You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't have an opinion on the rollneck jumper. Last considered a credible addition to the style-conscious man’s wardrobe at some forgotten point of the 1990s, you’ll more often find the rollneck jumper poked fun at than you will praised. All that however looks set to change imminently, thanks to the arrival of a crop of rollnecks which take the design’s blueprint but offer a more palatable version for the modern man.
When you think of the rollneck jumper, what or who comes to mind? A professor perhaps, an artist, Andy Warhol, Steve Jobs? As respected as these professions and people are, they’re unlikely sources of style inspiration. Right now though, they’re all unwitting champions of one of menswear’s most practical movements. Yes, we’re aware that the rollneck is one of style’s most polarising items (read: sartorial marmite) but when worn well there are rewards to be reaped from donning this much-dismissed classic. But, just why then is the rollneck jumper one of the most indispensable wardrobe fixtures a man can have at his disposal and what's the best way to go about wearing one?
Ed Westwick wears the Observatory navy rollneck jumper
The revival of the rollneck jumper shouldn't come as a shock. Its charm is multifold. Firstly, there’s the obvious practical benefits that the garment’s extra fold of fabric provides. Come gale force wind or overactive office air conditioning, the rollneck jumper does away with the need for a scarf and offers more comprehensive coverage than a crew or v-neck jumper.
Steve McQueen in Bullitt, 1968
Secondly, there are its sartorial plus points. It is only relatively recently that the rollneck jumper has found itself shunned. One need only dig a little deeper to find that this neck bracing knitwear has long been worn by some of menswear's most distinguished dressers. Those in need of convincing would do well not to think of poets and professors and instead cast thoughts to the - often unmentioned - instances in which the rollneck made perfect sartorial sense.
Who can forget Steve McQueen’s turn as San Francisco detective Frank Bullit? Worn with a tweed blazer of all things, McQueen’s rollneck was anything but stuffy. Then there’s Sir Michael Caine, a man who embraced the rollneck jumper so enthusiastically, it was practically part of his unofficial uniform. Whether looking criminally cool in seminal film, The Italian Job, or casually defining hip sophistication in a swinging 1970s London, Caine’s track record for wearing this design well is unimpeachable.
If this time last year saw early adopters tentatively consider adding the design to their wardrobes, this year marks the unambiguous return of the rollneck. Proof of this is the sheer variety of designs on offer. From supremely soft cashmere rollnecks to robust chunky rollnecks, there is a kaleidoscope of ways to wear right now, which is reason enough not to write the garment off prematurely.
For those convinced of the rollneck's new status as a credible contender for the title of AW15's most practically stylish design, to the matter of how to wear well. The good news is your options are limitless and there's a style to suit all.
THE ROLLNECK OFF-DUTY
Let's start with how to wear off-duty. When donning a rollneck on the weekend you have licence to be a little more adventurous in your approach. Bulkier styles work well (read: ribbed, patterned weaves) and are perfect for wearing with both minimal wool overcoats and shaggy shearling jackets alike. Bomber jackets will make similarly stylish companions.
THE ROLLNECK ON DUTY
Don’t think that the rollneck is solely the preserve of daytime dressing. When taken in luxurious cashmere, the design becomes an entirely credible (and low maintenance) alternative to a shirt and tie.
Wear a charcoal grey design beneath a black suit, accessorise sparingly and finish the look with a pair of ox blood double monk strap shoes. Depending on the dress code of your office, this look will work well in the boardroom and is perfect for wearing to a bar at the day's end.