Knitwear season is always one to get us excited. Style should be tactile, we think, and with so many different knits, cuts, colours and patterns available, there are numerous ways to get creative and show off a bit of individuality.
One style always worth returning to is the turtleneck, or roll neck as it’s otherwise known. It’s an incredibly versatile piece of knitwear that, depending on the fabric, is as perfect for wearing to the office as it is for a brisk walk in the countryside. Defined by its extra fabric at the neck which is rolled back on itself, the turtleneck is classic, easy to wear and suits a wide range of personal styles.
Working out which one is right for you is simply a matter of style, size and colour.
Turtleneck Buying Considerations
The turtleneck is surprisingly versatile and, depending on the fit, can be worn for a wide variety of occasions. For a smarter look, a slim turtleneck cut from a lightweight wool is best. An ideal replacement for a shirt, it can be combined effortlessly with tailoring and will sit nicely under an unstructured blazer or suit.
For something more casual, tap into the turtleneck’s workwear heritage and opt for something with a relaxed fit. Trawler-men of decades gone-by favoured chunky roll necks for their warmth and comfort, and so can you. A slightly oversized fit combined with heavyweight fabric gives the style a laid-back edge that combines perfectly with raw denim and sneakers.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the type of roll neck to go for. Firstly, there’s the ‘roll’ itself, which often varies. Most turtlenecks feature enough fabric at the neck to fold back on itself once, giving a mid-height roll around the Adam’s apple. For a lower roll you can fold it back again, giving a chunkier but shorter look.
Keep an eye out for a style called a ‘mock neck’, too. This is a different design to the turtleneck as its neck doesn’t fold back on itself. Instead, the fabric sits two or three inches above where a normal neckline would finish, giving a subtly different, slightly Scandi look.
Then there’s the type of fabric and weave. If you’re going down the chunky route, you might want to opt for a cable knit turtleneck, which features the distinctive weaving pattern made popular by the classic Guernsey knit. This style is casual and warm, so if you’re looking for a lightweight layer it’s best to stick to plain, merino wool styles.
While you might be looking for a classic knit in easy-to-wear navy or black, the turtleneck is perfect for introducing a pop of colour to your fall/winter wardrobe. Knitwear is often at its best when it’s playful, so don’t be afraid to mix things up. For something a little different, try emerald green, deep purple or burnt orange, colours which are more versatile than you might first think. Combine with existing wardrobe staples made up of neutral tones and you’ll be on to a winner.
Which Fabric Is Best?
A turtleneck in merino wool is a great option if you’re looking for a slightly smarter knit, which pairs well with tailored looks. Merino roll necks are ideal for dressing down suits, as the fabric’s thin weight means they easily sit under a jacket.
While not as soft as cashmere, merino wool still feels great against the skin and it also boasts a party trick not many people are aware of. Merino is a natural performance fabric and has in built sweat-wicking properties, making it ideal for winter days where you alternate between the elements and overzealous central heating.
For slightly chunkier, more casual turtlenecks, lambswool is the way to go. Lambswool is typically shorn from sheep aged under seven months, making it impressively fine and soft. That said, it is usually heavier than merino or cashmere, and as such produces knits on the chunkier side. A lambswool roll neck would work better with your off-duty wardrobe – think jeans, chinos and layering pieces such as chore or coach jackets.
One of the most luxurious fabrics in the world, cashmere is unbelievably soft and breathable. A cashmere turtleneck will be on the pricier end of the spectrum, but you’ll feel the difference against your skin. Due to the delicate nature of the fabric, it’s worth noting you’ll likely have to hand wash a cashmere roll neck, but for a little bit more hassle you’ll be getting a lot more softness.
The Best Men’s Turtleneck Brands
Italian brand Luca Faloni specialises in cashmere knitwear, so you can rest assured that its cashmere roll necks are as good as it gets. Cut with slim, tailored fits, they’re ideal for pairing with unstructured tailoring.
Artknit Studios sources its luxurious wool from the Biella region of Italy, an area known for producing outstanding quality yarns. You’ll find cashmere and extra fine merino wool used for Artknit’s turtlenecks, which come in a range of easy to wear, neutral shades.
With a focus on sustainability as well as contemporary fits, Closed’s turtleneck sweaters are ideal if you’re after something slightly different. You’ll find earthy shades and cuts which are more on the contemporary, boxy side, which pair well with denim jeans and boots.
Focussing on minimal design as well as modern updates on classic garments, ASKET is well placed if you’re after a slim-fit roll neck. Crafted from 100% traceable merino wool, the brand’s turtlenecks are perfect for both the office or weekend wear.
A stalwart of the British high street, Reiss is well known for its expertly designed contemporary menswear. Its turtlenecks come available in a range of fabrics from cashmere to merino wool and cotton, so there’s something for all budgets.
For no-nonsense, wallet-friendly turtlenecks, Uniqlo is hard to beat. The Japanese brand’s knitwear is well loved by menswear enthusiasts for its quality build, soft fabrics and simple, timeless designs.
As it owns its own UK factory, John Smedley has total control of the quality of its garments. This means its knitwear is made to the highest of standards from the finest fabrics, including soft merino wool, cashmere and lambswool. If you’re after classic, British-made designs, look no further.
The in-house label of Mr Porter, Mr P offers exceptionally made clothing that’s both easy to wear and effortlessly cool. Its knitwear range often references current trends depending on the season, but its core designs – including its well-cut roll necks – are ever present and always high on our wish list.
With a focus on throwback fisherman styles and classic craft, S.N.S. Herning’s knitwear is robust, chunky and fit for purpose. Its roll necks are no different and come in heavyweight virgin wool, giving them impressive warmth and comfort.
Arket’s designs are minimal and easy to wear, making the brand ideal if you’re after roll necks you can just throw on and forget about. Choose from classic shades that’ll fit seamlessly with your existing wardrobe.