We Need to Talk About Turtlenecks

by Tori Telfer

It's time we talked about turtlenecks.

During the past four weeks of fashion shows, you couldn't throw a stone without hitting a turtlenecked-wearing model. Seriously, these things were everywhere. Though turtlenecks been the signifiers of all things frumpy and anti-fashion for years, they're clearly experiencing a major resurgence — and I'm not just talking about the much-maligned normcore trend. I'm talking about runway fashion. What now, v-neck wearers and crew neck aficionados? What now?

If we can manage to look past the negative associations of the turtleneck — Steve Jobs, Carl Sagan, and Vladimir Putin come to mind — we'll see that the turtleneck was once a real harbinger of cool. For the beatnicks and existentialists of the '50s, a turtleneck was as much of a necessity as a Greenwich Village address or a general spirit of ennui. It was practically illegal to contemplate the abyss without a black turtleneck on.

And turtlenecks aren't just for those who live the life of the mind — they've been known to get a little sexy, too. Sweater Girls wore them tight and bullet-bra'd. Both Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn were photographed black turtlenecks to the delight of their adoring public. Even Mia, the nymph from Love Actually, wore a tight black turtleneck for some of her office seduction scenes. Oh, and when I Googled "movies with turtlenecks," I stumbled across a Yahoo! Group dedicated to those who love the "beauty of women wearing the highest and tightest turtleneck sweaters" — and I subsequently lost about 30 minutes of my day reading about people whose mothers forced them to wear turtlenecks during the Scandinavian winters and now they can't get enough of those tight collars. FREUUUUUUUDIAN!

Thankfully, it's entirely possible to wear turtlenecks without appearing anywhere on the Normcore/Existentialist Archetype/Sexxxxy Sweater Girrrrl trifecta. You can:

1. Schoolgirl it up à la Louis Vuitton.

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But not in a cutesy schoolgirl-in-pigtails way. Think schoolgirl who's got a serious case of senioritis and definitely shouldn't be smoking all those cigarettes at such a young age but she does anyway.

2. Embrace the corny à la Chanel.

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The many turtlenecks of Chanel felt a little costume-y, like you'd pulled them out of your aunt's closet (she wore them to cheerleading practice in the early '80s). There's nothing cool about this look; it's cute because you know it's a little silly.

3. Droop the neckline à la Ralph Lauren.

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Personally, I think cowl-necked sweaters look really dated right now, but that may be because they were my neckline of choice at 13. (I preferred American Eagle ones in warm colors, if you must know.) At Ralph Lauren, the droopy turtlenecks were styled more like haphazardly scrunched scarves than something as cheesy as a cowl neckline. And how much are we loving this all-white styling?

4. Layer à la Marc by Marc Jacobs.

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Tight turtlenecks worn beneath clothes were all over the runways, but nowhere more than at Marc by Marc Jacobs. They felt sort of underwear-as-outerwear-esque, and proved to be an immediate way to dress down the fanciest outfit. Whatever the occasion, a turtleneck base layer means you'll always be ready to face the elements (or a battle of wits over Søren Kierkegaard's existentialist philosophies).