Fashion is a mercurial beast, but as modern men, we must either adapt or get left behind wearing nothing but a pair of boot-cut Wranglers.
Which means it's time to talk polo necks.
Perhaps no piece of clothing from the male repertoire is as divisive as the polo neck. It feels instantly like an accessory from a bygone, analogue age. Even when worn with the best of intentions, wearing a polo neck can be misconstrued as a fashion gesture full of male 'notions'. Hand me a glass of Sherry and a small conga drum for I am a jazz-listening, bachelor pad owning, Beatnik poet, this simple polo neck screams.
When the polo neck goes wrong, lordy, it goes horribly wrong.
But the world - and masculinity - has moved on since the 1990s and we must accept that the polo neck is returning in a big way. Every man must now ask themselves whether they possess the cajones to pull the polo neck off.
Tom Junod, writing in GQ in 1996, made the philosophical case for the polo neck/turtleneck in a famous piece about his father's fashion taste.
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 a tie, or augment, like a sport coat, or in any way distract from what my father calls a man’s “presentation“; rather, it puts 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 is the most flattering thing a man can wear, then, because it establishes the very standard for flattery in fashion, which is that nothing you wear should ever hide what you want to reveal, or reveal what you want to hide. This is the certainty from which all the other certainties proceed; this is why my father, never a religious man—indeed, a true and irrepressible pagan, literal in his worship of the sun—believes in turtlenecks more than he believes in God.
Strong words. Inspiring words.
Football managers - who take their responsibility to fashion very seriously - began the process of making the polo neck acceptable again. The days of the tasteful cashmere V-neck polo are gone, welcome to the polo neck era. Interestingly, it was the world's two leading football managers - Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho - who are at the forefront of the global polo neck movement.
Pep, revolutionary that he is, has been flying the polo neck flag for years, and famously even wore a polo neck with runners during a Champions League match against Celtic in December 2016.
Mourinho, who wore a snood as a makeshift polo neck over the years, has even had Adidas design polo neck training gear for him this season. The man is committed to a warm neck.
— talkingbaws.com (@talkingbaws) December 22, 2017
You can be sure Brendan Rodgers is being fitted for a green polo neck with the letters BR enscribed in the neck some time in the next 30 days. It's not just football managers who are going polo. It was noted that Jay-Z was spotted front and centre with a black polo neck at Sunday's Grammys. He wanted to everyone know about his shirt.
— E! News (@enews) January 29, 2018
Occasional lout Conor McGregor, in fairness to him, was way ahead of the polo neck curve, and was wearing them back in 2016.
It's interesting to see McGregor steer away from the dour black polo neck beloved of football managers, in favour of something more audacious. McGregor and Jay-Z are both aware of the golden truth about polo necks - they look really sharp with a dress coat (or even a white fur coat if you're so inspired)
If there is one thing that ties most of these polo neck wearers together, it is middle age. This is the unfortunate reality of wearing the polo neck - it is impossible to seem youthful with your neck covered up. The trade-off however is an air of sophistication that no regular button-up shirt can ever give you.
Yes we acknowledge the risk and danger of a polo neck, but danger is what fashion is all about. At some stage, every man must look himself in the mirror and ask: 'can I pull off this polo neck?'
Listen to the sauve angel on your left shoulder and say yes to the polo neck this winter.