This season’s knit-to-know is undoubtedly the roll-neck. Once only associated with Beatniks and movie villains, the polo neck is now the perfect alternative to a shirt and tie in formal environments; as well as being a chic casual wear classic. So where does this classic piece originate from, and will you be sporting one throughout the cold months ahead?

The Evolution of the Roll Neck

Early versions of the roll-neck design can be traced back to at least the 15th century; however it was from the late 19th century onwards that the style began to really come into its own. The polo neck became the knit of choice for athletes, sailors and naval officers, before it was worn by artists, philosophers and academics during the 20th century. The design was also popularised in film by actors such as Steve McQueen and Michael Caine.

Beat It

It was the Beat Generation that really put the style on the map in the USA during the 1950s and 60s. The chic knit was favoured by the artsy Beatnik movement, often worn with a black beret and round, John Lennon-esque glasses.

Shirt and Tie Alternative

Formal roll necks have traditionally, and often controversially, acted as substitutes for the leading shirt and tie look. Over time they have been chosen for formal events such as weddings, as well as in the workplace. The designer Halston once supported this by saying:

“Turtlenecks are the most comfortable garment you can wear. They move with the body, and they’re flattering too, because they accentuate the face and elongate the figure. They make life so easy: you can wear a turtleneck to work and then afterwards throw on a jacket, and it becomes very dressy.”

On Reiss

For AW12, add either a chunky or finely knit roll neck to your wardrobe. Whether you go for a rich, autumnal hue or the classic navy option, there are different ways of wearing this formal-meets-casual style. A finely knit polo like Neptune will look great worn under a blazer, whereas a chunkier style like Specky will look great worn alone or under a vintage-inspired overcoat.

Although Specky is a heritage-inspired knit with its single patch pocket to the chest, the bold style is given a contemporary update with its all-over multi-colour fleck detail.

The answer to our question is clear. Get ready to roll up...

Browse our entire collection of roll necks here.