25 Stylish Ways To Make The Best-Dressed List In A Turtleneck

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Today, turtlenecks are more associated with Apple products than they are with sword fighting. However, during medieval times, these shirts were worn as a protective layer beneath chainmail armor. Even 700 years ago, people took precautions to avoid chafing (via Ssense). By the 19th century, turtlenecks were a wardrobe staple for working-class laborers, acting as a layer of defense against on-the-job injuries.

By the 1950s, starlets like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield had popularized the look, and it quickly became a go-to rather than a taboo for stylish women. "At this time, women were taking pants from men; they were taking pant suits and shorts. And they completely co-opted the button down," says Deirdre Clemente, 20th-century American fashion historian. As she explained to The Week, "In the late 1950s so many women across so many different fronts of society pushed the boundaries enough to the point where women in the 1960s could wear a sweater that 50 years before was only worn by a rich man in Harvard."

The worlds of fashion, politics, and protest have always been intertwined. A 2017 Vogue article notes the association between turtlenecks and the Black Panther Party. In 1971, feminists Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes sported turtlenecks on the cover of Esquire. It wasn't long before Steve Jobs worked to make black turtlenecks the semi-official tech uniform in the 1980s, per NPR. Here's how to style a turtleneck in the 2020s, whether you're coding in Silicon Valley or trying to stay warm during East Coast winters.

Pair a black turtleneck with high-waisted jeans

Speaking of Steve Jobs, you can't go wrong by replicating his black turtleneck, jeans, and New Balance sneaker aesthetic, per Complex. Match a classic black turtleneck, like this top-rated Everlane shirt, with high-waisted, dark-wash denim. Find vintage jeans on Levi's secondhand online store or Etsy. Elevate the ensemble with a pair of booties and a simple black belt, or keep it close to the Steve Jobs original by matching it with white sneakers. When in doubt, you can also look to Elizabeth Holmes for inspiration.

Wear beneath a sheer dress

Sheer fabrics were on the rise throughout 2022, gaining popularity partially due to the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, according to trend forecaster Jessica Richards (via Marie Claire). If you're new to styling sheer dresses, opt for a solid turtleneck bodysuit underneath to give you a comfortable level of coverage. For starters, check out this seamless turtleneck bodysuit from Kim Kardashian's brand, Skims, and pair it with an Anthropologie sheer tunic dress. Alternatively, pay homage to 14th century turtleneck and chainmail pairings, and check out this mesh gown from Urban Outfitters.

Rake in the compliments in an oversized blazer

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, oversized fashion has taken over runways, styled by high-profile designers like Balenciaga and Marc Jacobs, according to Vogue. Extra-large blazers, specifically, have become a popular streetwear staple for celebrities. Just take a look at Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber. This year, dress up a neutral-toned turtleneck with a checkered, oversized blazer like this design from Madewell. Pair the stylish combo with anything from jeans to pleather pants, and you're good to go.

Knitwear adds texture to the colder seasons

Sure, 1989's "When Harry Met Sally" is remembered for that one diner scene and the age-old question: Can men and women really be friends? But its fashion moments have also earned their rightful place in pop culture canon, specifically Harry and Sally's iconic turtleneck sweaters, per Insider. Like Sally, match your sweater — like this cozy, cable-knit top from Abercrombie & Fitch – with a black mini, tights, and booties. Or, make like Harry and simply pair your knitwear with light-wash jeans and sneakers.

Pay homage to the '70s in a striped turtleneck

The '70s nostalgia is in full swing on Taylor Swift's "Midnights." As Mr Porter Buying Manager Daniel Todd explains to The Guardian, "Today's versions of key 1970s pieces subtly dial down the original era's excesses while retaining their dash and expression." A key '70s staple is the turtleneck, specifically a striped design like this one from Forever 21. As shown by TikTok creator @gingersnap28, it's easy to perfect the look with just a bit of layering. For example, wear your turtleneck under a pair of denim overalls, under a crocheted vest, or pair with an "Almost Famous" style fur-lined coat like this embroidered jacket from The Hippie Shake. When in doubt, match it with a pair of bootcut bottoms.

