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The 12 Very Best Black Turtlenecks

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

In this article

A black turtleneck is the best sort of basic, unassuming and ultrachic. I own a whole drawer’s worth, and in all the years that I’ve been covering fashion for the Strategist, I’ve heard many strong opinions about who makes the best black turtleneck. So to write the following guide, I talked to turtleneck obsessives to find out about their favorites. I considered the fine line between a turtleneck and a mock-neck, and how tight (or loose) the neck should be. I also started testing turtlenecks myself, judging them on everything from comfort to layerability. Below, you’ll find my picks for the best black turtlenecks for women, whether you’re looking for something classic and fitted or a bit more avant-garde. (Though if black’s not your thing, most of them are available in other colors, too.) And if you’re looking to update the rest of your closet, check out the Strategist Womenswear 100 as well as our guides to other essentials like the best white T-shirts and jeans.

What we’re looking for

Sizes

Regular Strategist readers — especially those who follow our Best in Class series — will know we’re focused on highlighting size-inclusive brands. Sometimes that’s easier said than done (for every company that goes up to 6X, there’s a dozen more that stop at large). As much as possible, I included options that come in a wider selection of sizes.

Fabric

How do you want your turtleneck to feel? If you’re looking for one that is light and easy to layer, cotton is a popular choice. The downside is its thinness — on the coldest of days, it will be better as a layer. A polyester blend will have a similar lightweight and layerable feel and often comes with a lower price tag, though it may be less breathable. Spandex or elastane might be thrown in for stretch. Then there are the usual suspects when it comes to winterwear — your wools, cashmeres, alpacas, angoras, and mohairs to name a few. These tend to be more difficult (and more expensive) to care for — dry-cleaning bills and de-pilling sessions with a fabric shaver are to be expected.

Fit and design

Turtlenecks tend to fall into one of four tiers: super-fitted, fitted (where they’re cut to sit close to the body, but with a less skin-tight fit), relaxed (but not quite oversize), and oversize. The fit usually affects other design details — super-fitted styles often feature figure-hugging ribbing, while oversize ones sometimes have a dramatic, slouchy neck and meant-to-be-rolled-up sleeves. I specified the fit of each turtleneck below and noted the design details that make it stand out from the rest.

Best black turtleneck overall

J.Crew Tissue Turtleneck
$20
$20

Sizes: XXS–3X | Fabric: Cotton | Fit and design: Fitted with a tissue-thin feel

J.Crew’s Tissue Turtleneck has earned a devoted following since it launched in 2007 — I’ve heard about it over and over again. Its thinness is what makes it so beloved: It’s so light on the skin, like a well-worn T-shirt. But the cotton is strong enough that I never fear ripping it while pulling it over my head. There’s a good drape to the neck, so it’s easy to wear either high up or folded down. And it has the greatest size range of all the turtlenecks on this list, starting at XXS and going up to 3X.

One fan of the Tissue Turtleneck is author Mary H.K. Choi, who has declared it superior to all other turtlenecks for not being clingy and making an excellent base layer. Another is Catbird founder Rony Vardi, who layers hers beneath past-their-prime vintage tees for everyday, or under sweaters for the ski season. Dominique Porter, founder of the Glad Hours, has been wearing the style since she was a teen. Imane Fiocchi, owner of Neon Lace Company, buys them in bulk year after year.

We’ve even heard from J.Crew employees that it’s one item they often buy for themselves. The company updates the Tissue Turtleneck annually — this year’s version has a slightly shortened length and comes in nine solid colors, with metallic and stripes as other options. Even at full price, it’s a good value for $40, but you can almost surely get it at a discount if you wait for one of J.Crew’s frequent sales.

Best ribbed black turtleneck

Sizes: XXS–XXL | Fabric: Supima cotton and elastane | Fit and design: Fitted with a ribbed knit and exposed seams

The Micro-Rib Turtleneck from Everlane earned a number of raves as well. It’s made from Supima cotton rather than the standard cotton on the Tissue Turtleneck — the material is often used in bedsheets and known for its supersoft feel. It features a fine, ribbed texture that won’t feel quite as light as the Tissue Turtleneck. But the structure helps the neck stand up without slouching, according to stylist Kim Hancher. Strategist writer Emma Wartzman describes the turtleneck as “tight enough that it doesn’t bunch up underneath things, but not, like, Uniqlo Heattech–tight.” It’s a staple of Everlane’s popular micro-rib line and reliably reappears season after season. Gabrielle Arruda, a Project Runway alum, told me she buys one every year because she gets so much use out of them.

Best super-fitted black turtleneck

Kotn Fitted Turtleneck
$39
$39

Sizes: XS–XXL | Fabric: Egyptian cotton | Fit and design: Super-fitted with a micro-rib knit

“I have words,” is how illustrator Alexandra Citrin-Safadi began our correspondence about this turtleneck, describing as “the black turtleneck you’ll demand to be buried in.” Kotn’s fitted turtleneck features a micro-rib texture that’s similar to Everlane’s, but the top is cut to be more tight-fitting. Citrin-Safadi, who prefers an especially snug turtleneck — “picture the kind of turtleneck that toddlers hate being stuffed into” — actually name-checked Everlane’s as her former favorite. Though Kotn’s turtleneck is thicker in feel than the J.Crew Tissue Turtleneck, it’s made of breathable Egyptian cotton, so it won’t be smothering. Citrin-Safadi says it stands up well against “a whole winter’s worth of washing,” and Strategist deals editor Sam Daly, a self-professed “sift-through-Goodwill girl,” was so impressed by the quality, she was willing to buy it at full price.

