The height of knitwear: why necklines matter

Friday, December 18th 2020
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A couple of weeks ago we talked about necklines on knitwear - as part of the article on mock necks

I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at this, in particular the effect of different heights of crewneck. 

Just as with the collar of a jacket or shirt, different heights suit different men. Someone with a longer neck tends to look better with a higher collar, and someone with a shorter neck, a lower one. It’s a question of proportion, and balance. 

Style is a factor here too, of course. Higher collars might look more formal, and lower ones more casual. And fashions affect what collar shape looks desirable, as well as what simply looks high or low compared to the average. 

But arguably fit or proportion is the most important factor. It’s certainly the one men pay least attention to. 

Unfortunately with knitwear, you’re less likely to be able to specify a height. 

There are bespoke services for knitwear (such as 40 Colori reviewed recently) and of course most men don’t have shirts or suits made either. 

But for those that do, it’s much easier to have a shirt made, and so specify a collar height. With knitwear you’re largely picking between ready-to-wear brands.

So to illustrate a few of them, as well as demonstrate the difference these necklines make, I’ve photographed three here for comparison. 

The first example, above, is from Luca Faloni. The brand makes great Italian knitwear, and this is my favourite model - the cashmere crewneck

However, I don’t wear this without a shirt underneath, because the neckline is relatively low and I don’t think it looks good on my (purely relatively) long neck. 

It’s not helped by the fact that this model has a beige band running around the edge of the collar (as well as the cuffs) which makes it look lower still. 

The effect is less noticeable from the front, as shown at the top of this article. But even there I think it looks a little low, and of course people see you from all angles.

The next example is from Colhay’s. A young brand, they sell Scottish knitwear in a relatively slim cut. Reviewed recently here

Pictured is the grey cashmere crewneck, and I think it’s immediately clear that the neckline is slightly higher, and a better fit for my proportions. 

The darker shade of grey also arguably makes a difference, given my pale skin colour, but the neckline is the most important factor I think. 

Even so, I don’t tend to wear this sweater on its own - I’m more likely to wear a shirt or at least T-shirt underneath. For those guys that do wear a crewneck like this, however, I think the difference is worth noting.

(For an example of the Colhay’s knit with a T-shirt see post here. The white tee also serves to make the colour of the knitwear less relevant, as it sits between it and the face.) 

The third example, above, is from Loro Piana. It’s a cashmere model not currently available, but which was offered last Summer - called, if I recall, the girocollo. 

It has a higher neck still, almost verging on a mock neck. However, it's not that uncommon a height: you get it on a lot of shetlands, and my lambswool crewneck from The Armoury is this height. 

It’s also a style you commonly see on vintage sportswear, with a raglan sleeve. And given this Loro Piana design also a raglan, I imagine it was inspired by that heritage. 

Of the three crewnecks, I think this is the most flattering on me. The combination with the raglan shape means it’s verging on being too round-shouldered, but with a normal set-in sleeve it would be perfect. 

The only downside is that it looks a touch too high - or at least unusual - with a shirt. So it’s not that versatile. 

The last example I’ve included is the mock neck from Colhay’s we discussed a couple of weeks ago. You can see how close that sporty Loro Piana comes to being a mock neck, and decide which you think looks best. 

I’m with the LP height, but it is interesting how nice the mock neck looks on its own - and how much you appreciate its flattering effects in comparison to the examples above. 

This forensic analysis of crew necks might seem a little geeky, but it is something that I think a lot of guys should bear in mind. 

As dress becomes more casual, men are wearing more crewnecks without a shirt underneath - in particular sweat shirts. And it suits some a lot more than others, both because of their body shapes and because of the brands they’ve chosen. 

A shirt collar, of almost any height, is just more forgiving. If you’re going to relinquish that, put a little thought into how crew necks compare, not just in the length or the slimness of the fit - but in the neckline too. 

At the very least, it might mean you're less likely to wear that sloppy sweatshirt to an important meeting. Being well-dressed is not just about a suit and tie.

P.S. Another option with a crewneck is a bandana or neckerchief, as shown below. More on that - materials, lengths, knots - another time.)

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Anonymous

Simon, great article. I find that a lot of jumpers have low collars. Always hated the look with a shirt as the jumper collar doesn’t sit next to the shirt collar. Any idea which brands tend to have higher collars?

Anonymous

I guess it is a personal thing. Personally, I think it looks more neat when the two collars sit next to each other.

J

I think the merino sweater by the Asket has a relatively high sitting collar.

Anonymous

Yes, I’ve tried the Asket jumpers. The cotton knit jumpers are excellent. Lovely slim fit. However, I’ve found the merino wool jumpers to have quite tight fitting sleeves.

