it’s certainly not the case now. 

Breathe easily dear reader, because not only do you not need a beret or a master’s degree in Hegelian dialectic to master how to wear a turtleneck, I’d advise against both of those things. 

In a humorous twist of fate, turtlenecks predate Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel himself. They originated in the 1500s.

Like many other pieces of clothing that are common nowadays, turtlenecks have warfare to thank for their existence. They were first worn by knights who needed something to prevent their chainmail from chaffing and scuffing against their necks.

However, if they only stayed there then we wouldn’t be talking about them today. They were adopted by English monarchs decades later, being particularly adored by Queen Elizabeth I of England.

It was during this time that turtlenecks became associated with femininity and high society—most likely due to the Queen’s affection for them.

The history of turtlenecks carried forward into the sport of polo. Players started wearing them during matches in the 1800s, leading to the term ‘polo neck’ gaining significance in the United Kingdom.

Here’s a fun fact: turtlenecks and polo necks are two entirely different things over there. Wow, I sure am glad I don’t have to deal with those distinctions!

Speaking of distinctions, the 1900s was when the turtleneck became a popular item among everyday consumers.

Audrey Hepburn reignited mass interest in the garment as her slender figure went perfectly with the shirt. Many people still look to her for inspiration when figuring out how to wear a black turtleneck.

Turtlenecks were involved in many smaller movements during the rest of the century, but they didn’t reach their highest levels of popularity until 2011 when The Lonely Island brought them back to the world with their album Turtleneck & Chain.

I’m joking, of course, but this crossover did mark a shift towards turtlenecks becoming street-ready fashion pieces.

All of this leads us to today. People seem to desire the sophisticated silhouette of the turtleneck but want to discard the perceived pretentiousness. If you know how to wear a turtleneck then that’s not a problem. But if you don’t, well, then keep reading.

When To Wear A Turtleneck

How To Wear A Turtleneck

There are two seasons that seem like they were created by Odin himself for turtlenecks: fall and winter. The chillier and windier the weather, the more appropriate it’s going to be to wear a turtleneck.

Besides that, turtlenecks are also great for more formal occasions. They’re suave enough for first dates, sophisticated enough for job interviews, and comfy enough for holiday visits to see your family.

Basically, they’re great for any time that you want to look good and well-put together.

How To Wear A Turtleneck

How To Wear A Turtleneck

There’s a reason that people want to find out how to wear a turtleneck with a blazer or how to style one underneath a jacket or how to work them into outfits with many pieces. Simply put, turtlenecks usually work best as layering pieces.

While there are no rules in fashion, turtlenecks can be finicky to style if you don’t know what you’re doing.

It’s easy to look like a mime artist if you rely on a turtleneck to be your only layer on top. Granted, if that’s the look that you’re going for then keep trucking along, cowboy. 

However, it’s not what most people are chasing after. That’s why I’ve provided some outfit ideas to help you see how other people layer their turtlenecks. You’ll learn how to wear a turtleneck in ways that keep it looking classy and stylish

4 Outfit Ideas With A Turtleneck

How To Wear A Turtleneck

This is a women’s turtleneck outfit that anyone can learn from. It uses simple fashion principles to deliver a clean look. Nothing is too busy, no pieces overpower any of the others, and there’s some good coordination between the colors.

The most important part? The turtleneck functions as a cog in the machine rather than an attention-seeking item. It has a neutral color and no pattern, meaning that if you pair it intelligently with colors that go well with it (in this case, light blue and white) it’ll work alongside everything else. 

How To Wear A Turtleneck

The most common outfit idea when thinking about how to wear a turtleneck involves the classic black turtleneck sweater.

Even without the blazer, this outfit would be satisfactory because black sweaters and blue denim go together like root beer and greasy hamburgers. They’re an evergreen combination that you can bust out for most occasions.

On top of that, if you’re wondering how to wear a turtleneck with a blazer, this is a phenomenal option. Matching the blazer to the turtleneck gives off a uniform look that builds upon the latter’s latent classiness. 

And this may sound odd, but you’re going to want to opt for a bulkier blazer. Notice how the one in this example has angular shoulders? Those are exactly what I’m talking about. Turtlenecks are pretty slim for the most part, so styling them under a larger blazer provides a balance between the shapes.

How To Wear A Turtleneck

My next piece of advice when styling turtlenecks is to go for monochromatic outfits.

Do you see how, in this example, every piece is a similar color and/or shade? Not only does this make it easier for you to build an entire look, but it allows you to play around with textures and shapes that you wouldn’t otherwise.

Case in point, check out the turtleneck, and peacoat in this image. Just like with the last example I showed you, pairing these two pieces together is so much easier when they’re the same color

The soft off-white shade featured in this outfit is perfect for more conservative pieces. It adds a dignified flair to the look. Plus, it gives off a different vibe compared to most other turtleneck outfits. 

How To Wear A Turtleneck

The final style option I’m going to show you for turtlenecks prioritizes comfiness. Remember, turtlenecks are like little hugs around your neck—so why not extend that hug to the rest of your body?

Of course, I shouldn’t have to tell you that this style idea is only going to work in the winter. However, it’s the best combo of ‘fashion and function’ for that season. Y

our neck will be warm and protected from the frigid winter winds. Plus, you’ll look as hot as the sun or as cool as a cucumber, whichever you prefer.

In terms of this look, the most important thing is to pair cozy pieces together. For instance, the model’s down jacket and sporty pants provide full-body comfort and work wonderfully alongside the turtleneck.

