From Whence It Was Derived? The Turtleneck

Updated: Jan 9

Turtlenecks were invented dating back to the 15th century. Worn by knights to protect their necks. Royalty also adopted the high-neck fashion to indicate status.

From the late 19th century and forward, menial workers, athletes, sailors, and naval officers donned the polo neck, using it as a utilitarian item and for warmth. In the 20th-century black polo-necks became preferred attire for radical artists, philosophers, and intellects.

In different countries, high-neck has different names.

In Europe the high-neck collar is referred to as the:

- Polo neck and

- Roll neck

In North America and Canada the elongated collar is commonly known as the:

- Turtleneck

- Mock-neck

In New Zealand and Australia the high collar is referred to as the:

- Skivvy

In the 1920s a flamboyant English playwright, Sir Noel Pierce Coward turned the polo neck into a U.S. middle-class fashion trend, namely for men. In the same era, women adopted the look making it a unisex item.

As a child, I was first introduced to the turtleneck and the dickie (a high-neck with 10" inches of fabric covering your center chest/back). Having to wear them against my will, I developed a strong disdain for both. It wasn't until I was old enough to understand its appeal, that I'd grown to love them. That occurred when I saw how Audrey Hepburn wore and made them classy. I had a newfound respect for the ill-gotten garment and incorporated it into my wardrobe and signature collections.

Improvisation with the high-neck is an essential part of the Regina McWhite® signature collection of tops and dresses. Showing how fabulous and versatile the turtleneck can be.

I hope this piece was informational and entertaining for you. I look forward to giving you more fun facts about the pieces that inspire my designs.

~ Regina McWhite® Team


The history of the polo neck (2020., Polo neck)

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