J

I think you are right, the sleeves are snug, though not uncomfortable. As a tall and pretty slim person I really appreciate the sizing options (m – long). With a lot of other brands I would have to compromise either on fit or (sleeve) length.

Ajbjasus

Hmm, the last mock neck post was pretty disparaging, but I think that it is by far the best look here. Unless you are doing the sports luxe sweatshirt alternative casual look I think the crews need a shirt collar under, and I would get ripped to bits by my pals of I did the cravat-ey thing!

Boris

Hi Simon, the one by Loro Piana was definitely a girocollo (without the n), which is the common name that we use for that kind of knitwear here in Italy.
Cheers!

Luciano

Hi Simon. It literally means round (giro) neck (collo). It’s amusing that italian tourists in UK always ask for that not knowing the term crewneck that, I believe, comes from sweaters used in the Navy.

Luciano

Sorry I forgot. The mock neck is usally called “lupetto” (little wolf), no idea why. And for completeness the roll-neck is called “dolce vita” (I think no need to translate) referring, I believe, to knitwear used in the Fellini’s movie by some actor (but I am pretty sure wasn’t Mastroianni).

R Abbott

Looks like a portmanteau of “giro,” which means “turn” or “around,” and “collo,” which means neck.

JJ

Great article Simon,

This is something I emphasize om when picking knitwear. I’ve found that the Rubato crew neck is perfect for me! Good height and tight as to make it sit where I want it to!

Anonymous

Any idea what the quality is like?

Penn

Girocollo means ‘around the neck’. I’ve always taken it to be simply the Italian for ‘crewneck’.

SMG

Brilliant as ever Simon, I certainly prefer a high neck for knitwear. The same is true for shirts too, actually.

Where would Rubato sit on the high/low scale?

Julius

Great article as always. I’d be interested to read your thoughts on bandanas. Seems like an interesting alternative to me – even though some people might have to get used to the look first.

Alec

Thanks Simon, where on this sliding scale would you place the Rubato crew necks?

RT

I really dislike a low neckline. I love Luca Faloni’s pullovers and have quite a few, but I find the necklines of their crew necks too low. The Trunk Berwick pullovers are great and have a nice high neckline, perhaps too low for some. My Harley Shetland pullover has a pretty much perfect neckline, not quite as high as the Trunk Berwicks – but better than anything else I have – and they show a little more of the shirt collar and allow it to roll just a little more. Highly recommended. I’ll be buying more soon.

Ian Skelly

good post as usual, do you have any plans to do a crewneck in that nice loro piana merino wool you use ?
any other items coming out soon? (it’s coming to the time of year I like to plan what I’m buying in the next year!)

Ian Skelly

Any news on the selvedge denim button down ? I think that shirt would tick all the boxes for me

Ian Skelly

yep! my mistake , I meant chambray , when you covered the 100 hands chambray you mentioned you may do your own oxford

Ian Skelly

yep ! again.. I always think of button down shirts as oxfords, glad to here it’s coming soon I’ll keep my eyes open

Peter Hall

I definitely think the higher neck looks smarter-lower necks tend to remind me of sports wear. Working from home,I’ve been regularly wearing a high neck collarless linen shirt. Interestingly,I see more high street rtw shops selling the high neck /stand up collarless polo .
Neck length is certainly important. My rugby days have left me with a thick, squat neck and roll necks are too high for me.

Mbb355

What do you think about a v-neck jumper over a white tee? I used to wear this look in college but abandoned it because it started to strike me as immature. Now it seems to be making a comeback and I just might be coming around to it. V-neck without a shirt or tee underneath is just terrible, however.

Mbb355

I think part of the issue is guys don’t like to be confined to wearing an article of clothing in only one way. We don’t want to feel forced to wear a crewneck only over a shirt. We like the flexibility of being able to pair a sweater with a shirt or to wear a sweater on its own. That’s why I prefer crewnecks over v-necks. If I only wore sweaters over shirts (and not on their own), I’d likely buy only v-necks since I find they tend to look better over shirts (and under tailoring) by helping to create that flattering “v”-shape that frames the face.

Tommy Mack

I don’t mind a very high V neck with nothing underneath (or more commonly with a crew neck T as an unseen base layer) but yeah, plunging necklines are not for us chaps!

Tommy Mack

But then I’m a short guy with a short neck so a slightly lower neckline (like a high v-neck or mid-low crew-neck) helps lengthen my neck. There are limits though obviously: when I say a high V neck, I mean with the point of the V sitting roughly where the second button of a shirt would fasten. Any lower than that and I’d only wear it over a shirt (maybe a polo shirt for a more casual look)

Charles

This is perhaps the article that speaks to me the most. I’m rather short and slim and don’t like the look of crew necks over a shirt, so opt for a v neck if needed. But that can often result in a bulky look. I’m going to try some v neck merino wools over a shirt, but I’m not sure (and this is an odd thing to say) I really understand the point of a jumper. It’s not a jacket, gilet or a shirt but can look messy. It’s like it drags an outfit down.