Channel the beatnik aesthetic in a turtleneck and mini skirt

The Beat Generation, spearheaded by writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, was a 1950s countercultural movement founded on the tenets of sexual liberation, spirituality, and political protest, per Britannica. The term "Beatnik" arose out of the movement. Though it was originally used to negatively stereotype young creatives who fell into Beat Generation tropes, it eventually became a fashion identity. TikToker @th3.crystal.ship edits a montage of Beatnik fits like the classic mini skirt, black turtleneck, and knee-high boots combo, along with the Audrey Hepburn cigarette-pants aesthetic. For more inspiration, look to @sammitery and her use of accessories like berets, belts, and sunglasses.

Opt for geometric cut-outs

Along with platform shoes and "Bridgerton"-inspired dresses, cut-out clothing was one of 2022's biggest trends, per Refinery29. Put your spin on the fashion fad, and wear a peekaboo turtleneck on a night out. Match this Forever 21 top with high-waisted pleather pants and heels. Alternatively, spice it up with a crisscross design like this Ssense turtleneck. If you're pairing a black top with black bottoms, add division with a colorful statement belt. Check out this chunky Grace Karin design on Amazon.

Stay cool in a sleeveless fit

At first glance, sleeveless turtlenecks sound counterintuitive. "It doesn't make any logical sense but, at the same time, there's something kind of great about how impractical it is," says Vogue's Fashion News Editor Monica Kim. As Market Editor Kirby Marzec advises the site, "Wear the sleeveless turtleneck like you would a t-shirt or undershirt and let it serve as a subtle layering piece." She suggests, "Let it poke out the top of a crewneck sweater or wear with an open blazer. The beauty is that you won't overheat like you would with its long-sleeve sister but you still get that chic neck moment." 

Get cozy in an oversized turtleneck sweater and knee-highs

No pants? No problem. Pair an oversized turtleneck sweater — preferably one that falls at a comfortable length — with tights (given colder temperatures) and knee-high boots. This Prinbara Amazon design comes in 20 shades, including everything from light apricot to lavender. For a truly authentic oversized aesthetic, don't shy away from shopping in the men's aisles. Not only is it extra comfy, but it's also often cheaper, per Glamour. Knee-high boots, which have surpassed the ankle bootie when it comes to popularity, will provide an extra layer of coverage.

Turtlenecks are a business-casual base

Though turtlenecks were once reserved for fishermen and Navy men, they're now a cubicle must-have for offices everywhere. YouTube's The Lifestyle Cog, Jashan, demonstrates a week of office-ready looks on her channel. For the Wednesday look, the creator matches slim-fitting gray pants with a gray turtleneck sweater and a scarf for a pop of color. Her Thursday fit involves tucking a cable knit turtleneck into a pencil skirt. Pro tip: Jashan recommends using a safety pin to attach your turtleneck to your skirt on the inside to prevent unwanted bunching. Style expert and fashion merchandiser Astar Davidson agrees that turtlenecks are a business-casual necessity. "This is a basic winter staple you'll feel confident wearing with just about everything you own," she tells Reader's Digest. "Tuck it in trouser-style pants for a balanced silhouette, use it as a layering piece, or dress it up with accessories."

Show off your figure in a bodycon turtleneck dress

At This Is About Humanity's fourth annual fundraiser in Los Angeles, Kim Kardashian turned heads in a sheer, bodycon turtleneck dress, per InStyle. Though she wore a Balenciaga design, you can buy a similarly flattering fit (for a far more reasonable price) at Something Navy. As fashion historian Caroline Elenowitz-Hess explains to W Magazine, "Fashion can often mark important transitions, both collective and personal." The COVID-19 pandemic inspired an uptick in form-fitting fabrics. "Ath-leisure and caftans were comfortable and comforting during the pandemic, but as things open up again, it makes sense to reject these items that are reminiscent of such a traumatic period and go in a more body-hugging direction." For an extra flirty fit, check out this sleeveless turtleneck dress from Reformation, or invest in a turtleneck mini.

