So it looks like it will be another turtleneck-less winter. The last time I owned one was back in elementary school, when I would wear the turtleneck under a collared shirt. Thus, the turtleneck became the trademark of a younger Jonah, a layering aficionado (and dapper, to boot). I miss this.
This memory brought me to a realization that the gaping turtleneck void in my winter apparel isn’t unique to me. No matter how many times I’ve cringed at the windburn against my not-so-jutting Adam’s apple, I still have yet to enact the turtleneck solution. Besides witnessing casual, hickey-stamped lovers spontaneously sport turtlenecks for a week during 90-degree summers, it’s hard to find a significant number of turtleneckers.
While runners, skiers, and snowboarders wear neck warmers, mock, or real-deal turtlenecks, it seems that the rest of us have some irrational fear of shielding our necks against the elements. Is there something sensual I’ve missed about neck nudity? Come on. Showing neck is about as sexy as showing your ankles in the secular Western world. So why does the full-fledged, chin hugging turtleneck remain an anomaly in our demographic’s style?
Although I hardly see male college students wear turtlenecks, it is often done ironically when they do. I recently saw two guys wear turtlenecks with a blazer to a formal dance. When I offered my compliments, they looked at each other and chortled away. As they traveled around the formal together, their turtlenecks continued to spark conversations and friendly jests—precisely the attention they sought—at the cost of the turtlenecks’ dignity.
Morphing and perceiving turtlenecks as an ironic costume is a mockery of a utilitarian item. Just a few of the services they could offer include extra resistance against blustering winds and camouflage for my budding neck beard.
My current reluctance toward turtlenecks could stem from a fear that I’m not sophisticated enough to wear a ribbed, cable-knit turtleneck—or that if the turtleneck isn’t hiding under a dozen layers during a snowball fight, there is no place for it. I even found myself trying to reason that it would perature if I committed to a turtleneck base-layer. After wrestling my inner turmoil, I ultimately came down to the true conclusion: If I wasn’t wearing it ironically, I wasn’t sure I wanted to make the bold turtleneck statement.
I considered the possibility of fear by association. Maybe the tacky and outlandish turtleneck patterns of the librarians of my youth were repelling me. Whether that stigma is valid or not, turtlenecks continue to be a groundbreaking innovation. They offer me warmth, even when I forget to grab the scarf from my closet. The trend could also stem from the circular logic of societal influence. If someone is afraid to wear turtlenecks because no one wears them, then people will have no impulse to begin, leaving us in a turtleneck-less society.
I wonder why turtlenecks are so endangered in a world in which we have streamlined nearly everything. Why do we resist a conventional system of comfort, warmth and multitasking, minimizing the time and need for wrapping scarves or craning our necks in cold weather? This offers an opportunity to forget the woes of getting your scarf stuck in your temperamental coat zipper, fear of strangulation by a passerby, and even the possibility of the subway door closing on the scarf that is circled too many times around your neck.
Instead, let’s pay tribute to the librarians, the morning-after hickey hiders, and the sophisticated cable-knit turtleneck sweater-wearers. All I’m saying is: Give turtlenecks a chance.
Jonah Weinstein is a Columbia College first-year. Pulling Up My Pants runs alternate Fridays.