R Abbott

This is a tricky subject, as so much depends on your own physiognomy. I don’t have as long a neck as Simon’s and find that Faloni’s knitwear works well without a shirt, although I prefer cableknit over plain crew neck if I’m going without a shirt.

R Abbott

I find it interesting how menswear blogs get stuck on some of these subjects (e.g., the elusive navy sports jacket that works just as well with jeans as with flannel; the elusive crewneck sweater that works just as well over a shirt as it does without a shirt, etc.) These are fun subjects to talk about and I had a fun time reading this article as well, but we’re ultimately dealing with solutions in search of a problem.

Although finding the perfect navy sports jacket for jeans is a fun subject to talk about, I’m not sure how useful it is in practice. I guess there just aren’t very many situations in which I would want to wear a navy sports jacket over navy jeans. And in the process of trying to make something that works equally well with both jeans and trousers you risk spending a lot of money on something that doesn’t work well for either. And if I’m going to wear the navy jacket over jeans 5% or the time and over chinos / flannel / cords 95% of the time, I’d rather not make any compromises on the latter in favor of the former.

Similar story when it comes to crew neck sweaters. The reality is that a sweater that has a perfect neckline when without a shirt will be too high if worn over a shirt. And although I could see getting one sweater for this purpose, it seems wasteful to have two separate sets of cashmere sweaters, especially since I already have a couple of rollnecks that I can wear for that purpose. A far more practical solution: if you find your dress shirts are to dressy, just acquire an additional denim shirt or two or several comfy brushed cotton shirts. I’ve had to redo my wardrobe a little bit due to the pandemic – I had loads of dress shirts that are getting very little use and only a single denim shirt and 2 brushed cotton shirt that were getting used over and over again. My solution was to move half of the dress shirts to a closet in the guest room and buy several casual shirts that are suitable for wearing around the house.

Brian

Is what you call height in a crew neck essentially the diameter of the opening? Or is there more to it, e.g. how the neckband sits vs. the shoulders & chest, or how it’s attached? I’ve always liked something against my neck, so I like a small diameter – but I don’t like the look of a mock-neck.

Anonymous

Interesting to see you wear the Connelly mid grey sweater with darker grey flannels. I thought you’d normally advise against grey + grey, unless there is high contrast?

Anonymous

Thanks Simon, I once read that preppy students tended to prefer crewnecks to V-necks, any guesses why? I always felt layering a crewneck over a tie looked a bit stuffy.

Aaron Daniels

Interesting article – I think that my jumper from Drake’s I mentioned in the mock neck post may actually fall in category 3 here. Hard to entirely tell on me right now though, what with my neck size being bigger than it should be by about an inch thanks to weight gain at university.

Gabriele

Does anyone here have any experience with the Melrose crewneck by William Lockie? Where does its neckline fit in terms of height compared to the others?

Stephen

My favourite crew neck look is simply with a soft roll button down shirt underneath, where about a third of the collar shows above the neckline. For me a Shetland wool works best or a heavy gauge cotton/wool mix cable knit. These tend to provide a slightly tighter neckline and a not overly stylised look. Drakes generally get this look spot on with their styling on product pages and in ‘look books’.
Never wear without a collar – feels and looks very bare on me. Best left to a sweatshirt.

Scott

Excellent article Simon and further confirmation of the importance of paying attention to the neckline. In my opinion, the mock looks best on you by far. I just purchased a mock from N. Peal that’s a 70/30 cashmere and silk blend that is absolutely outstanding. The fabric feels wonderful, the collar height is perfect, and fit is superb.

SC

Yeah, I got this too in charcoal…the James Bond Spectre mock neck. It is so soft and smooth and the look is excellent.

SMG

Any more details you might be able to provide on the new trench coat, Simon? Love my PVC x PS trench — it’s beautifully constructed and really well thought out — but really like the idea of an update, particularly, perhaps a navy blue/more orthodox colour.

Also, any plans on a raglan coat — I’m having one made by Husbands but would be interested to see how PS would approach it.

Josh

When I first read this, I thought the Colhay’s knit with a tee or a shirt would make the perfect compromise; on reflection that Loro Piana option does look rather good. Your points on vintage sportswear and lambswool reminded me that the new Anglo Italian lambswool crewnecks (replete with raglan ‘saddle’ sleeves) are specifically marketed and demonstrated as having high necklines – and they even squeezed a collared shirt underneath them too!

