When the word "turtleneck" is mentioned, your first instinct may be to imagine it being worn during a weekend ski getaway or a holiday party. However, this iconic piece of clothing is just as wearable in professional settings and situations. If you keep some of the tips below in mind, you'll be wearing turtlenecks to work like a pro in no time.
First, you'll want to think about the material of the turtleneck. We've got nothing against turtlenecks made from performance fabrics—in fact, that's exactly the kind of turtleneck you'll want to bring on that aforementioned ski trip—but if this turtleneck is destined for office wear, you'll want to stick to a wool, silk, or cotton turtleneck.
You also don't want the turtleneck's fabric to be too heavy or chunky. Fuzzy, cable knit turtleneck sweaters are precisely what you want to wear at home in front of the fire, but for professional settings look for fabrics that are lighter and have a slight sheen. Turtlenecks made from a cotton-modal blend or even 100% silk are excellent for office wear for precisely this reason.
The next qualification to consider is the cut. Is the turtleneck cut more loosely, or even in a tunic shape? The looser the cut, the more off-duty its look: save those tunic turtlenecks for the weekend. Likewise, you're going to want look for turtlenecks that have a full-length, or at the very least, ¾ quarter length sleeves. Turtlenecks without sleeves fall on the more casual side of the spectrum, and should be saved for off-duty wear unless your workplace is more casual.
Regarding the question of pattern, we have one simple rule: keep it solid. Solid turtlenecks will always appear more professional. However, if your workplace leans a bit more casual and you're more pattern-inclined, look for something in a subtle, smaller-scale pattern like checks or stripes versus a pattern that is big, bold or busy.
Then there's the matter of what else you plan to wear your turtleneck with. This is the area in which the turtleneck truly shines. It's a remarkably versatile piece of clothing that can be paired with pencil skirts, chino pants and slacks alike.
While the turtleneck can certainly be worn by itself, one of our favorite classic moves is to pair it with a blazer. For a more modern, contemporary take on business casual, match it to a solid-colored blazer in black, navy, or grey. For a look that combines fun preppy appeal with business casual looks, wear it under a navy hopsack blazer featuring brass buttons.
There are a few other, more utilitarian reasons for incorporating the turtleneck into your work wardrobe. One of those is that it makes an excellent "break in case of emergency" outfit. Imagine that you are wearing a fitted white blouse to work, and just before that big presentation you happen to spill a mug's worth of piping hot coffee over it (this happens to the best of us). This is a tricky situation, but if you've stashed a ready-to-go turtleneck in a spare office drawer you've got an instant solution to your problem.
That spare office drawer isn't the only place worth stashing away a turtleneck, either. Because of its knit quality, a turtleneck won't wrinkle when folded like a shirt or blouse would. For this reason, the turtleneck is also one of our favorite things to pack during a work trip. And if you travel frequently enough to warrant having a packed bag on-hand and ready-to-go, you can hardly pick a better piece of business clothing to include in it than the turtleneck.