I love the preconceptions that develop around clothes. Most are communal: we know what Dr Martens boots mean, or a fur coat – or what to expect from someone in sensible shoes. We understand the primary significance of these garments and also the ways in which they have been appropriated by subcultures. This visual shorthand is great – the way we dress is a language, so it’s important that we understand what’s being said.
Of course there are idiosyncrasies, which is where things get really interesting. Just as certain words or phrases take on particular significance within a family or clique, so it is with clothes.
Polo necks have held an uneasy place in my sartorial lexicon ever since a friend told me: “No one ever got shagged in a polo neck.” This was delivered as cold fact by someone whose opinion I trusted, so it stuck. I presume she thought they were a dowdy style, too prim to be approachable. I didn’t ask then and we’ve kind of lost touch, which is a shame for many reasons, not least because I’d love to ask her how she feels about the necklines that dominate fashion now.
For spring 2015, polo necks, funnel necks, roll necks and high-necked shirts rule. This is mainly due to fashion’s love for all things 70s – polo necks, scarfs and Victoriana blouses were pretty key looks for the whole decade – but this time around the neckline feels fetishised. Louis Vuitton’s spring collection had high-necked crochet mini-dresses, a pleasing mix of cover-up and reveal. Prada did beautiful dresses that exposed shoulders while keeping the neck covered. Christopher Kane went the whole hog with tops made out of diaphanous chiffon. “Surely someone would go for that,” I thought when I saw them – there are nipples and everything.
I wish I could forget my hang-up about the sexiness of polo necks because a) I don’t actually care how shaggable my clothes are and b) it’s a distraction from how flattering these necklines are. They add a strong frame to your shoulders, emphasise an elegant neck and, transferred from a ribbed jumper to an A-line dress or top, they’re an unusual detail.
Really high necks look best when their severity is softened. Lace works a treat – Topshop is the place to head for cheap and pretty crochet or broderie-anglaise tops this summer. Or try a quirky print: if you have money to burn, go for Stella McCartney’s “superstellaheroes” print.
Funnel necks look great, especially on a structured top or dress. I love things that you can just chuck on in the morning and look instantly super neat and together. This top from Finery London and this scuba dress from HM do that effortlessly.
If nothing else, make sure you invest in a good high-necked top this summer because you can wear it under a jumper come autumn. This style isn’t going anywhere soon. Buy one now and you can wear it right through until Christmas. Getting that much use out of one piece of clothing really does sound pretty damn sexy.
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