It might have been decreed that cardigans are this season’s knit to know about, but I would argue that the true winner of winter’s yarns race (sorry) has got to be the roll-neck jumper. It was back in October when I first felt its presence in the shops and all over my Instagram feed. Chunky – not fine – I dug out my own grey version, which was bought a year early, but only now felt so incredibly “right”. Having dominated the past few months, fast forward to now and pop into any shop and a roll-neck jumper (or 10) you are sure to see. From Topshop to Toast, Mango to Matches, thick, snuggly jumpers with huge, folded necks rule. In fact, Marks & Spencer report sales of roll necks are up 85 per cent on last winter (the most popular colours being black, cream, navy and red), while Jigsaw sell on average 10,000 units of their silk cotton roll-neck jumpers per season. Meanwhile, as I type, six Poolers are wearing them (including me, of course) and I challenge anyone to walk down the street for five minutes without spotting at least three.
An oft overlooked piece of clothing, roll necks (also known as polo necks and referred to as turtlenecks in America) have enjoyed a long and varied life. With origins in thermal layering, roll necks first became considered fashionable in the 1920s thanks to Noël Coward, who adopted brightly coloured iterations as part of his signature look. The likes of Audrey Hepburn, Juliette Gréco and Andy Warhol gave them both Hollywood appeal and alternative, beatnik cool during the 50s, 60s and into the 70s. The 90s arrived and with it a baggy, preppy, Meg Ryan/Billy Crystal turn in the tale, while, during the noughties, the roll neck solidly belonged to the Normcore movement (thank you, Steve Jobs). But that was then and this is now. So, how exactly did we end up with every woman and her dog wearing a roll-neck jumper this winter?
Having dominated the past few months, fast forward to now and pop into any shop and a roll-neck jumper (or 10) you are sure to see
It started with Phoebe. As in Phoebe Philo, ex-design director of Céline (rumoured to be moving to Burberry – here’s hoping) and the woman who every other woman I know wants to dress like. She gave us the Stan Smith, she gave us the oversized tote bag and she’s undoubtedly given us the chunky roll-neck jumper. Grey, navy, cream and all with slouchy black trousers, Philo has been stealthily pushing the roll neck for a good few years. But when Victoria Beckham wore a very Philo-esque outfit of navy roll neck and matching wide-leg trousers for the finale bow of her own autumn 17 fashion show, followed by Joseph, Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga putting them on the catwalk, the deal was sealed and this winter was to be the winter that roll necks went wild.
I would add to this the fact that we’re midway through what is apparently the coldest winter for five years and what does one feel like wearing of an arctic morning? A cosy roll neck is a good place to start.
So, how to roll neck in 2018? Well, if you haven’t guessed, go big. We’re talking almost too thick to stick your trench coat over it (FYI the trench is back again this year). Wear some sort of vesty thing underneath so that when you inevitably overheat in your humongous jumper, you won’t have to sit in your bra. My advice would be to head to Uniqlo’s Heattech department.
You have two options as to what to wear them with. The first is with slouchy, tailored trousers or posh joggers à la Phoebe. Complete the look with a pair of non-knackered trainers. The second option is to throw it on over a pretty midi dress or skirt – preferably floaty and/or floral print, with knee-high or ankle boots and tights. Texture is big news this coming season, so have a look for something bobbly, knobbly or fluffy (just don’t wear lipgloss) and, while grey is always a safe bet, pastels are about to have their annual moment, so pale pink, blue etc might be a nice idea moving into spring.
Final style tip? The “fashion hair tuck”. No roll neck is complete without half your hair tucked into your collar. Strange, but true – trust me.