Elevate your turtleneck with a necklace

Dress up your turtleneck with the simple addition of a necklace. However, as New York-based stylist Lisa von Weise advises Huff Post, "It should not, in any way, fight with the neck." Instead, go for jewelry with a bit more length. "In fact, a pendant or a longer-length necklace would fill in the space and elongate the torso." As several creators, including @lilaclaurels, have pointed out on TikTok, styling a necklace with a black turtleneck is especially tricky. It will always be hard to escape that one picture of The Rock from the '90s (via People). When it comes to knitwear, avoid necklaces altogether and instead accessorize with simple earrings — like these Madewell medium hoops.

Go bold with a turtleneck and low-rise bottoms

Love them or hate them, low-rise jeans are popping back up on shelves. "Every time a decade reinterprets another decade, it takes on its own flavor," fashion journalist Sarah Spellings explains to Vox, pointing to how the '80s reimagined the '50s. Hopefully, the 2020s throw away some of the more toxic elements of early 2000s fashion, namely the lack of body diversity. TikToker @megmamon shows off her take on low-rise fashion, pairing jeans with a knit sleeveless turtleneck in an homage to "Gilmore Girls." Alternatively, model your look after Zoë Kravitz's March 2022 appearance on "The Tonight Show," and pair a low-rise midi skirt with a turtleneck (via Pop Sugar).

Layer a vest on top

The preppy aesthetic is back. Yes, that means the return of vests, per Fashion. TikTok's @cassie.sethna shows off her take on the look, wearing a loose-fitting sweater vest — like this one from English Factory – over a white turtleneck and tailored pants before sliding on loafers. Alternatively, channel the cast of "Gossip Girl" and style your turtleneck-vest combo with a pleated mini skirt and high socks. Finally, embrace the preppy hair renaissance and try your hand at hair ribbons.

Shrug tops are trending

As explained L'Officiel, "shrugs" are simply sweaters minus most of the sweater. Turtleneck shrugs cover the neck and arms exclusively, making them a great addition over tank tops or sleeveless dresses during cold weather seasons. For starters, check out this black shrug from Forever 21, and wear it over a plain, black tank or even a sexy slip dress. Invest in a crocheted shrug sweater from an Etsy small business, pairing it with light wash jeans and a simple cropped tee.

Wear your favorite bralette underneath a sheer turtleneck

Fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell points to the "revenge-buying" phenomenon, or, in her words, "shopping to make up for lost time." As she tells Marie Claire, "It's likely that people will use these purchases as a way to explore their individual tastes and creativity, which had been stifled due to the monotony of loungewear choices." If celebrities like Florence Pugh and Rihanna are any indication, part of this so-called "revenge buying" includes a surge in see-through fabrics. Style a sheer turtleneck, like this Free People fit, with your favorite bralette underneath — one you won't mind showing off. Alternatively, go all out in this embellished Amazon top and pair it with pleather pants or a mini skirt for a night out.

Pair with a graphic tee

Eager to wear your collection of vintage band tees even during the winter months? Turtlenecks have your back. As demonstrated by TikToker @bixbop, simply layer your t-shirt over a turtleneck, completing the aesthetic with black denim and combat boots. If you have an extra-long graphic tee, wear it as a dress over leggings, adding a turtleneck underneath for warmth. Crew neck sweatshirts, too, can be styled over turtlenecks during those super chilly days. Just look to @xpalegreenthings for some more style inspiration to winterize your graphic t-shirt looks when the temperatures drop.

Pink monochrome is trending

The monochrome set — specifically anything bright pink and "Barbiecore" – is one of fashion's current favorites. Etsy trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson calls the style "a much-welcomed mood-booster after the last few years," adding on "Good Morning America" that "'Barbiecore' is all about embracing vibrant hues — particularly the doll's signature hot pink — in everyday life" (via People). Scroll the virtual shelves of Asos to create perfect the look, investing in a bright pink turtleneck and a pink suit set. To pull out all the stops, match the monochrome look with a pair of pink platform shoes.