[Editor’s note: This turtleneck is sold out in some sizes. You can sign up to be notified when yours is back in stock.]

Best lettuce-edged black turtleneck

Sizes: XXS–XL | Fabric: Cotton and elastane | Fit and design: Super-fitted with a ribbed knit, exposed seams, and lettuce edges

The Omato turtleneck from Baserange is another ribbed turtleneck, but with some more flair: It has lettuce edges on the neck, hem, and sleeves for a subtle ruffle effect, and exposed seams on the torso that create a trompe l’oeil hourglass shape. Super-fitted and sexy, it’s “soft, sensuous, and stretchy,” says Lucy Weisner, co-founder of Café Forgot, who loves the brand’s long-lasting basics. It’s meant to be more formfitting, and though it contains elastane for stretch, Baserange recommends sizing up for the most comfortable fit. (If you prefer a looser style, the ribbed, lettuce-edged Columbine top from Rodebjer has similar details, but is more of a long-sleeve tee with a high neckline than a true turt.)

Best black turtlenecks for layering

Sizes: XS–XL (with petite and tall versions) | Fabric: Cotton, rayon, spandex | Fit and design: Fitted with a slight curve at the waist

I tried this Land’s End turtleneck after learning about it from illustrator Joana Avillez. Once called the Layering Turtleneck and since renamed the Lightweight Fitted Long Sleeve, it’s made from a combination of cotton, rayon, and spandex that’s much stretchier than J.Crew’s Tissue Turtleneck. It lies smoothly under a sweater and tucks right into a pair of the tightest pants. But, as Avillez says, it’s not “so thin that you feel like a walking X-ray.” The super-high neck is another reason to love this turtleneck: It made me feel rather swanlike (one of Avillez’s friends compared the look to Jane Fonda’s in Barefoot in the Park). The neck has a just-right drape “that withdraws into the background, like a darkened museum vitrine casting light on just your face,” Avillez says. And as with the Tissue Turtleneck, it’s $40 at full price but frequently discounted, sometimes going for as little as $12.

$24 at Lands' End
Buy
with code: CLASSIC

Sizes: XXS–XXL | Fabric: Acrylic, polyester, rayon, spandex | Fit and design: Fitted with a fluffy lining

Nearly everyone I talked to has owned a turtleneck from Uniqlo’s Heattech line of insulating underlayers, which are known for being layerable. As Wartzman hinted above, their snug fit is another trademark. Those who love Heattech include Choi, who favors the semi-sheer “ultralight” styles; Michaela Rechtschaffner of Pearle Knits; Sade Mims of EDAS; and accessories designer Jennifer Behr.

The trouble with Heattech is that stock comes and goes, with lots of limited editions, so don’t dillydally, and consider buying multiples if you find a version you like. The “ultrawarm” turtleneck I’ve featured here is the warmest of Uniqlo’s Heattech offerings that’s still in stock. I think it’s the most appropriate choice for the winter. Or you could go for the fleece Heattech that Porter bought for a ski trip, thinking it wouldn’t be anything “beyond a utilitarian thing.” Now it’s a staple of her wardrobe because it’s really soft, but “without the obvious texture and weight of fleece.” Creative strategist Carrie Carrollo is another loyalist to the fleece version: “I don’t know if I’ll ever find a style I like more,” she says.

Best oversize black turtleneck

Sizes: One size | Fabric: Wool | Fit and design: Oversized with a ribbed neck and dropped sleeves

Because she’s been haunted by the too-tight turtlenecks her mother bought her as a child, Marichelle Hills, owner of boutique MEUS, now wears only “lofty turtleneck sweaters, ones that could potentially swallow my head.” The wool No. 17 jumper from Babaà has a dramatic neck that reaches her ears, “literally feels like a hug,” and gets softer the more she wears it.

(Another oversize turtleneck to consider is this one from Raey, the in-house label of luxury retailer MatchesFashion. Though it’s quite a splurge at $700, the sweater comes recommended by brand strategist and writer Tilly Macalister-Smith, who says it “manages to cover all manner of sins while making you feel quite glamorous.”)

[Editors’ note: Babaà lists its prices in euros, so we’ve made an approximation to U.S. dollars.]

Best cashmere black turtleneck

Sizes: XS–XXL (men’s sizing) | Fabric: Cashmere | Fit and design: Relaxed with a ribbed neck and hem

Sabine Le Guyader, co-founder of Lady Grey Jewelry, originally bought this Naadam sweater for her husband, but eventually claimed it as her own. Le Guyader likes that the turtleneck is long enough to wear as minidress or with bike shorts peeking out the bottom, thanks to its roomier men’s sizing — though you may want to size down if you prefer a closer fit. And the supersoft cashmere is neither too thick nor too thin, so she doesn’t overheat. Just be warned that Naadam’s cashmere is prone to pilling, as Strategist writer Arielle Avila learned while testing the brand’s signature $98 sweater. But it’s nothing a fabric shaver can’t fix.