You’ll also see that this outfit follows a principle I’ve harped on numerous times already—wearing colors of similar tones to generate a cohesive look.

What Types Of Turtlenecks Can You Get?

How To Wear A Turtleneck

You might be surprised to find out how vast the selection of turtlenecks is in reality. There are more than just black sweaters on the market. Here are some of the most popular varieties:

  • Cowl-neck turtleneck: This style has a loose and droopy neckline that falls over your shoulders
  • Mock/funnel turtleneck: These turtlenecks don’t go all the way up your neck—instead they only reach about halfway up
  • Knit turtlenecks: One of the most popular varieties of turtlenecks, these are made from knitted wool and are extremely warm
  • Pullover turtleneck: These turtlenecks combine the bagginess of cowl necks with the neck length of traditional turtlenecks

How to Choose The Best Turtlenecks

How To Wear A Turtleneck

The best turtlenecks are the ones that combine an affordable price with high-quality materials. If you want the most bang-for-your-buck then you should buy a turtleneck that has a neutral color like black, white, or gray.

That is if the turtleneck also comes at a good price. You should view the cost of a garment as a reflection of its craftsmanships and materials. So paying a little bit more isn’t so bad if it means that you’ll be buying a product that’ll last you longer.

The longevity of a turtleneck depends on its material. Wool and other similar fabrics can last you for years and are my usual go-to’s when it comes to turtlenecks. However, there are more materials out there, and you should feel free to choose whatever you like.

How To Style Turtlenecks

How To Wear A Turtleneck

The one thing you should’ve picked up by now about how to style a turtleneck is to treat it as a base layer rather than a showboating piece.

You can look at Audrey Hepburn all you want but her style isn’t for everyone. However, turtlenecks are for everyone if you style them correctly.

There were a couple of other common threads in my recommendations beforehand that I’m sure you picked up on. They centered around the idea of ‘outfit intentionality’—in other words, everything working together to form one cohesive fit.

Turtlenecks are great for this because they have a shape that adds depth and nuance to an outfit. The best way to use this to your advantage is by styling neutral tones along with other neutral tones. 

Another way to do this is by pairing a black turtleneck with a denim jacket. This combination works well and is a more casual option.

The best piece of advice I have is to experiment. Find out what you like the most and what works best for you. You’ll make some mistakes along the way, but it’s only by making those mistakes that you’ll learn which styles work for you and which ones don’t.

Fashion Tips To Avoid With Turtlenecks

How To Wear A Turtleneck

Once you’ve figured out how to wear a turtleneck then you won’t find yourself making many mistakes. However, before you reach that level of mastery, it’s important to steer clear of these fashion faux pas.

While none of them are deal-breakers, they can make you look more like a class clown which is probably not your intention.

  1. Steer clear of bright colors: Basically, they don’t always work well with turtlenecks. If you want to include bold colors in your outfit then I recommend using other pieces for their color while letting the turtleneck remain neutral.
  2. Avoid turtlenecks with flashy patterns: There’s a reason why ugly Christmas sweaters have proliferated recently, and it’s not because people have gotten much more festive over the past few years. Simply put, it’s hard to make intricately patterned turtlenecks work well in most ensembles.
  3. Be wary of overly snug fits: This one may sound counter-intuitive, but you don’t want your turtleneck to be too tight around the arms and body if you’re a guy. Girls have more leeway with this, but when guys wear turtlenecks that fit too snuggly they tend to look more like shady club promoters than gentlemen.

How To Take Care Of Turtlenecks

How To Wear A Turtleneck

Taking care of turtlenecks mostly depends on the fabric that your turtleneck is made out of. I’m going to assume that you’re probably looking at a turtleneck that’s made out of wool or similar material, in which case I’ll teach you how to take care of those.

When it comes to washing and drying, machines are not always your friends. The washing machine can’t hurt but the dryer can often do more damage than it’s worth.

To mitigate both of these potential headaches you should only wash your turtlenecks in cold water on the gentle cycle and hang them to dry afterward.

On the subject of hanging, you’re not going to want to hang your wool sweaters in the closet, or at all after they’ve dried. Wool doesn’t wrinkle, so there’s no reason to suspend it in the air. It can lose its shape if hung up on a hanger.

The best way to store your turtlenecks is to fold them and place them delicately in a drawer. This method will preserve their shape and style.

Best Places To Buy Turtlenecks

How To Wear A Turtleneck

My first stop for turtlenecks is always thrift stores. As you know, the items in these shops have survived a while already and are therefore pretty reliable. Plus, you might even find some designer brands for a fraction of the price.

I also recommend you check out stores that specialize in fabrics instead of those that focus on visual design only.

For example, Kotn is one of my favorite stores in my local area to purchase turtlenecks because they prioritize feel and fit over graphics. I suggest you find a store near you that can do the same.

Final Thoughts

Turtlenecks are an underrated piece of clothing that I wish more people would wear.

Seriously, they’re an easy way to elevate your style while keeping your neck warm. If they were invented today they would sweep across the streets and become the latest fad, I’m sure of it.

After reading this article, when you see all the turtlenecks for women and men on sale next autumn, you might just want to purchase one.

And I’m just excited that there are more people, like you, dear reader, who are interested in adding turtlenecks to their wardrobe and finding new ways to improve their style. 

Looking to up your fashion game? We’ve got you covered:

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