Thursday, February 24, 2011

behind a trend: turtlenecks


Appearing on various runways at the recent New York Fashion Week and now at London Fashion Week, the turtleneck looks set to become a trend for the cooler months.

Originally sported by seamen at the turn of the century, the turtleneck became a popular look for men during the 1920s. Noel Coward, the English composer, playwright and actor, was at the forefront of the trend, inspiring middleclass men to adopt this look.

It wasn’t until after the feminist movement that women started to wear this then masculine style. Soon silhouettes became sleeker, and the tight sweaters became a sexy way to emphasis the female form.

By the 50s the turtleneck, also called a polo neck, came to be known as the ‘anti-tie’, a way to dress smart without conforming to traditional formal wear standards. Its neat, conservative appearance made it a popular preppie style. Yet over in France, during the same period, black turtlenecks became a symbol for leftist bohemians and intellectuals. The beat movement brought this look to the US, and Britain followed suit.

The 60s and 70s saw the turtleneck trend move into the mainstream, becoming a staple in both men’s and women’s wardrobes, and wearing one was no longer a clear statement of an individual’s class or political stance.

It is this latter era, the 70s, which has captured many of the designers’ imagination for Fall 11. In New York, Max Azria teamed tight, thick turtleneck sweaters with loose pants and tailored jackets, Jill Stuart paired gold-belted cableknit turtlenecks with coloured trousers, while at Marc Jacobs lightweight sweaters were tucked into metallic calf-length pants. Over to London and Paul Smith – like many of the designers this season – was inspired by Just Kids, channeling Smith during the 70s, while Mulberry went for form-fitting, feminine styles.

While hard to pull off – especially if you have a large head or a short neck – when they do work they exude sophistication, elegance and subtle sex appeal.

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