Polo-neck, roll-neck, turtleneck. Whatever you choose to call it, a high-necked sweater is something many men imagine as a throw back to the 1970s; a clothing item doomed to unsavoury tones of orange that gets paired with bad safari jackets and flares. But it’s also the realm of many a suave male icon: you need only look at Steve McQueen.

As far as men’s fashion in fall 2012 goes, this hit-or-miss piece of menswear is making a bold return. And it’s surprisingly easy to get it right this time around.

Click the thumbnails for full pictures
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns
The men's skivvy returns

There are a few ways to indulge in the turtleneck this fall/winter.

The turtleneck as alternative

If you want to commit strongly, you can wear a turtleneck as an alternative: to your shirt and tie, to your scarf, even. A luxurious roll-neck knit stands well on its own, as long as you wear it with the right amount of laid-back yet sharp sartorial flair.

A number of designers championed this style on the runways, pairing slick or chunky roll-necks alike with naught but a pair of suit pants and a sharp overcoat.

turtleneck for men
Turtlenecks at Simon Spurr and Hermes F/W ’12

As GQ journalist Tom Junod once wrote, about his father’s canonical belief in the importance of the turtleneck:

The turtleneck is the most flattering thing a man can wear because it strips a man down to himself— because it forces a man to project himself. The turtleneck does not decorate, like at tie, or augment, like a sport coat, or in any way distract from what my father calls a man’s “presentation”; rather, it fixes a man in sharp relief and puts his face on a pedestal — first literally, then figuratively. It is about isolation, the turtleneck is; it is about essences and first causes; it is about the body and the face, and that’s all it’s about…

The turtleneck sweater can still be worn in such an isolated way. But it no longer has to be. In fact, the strongest way to wear it in fall 2012 is by layering it.

The turtleneck for layering

As with women’s fashion, one of the keys to a winter look that’s both warm and interesting is to layer up. The key ways to layer for men this season are by playing with length and volume (like a cropped jacket worn over a longer one); by layering textures, colours and prints; and by wearing multiple shirts/t-shirts/sweaters.

Starting to imagine how the roll-neck fits in to this equation? Here’s how:

Layering turtlenecks under other knits

If the weather is icy enough you can make like Hermes and layer a roll-neck knit under another, chunkier knit. This works surprisingly well if you coordinate your colours but contrast textures.

layered knits for men
Layered knits at Hermes, F/W ’12

Layering turtlenecks under shirts

Don’t mistake this for a sloppy look. In fall 2012 it’s all about buttons done up neatly, with the added cover rising out above the neckline. It can be anything from a mere peep of a high neck to a good inch or two. The key is that it adds something interesting to the look, preferably by way of a contrast. That contrast might be in colour or print, or texture – such as Bill Tornade’s high-shine take.

mens rollneck under shirt
Roll-necks under shirts: Bill Tornade and Prada, F/W ’12

To tie or not to tie? The answer is you can do either. Wear the shirt tie-less or with a tie, playing with colour matching and contrasting between layers. Clashing prints is also another key option: Kenzo doubled up on collars, added scoop necks or V-necks and various other combinations, with prints always being key to making the whole look stand out.

layered prints with mens roll necks
Layering prints at Kenzo, F/W ’12

Fake turtleneck: the dickey or scarf

In the ’70s (assumedly) some bright spark invented what was known as the turtleneck dickey – a faux turtleneck that only covered the top part of the chest. Once a punchline now a crowning glory, you can use one to get the layered look without the rest of your outfit getting too bulky. The modern ‘dickie’ is simply a tube of fabric that sits tightly around the neck, or you could also cheat by using a wrapped-around scarf. Terminology is academic: the point is, you might find this option an alternative to sweating it out in full layers.

The men’s turtleneck: picture inspiration

For more ideas of how to get a layered look this winter courtesy of your newly purchased (or unearthed) rollneck sweater collection, click on the thumbnails and peruse the gallery of fall 2012 runway looks.

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