Best wool black turtleneck

Sizes: XS–XXL | Fabric: Wool (with a cotton and polyester collar) | Fit and design: Fitted with a ribbed knit

Muji might be best known for making home goods and other everyday items, but its minimalist clothing basics are just as beloved (see our reviews of its undies and slippers). I learned about the brand’s turtlenecks from a column of Emilia Petrarca’s on the Cut. This version, which is similar to one Petrarca recommended, costs under $40 and is made from a washable, “non-itchy” wool. Daly also vouches for Muji’s Non-Itchy line: She says it’s the only wool she can wear, and likes the “very roomy” neck on this turtleneck.

[Editor’s note: This turtleneck is sold out in some sizes. You can sign up to be notified when yours is back in stock.] 

Best black turtleneck T-shirt

Sizes: 1–4 (equivalent to XS–L) | Fabric: Viscose and elastane | Fit and design: Super-fitted with elbow-length sleeves

For a shorter sleeve, Sarah Palatnik, founder of Cute Fruit Undies (who has worked as a garment production manager for several brands, including Los Angeles Apparel), recommends this “elbow-sleeve” turtleneck that’s stylish enough to be worn on its own or easily layered under a long-sleeve top. It’s made from a viscose-and-elastane fabric that’s perfectly stretchy, and has held up well for more than two and a half years.

Best black turtleneck bodysuit

Sizes: XS–XL | Fabric: Nylon, spandex | Fit and design: Super-fitted with a zippered back and ballet-style cut

Because she feels like most turtlenecks overwhelm her petite frame, Lady Grey Jewelry co-founder Jill Martinelli goes for mock-necks instead. This Capezio leotard doesn’t cover her neck completely and acts almost like “full-upper-body Spanx” — she can even skip wearing a bra. There’s also “a little slip to it,” she says, making it an incredible layering piece: “It doesn’t rub or catch with other fabrics or look bulky. Everything just glides over it.” Martinelli likes to wear it with vintage Levi’s and secondhand Yves Saint Laurent marabou-and-satin mules. (Clare V. founder Clare Vivier also suggests trying Skims’ similarly affordable bodysuit, which is designed to be supportive and smoothing.)

Best splurgeworthy black turtleneck bodysuit

Sizes: XS–XL | Fabric: Cotton, nylon, elastane | Fit and design: Super-fitted with a seamless, thong-style cut

Fiocchi turns to Wolford, producer of widely beloved luxury tights, whenever she wants a more elevated, well-defined silhouette. This stretchy thong bodysuit is like a second skin that’s super-fitted, seamless, and opaque, and Fiocchi relies on it as a base layer. (She notes that it’s true to size but definitely long-torsoed, so pay close attention to the size chart.) Kylie Nakao, founder of jewelry brand Tarin Thomas, prefers the brand’s Orlando bodysuit, which is also a thong but has a higher hem in the front.

Some more basics we’ve written about

Our experts

Chloe Anello, former Strategist writer
• Gabrielle Arruda, fashion designer who also runs her own namesake style blog
Joana Avillez, longtime Strategist contributor and illustrator
Jennifer Behr, founder of her eponymous luxury-headband-and-jewelry label
Carrie Carrollo, digital content creator
Mary H.K. Choi, author
Alexandra Citrin-Safadi, illustrator
Sam Daly, Strategist deals editor
• Imane Fiocchi, owner of homewares brand Neon Lace Company
• Christiana Greene, owner of Bum-Cake Vintage
Kim Hancher, style blogger and coach
• Marichelle Hills, owner of boutique MEUS
• Tessa Jennifer, founder of online boutique Auralie
• Sabine Le Guyader, co-founder of Lady Grey Jewelry
Tilly Macalister-Smith, brand strategist and writer
• Jill Martinelli, co-founder of Lady Grey Jewelry
• Sade Mims, head designer of luxury-accessory line EDAS
• Kylie Nakao, founder of jewelry brand Tarin Thomas
Ansley Morgan, an assistant editorial stylist at J.Crew
Sarah Palatnik, founder of Cute Fruit Undies
Emilia Petrarca, former senior fashion writer at the Cut
• Leigh Plessner, creative director at Catbird
• Dominique Porter, founder of sleepwear line the Glad Hours
• Michaela Rechtschaffner, the owner of, and one-woman knitter behind, Pearle Knits
Hilary Reid, former Strategist writer
• Suann Song, founder of paper-product company Appointed
• Torie Tilley, founder of jewelry brand Common Era
• Rony Vardi, founder of the jewelry studio Catbird
• Christina Viviani, founder of luxury lingerie label the Great Eros
• Clare Vivier, Clare V. founder
Emma Wartzman, Strategist kitchen-and-dining writer
• Lucy Weisner, co-founder of avant-garde shop Café Forgot

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The 12 Very Best Black Turtlenecks