Keep everything tucked in with the help of a bodysuit

Though bodysuits were once limited to gymnasts and superheroes, they're now a wardrobe staple, ideal for a casual day of errands or a night out. When in doubt, Editorialist recommends turning to the queen of shapewear herself, Kim Kardashian. Specifically, she seems to be an expert when it comes to turtleneck bodysuits. Just take a look at her "Saturday Night Live" monologue fit. The reality star's shapewear line, Skims, sells a mock neck bodysuit in over 10 shades, ranging from sizes XXS to 5X. Pair it with high-rise jeans, a mini skirt, or wear it underneath a sheer dress. Alternatively, lounge in this cozy zip-up turtleneck from Alo Yoga. Best of all, you don't have to worry about your shirt coming untucked throughout the day. 

Turtlenecks and bike shorts are an unlikely combo

Thirty years ago, Princess Diana was known for pairing bike shorts with crew-neck college sweatshirts, per Town & Country. Put your own spin on the look by styling bike shorts with an oversized turtleneck sweater. Thanks to a '90s resurgence, bike shorts are trending again. Alternatively, TikTok creator @christelledc wears black bike shorts with a form-fitting cropped turtleneck and a moto jacket, completing the look with a white tote bag and sneakers. When in doubt, you can always turn to Kim Kardashian for style inspiration. In November 2022, she posed on Instagram in a Balenciaga/Adidas athletic turtleneck and bike shorts.

Match with bold lipstick

In 2021's "All Too Well" short film, Sadie Sink wears a black turtleneck and red lipstick, an homage to Taylor Swift's trademark RED era style, per Elle. Try your hand at the timeless look, also worn by Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s, or shake it up with a lipstick color that isn't red. As makeup artist Troy Surratt explains to Allure, "Bold lip colors have a teeth-brightening effect." In his words, "Women who wear bold lip colors — Madonna, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani — are provocateurs. They have something to say." Try out a diffused maroon lip and white turtleneck combination, or go bold with a baby pink turtleneck and glossy cool-toned makeup.

Wear underneath a button down like Tom Cruise

Vogue lists Tom Cruise as an inspiration in turtlenecks, noting his unique combination of black turtleneck and white button down. TikTok's @megmurayama models the aesthetic with a modern twist, layering a short-sleeved button-down shirt over a black turtleneck and pinstriped trousers. The creator accessorizes the fit with silver jewelry and loafers. For the office, pair a neutral-toned turtleneck with a long-sleeved button down and wide-legged trousers. For added dimension, wear a jacket on top –- something like this oversized faux leather blazer from Mango.

Don't shy away from clashing patterns

Why stick to neutral tones when you can mix leopard print with neon green? Maximalist fashion is more popular than ever, known for its use of contrasting patterns, voluminous fabrics, and bold accessories. "Maximalism according to me is this opportunity to let our inner child, or the child version of ourselves, shine," TikToker and personal stylist Thalia Castro-Vega (@polychrom3) explains to BuzzFeed. Channel Thalia and embrace this colorful aesthetic by pairing a patterned turtleneck with a clashing plaid blazer and statement pants. They wear a floral AFRM design.

Wear a turtlneck underneath a slip dress

You can make your warm weather slip dress work all year round with the help of a turtleneck layer, per Glamour. Simply wear a turtleneck under your go-to summer slip, adding a long trench coat on top for heat. To achieve a cinching effect, @sabsstyle_ on TikTok recommends looping a belt around your waist. Alternatively, take the opposite approach and wear a turtleneck sweater on top of your slip, pairing it with knee-high boots for a cozy fall look. This technique can also be applied to dresses like baby doll minis, a '60s-style shift, or even a tunic.

Style with a jumpsuit for extra coverage

Phoebe Waller-Bridge's "Fleabag" launched a fascination with two things: Andrew Scott's "hot priest" and the viral black jumpsuit from Season 2, Episode 1, per Vulture. Add extra coverage to a "Fleabag"-esque plunging jumpsuit with the help of a turtleneck like this Asos Top Shop design. TikToker @Nicoleezhang shows how to style a deep-V one-piece with a colorful undershirt for Chicago winters. Like Waller-Bridge, accessorize the look with heels, a black shoulder bag, and maybe some red lipstick. For a looser-fitting aesthetic, try out Dickies short sleeve coveralls or funky overalls from Wildfang. Pair either of these with lace-up combat boots.