As the winter months become less a distant-future pleasantry and more a blustery reality, the time has come to dig to the back of our closets for that elusive sweater and to send urgent emails to our moms for our puffy jackets and hand-knitted mittens.
Another staple of the snowy months to come? The turtleneck. Once simply the awful, mustard-colored embarrassment your parents stuffed you into for Christmas photos, turtlenecks have reemerged on the scene as a far more sophisticated sartorial option. Even better, they’re as versatile an outfit option as a gray T-shirt. Turtlenecks are the coziest of alternatives to a basic pull-over sweater in that they lend any ensemble an element of intellectual swagger.
Bonus: in shielding your neck from the chill, a turtleneck can also conceal the evidence of an intimate night in! Baby, it’s cold outside, indeed. Toss out any preconceived notions of turtlenecks as dorky, pretentious or outdated because if worn right, they will keep you both warm and snuggly from the unforgiving New York winter and light an inner glow in you for being such a darned fashion genius. You’re welcome.
The oversized sweater is a tried and true NYU fashionista staple, and the turtleneck sweater can be utilized in much the same way when styled right. Look for thick knits and a dark, neutral color, as well as a slightly slouchy shape — the turtleneck’s hem should hit an inch or two below your hips to fulfill its maximum flattering capabilities. Luxe details to keep an eye out for include cable knitting, beading and embellishments à la Altuzarra and oversized collars.
If you find your sweater hovering anywhere around your knees, ditch it — you don’t want to look like you’re swimming in a sad, old grandma dress. Add a pair of sheer black tights, appropriately beaten-up motorcycle boots (available at pretty much every thrift store within a three mile radius) and a black knit cap, and you’ve got yourself a perfectly casual school-day outfit that looks effortlessly pulled together yet still edgy.
For those more inclined to the sleek and chic, a turtleneck can also be incorporated into a sexy day-to-night ensemble. Rather than slouchy and knitted, this item should be slim-fitting and long enough to tuck into a skirt. An ideal skirt would be of the pencil variety; extra points for being daring enough for animal print. Make sure the skirt falls to just above your knees to avoid looking frumpy. Finish it off with a pair of pointy-toed heels — these trick the eye into seeing longer legs. To top off the look, no need to go shopping — shoot for the prim black blazer you’ve had in your closet for months. Some items will never go out of style.
If all else fails, you can never go wrong with the consummate Beat-generation approach to this most versatile of items: skinny black turtleneck, skinny black jeans, black sweatshirt and inconspicuous sneakers. While a beret is optional, it’s pretty much mandatory that you attend a poetry reading in this get-up.
See how easy it is to do a turtleneck justice? Forget the bad childhood memories of too-tight collars and ribbed polyester: this is the future.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Dec. 5 print edition. Helen Holmes is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.