In 2017, I wrote for the Strategist that what I look forward to most about fall is neither changing foliage, decreased humidity, Halloween, discounted drugstore candy, or going apple picking upstate. It isn’t even decorative gourds. When fall comes around, I most look forward to one thing: wearing a turtleneck every day.
Two years later, my turtleneck wardrobe has only grown, and my compulsive habit of buying them shows no signs of stopping. From the moment the temperature drops below 60 degrees to the day it rises above 60 again, my neck stays safely ensconced in a turtleneck. To my mind, a turtleneck epitomizes a perfect union between utility and style. It can convey bookish charm, as when worn by shopkeeper Kathleen Kelly (played by Meg Ryan) in You’ve Got Mail. It can suggest cool severity, as on Liv Ullmann in Persona. It can express sporty preppiness, as on Renata Adler, whose turtleneck-under-oxford look is as iconic as her long braid. And all the while, it keeps your neck warm. If there’s such a thing as a “face-framing” haircut, I’d say a turtleneck is a face-framing shirt. It’s like a pedestal for your face. Any turtleneck collection should be broken into three categories: staying-in turtlenecks, leaving-the-house turtlenecks, and going-out turtlenecks. Below are my latest favorites.
Staying-in turtlenecks are the white T-shirt of these tops — simplicity is the point. I buy them in neutral colors and layer them under crewneck sweaters (and under turtleneck sweaters, for that matter).
It’s the classic! And it seems to sell out every year, so stock up on your favorite colors early, then pick up some of the leftover colors when they’re marked down at the end of the season.
Another classic, with some brighter colors available.
I bought a navy micro-stripe turtleneck like this at J.Crew years ago, and it’s still surprisingly one of the items I reach for most in fall and winter. It can be read in a lot of ways: ’70s retro, slightly kooky art teacher, New England preppy, French casual. And when layered under a sweater, it looks a little less staid than a solid might.
This would be useful if you find yourself making that apple-picking pilgrimage to Dutchess County on a particularly chilly day. I’ve always thought the beige has a slight Eckhaus Latta look to it, too.
A cozy staying-in turtleneck gives you an excuse to putter around the house, but if you must venture outside, a leaving-the-house turtleneck is ideal. While a solid Uniqlo turt can absolutely be worn anywhere, these are a bit more substantial and interesting as stand-alone tops.
If you’ve seen Something’s Gotta Give, you know the iconic power of beige and ivory turtlenecks like the ones Diane Keaton wears on the beach in all temperatures. We would guess hers are from Eileen Fisher, but this beige Entireworld one captures the look too.