T

Hi Simon,

Thanks for the article, I am often put off buying t-shirts and sweaters because of the too shallow collar. I wonder whether you had tried John Smedley‘s crew necks?

Jason

As your photos illustrate perfectly, the naked crew neck has little to recommend it.
Indeed, when paired with a tailored jacket it looks particularly awful.
Personally, I always sport a neckerchief when wearing a crew neck sans shirt and find it always provokes the appropriate amount of style envy from fellow flaneurs and, more importantly admiration from the fair sex.
I look forward to your post on this more advanced art.

Markus

Hi Simon,
nothing geeky about it, I personally am a big fan of your forensic and academic approach to menswear.

Tim

Great article. I love the plain Brunello Cucinelli Cashmere and Merino/Cashmere sweaters for their perfectly high neck. It would look as flattering on you as the mentioned LP sweater, but without the raglans you dislike (and i do, too).

Simon Miles

Personally, this is the last thing I worry about with knitwear. As a shorter man (but at 5ft8 not extremely so) nearly all sleeves are excessively long on me and I would guess anyone under 6ft (the majority of men in other words). As far as fit goes, I always buy on sleeve length, of necessity, as to the best of my knowledge knitwear cannot be altered, which begs the question (at least for me) why no one offers knitwear with different sleeve lengths as an option as many shirt makers (even quite affordable ones) do.

Jay W

Thank you Simon. I especially noted your comment on color choice. Prior to this, I may have considered the knitwear based upon the garment’s color alone- now I shall be sure to see how it actually looks on me as well. I guess that should have been obvious but it was not to me, anyway.

Jay McInerney

Who made the double breasted jacket in the second picture? Very nice.

David Wenlock

Hello Simon. I’m really hoping the planned piece on wearing a silk neck-scarf under a crewneck is nearing the top of the pile (as mentioned at the end of your Dec 18th post)! This winter I’ve taken to slipping a neckerchief under a sweater, but I really need some help getting it right! And, although I know you have previously said there’s ‘dozens of examples’ of online tutorials (including the Hermes Silk Knots app – which, personally, I found quite limited), but I, for one, would really appreciate a step-by-step lesson from you, Simon!
PS. I was very grateful to find two previous PS posts on this subject: ‘How to Wear a Silk Scarf’ (3 Oct 2011) and Hermes Silk Scarf…” (2 Apr 2014). Are there anymore that I should look out for?

Chris K

Hi Simon, hope all’s well,

Can I ask (apologies if slightly personal) what size you wear in the Colhay’s crew neck vs Luca Faloni?

I’m thinking about ordering a Colhay’s crew neck and trying to ensure I get the right size first time. I wear a medium (perfect fit) in luca Faloni, (38/48) however I think the Colhay’s 40/50 (medium) would actually fit closer a Luca Faloni medium as opposed to Colhay’s small (38/48) .

Apologies if that sounds a bit muddled, I just know you’re similar dimensions to myself.

Thanks and much appreciated,
Ck

Chris K

Thanks Simon, appreciate it. That settles it for me.
Ck

TM

In comparing the Luca Faloni and Colhay’s crewneck when you use them over a Armoury white polo do you like the space of Faloni or do you have a general preference still towards the tighter opening on the Colhay’s model?

Alexandre

Simon, it is a nice informative article. There is an aspect you did not cover. The neckline can be either very soft (1 layer only) or reinforced. Do you think this influences the style: formality level, greater compatibility with collared shirts or tailoring, etc? Or this is done solely for the longevity of knitwear?

Anonymous

All good points. Posture also plays into this. When one stoops or has forward head posture the neckline tends to dip down exposing the front of the neck. This makes the neck look longer and more vulture-like from the side. When one straightens up, sucks in their gut and puts their shoulders back, the crewneck tends to sit further back on the neck and look more natural. This is, unfortunately, a problem we all face as we spend more and more time bent over our screens. One of the joys of a sedentary lifestyle, I’m afraid.

HPL

In terms of the third example, where it’s in between a crew neck and a mock neck, do you tend to wear that just on it’s own or do you sometimes also wear it over a shirt? Does the slightly higher collar completely void the possibility of layering over a shirt? Do you find that it is high enough to frame your face properly just on it’s own? I’ve got the Navy Crewneck sweater (in navy) from Andersen-Andersen and it has a similar higher collar whilst still technically being a crew neck. I’ve mostly wore it on it’s own in the winter as it is a very heavy sweater, but I’ve toyed with the possibility of layering an OCBD under it. Is this something you do yourself or do you just wear the sweater on its own? I’m not sure if I’m over thinking it. Thoughts?