Why Not a Turtleneck Instead of a Shirt and Tie?

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A turtleneck sweater looks just like it feels - soft. So it has a visual "softening" effect on the whole outfit.

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By the way, the new Cartier Drive is something special.

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Swap the shirt and tie for a turtleneck. Why does it work?

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A chelsea boot is not only stylish, but very comfortable. (As is a turtleneck.)

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These glasses? They're called the Executive II from the Oliver Peoples Vintage collection.

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Uniqlo turtleneck with a plaid Suitsupply blazer.

In a business casual context a turtleneck is a perfect shirt and tie alternative

By now, it should be apparent that one of the major business casual themes we’re teasing out this month is the idea and importance of substitution. Is a blazer too dressed up? Substitute a cardigan. Would a traditional silk tie be too formal? Substitute a knit tie.

In both of the instances described above, the substitution serves the purpose of dialing down the level of formality. However, that doesn’t always have to be the case. A substitution can be a strictly lateral move as well, changing the tone of the outfit rather than just bumping it down a notch.

Nowhere is that better illustrated than by swapping the shirt and tie for a sweater. And, of course, a turtleneck is perfect for that kind of lateral transfer.
business casual turtleneck

business casual turtleneck

| WEARING | Suitsupply blazer, Uniqlo turtleneck, PT01 pants, Oliver Peoples glasses, Cartier watch, Drake’s pocket square, Boots c/o Jack Erwin | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo

Aside from being one of our perennial favorites in the sweater division here at HSS, a turtleneck is a great shirt and tie alternative and a perfect business casual piece for fall. Actually, let’s just go ahead and call it a fall business casual essential.

Why does it work so well in this context? Well, a sweater looks just like it feels – soft. So it has the visual effect of “softening” the outfit. Whereas a traditional shirt and tie combination looks, well, traditional, a turtleneck somehow possesses qualities that give it a relaxed casualness while still appearing suitably refined.

It’s important to remember that styling is key if you are going to attempt this look.

business casual turtleneck

A turtleneck will certainly “soften” an outfit’s appearance, but it will still take on the attributes of what it is being worn with. For example, worn with a suit, it’s going to feel more formal. Wear one with jeans and it leans towards casual.

So if we’re talking business casual – which we definitely are – wear it with a blazer and a pair of grey or navy pants. A straight shirt and tie substitution.

business casual turtleneck

In the footwear department, try a suede derby or brogue to match the casual but elegant (sorry, for the journalistic cop out) feel of the turtleneck. Or consider a pair of Chelsea boots if you’re feeling a bit more style forward or perhaps meeting a date for drinks right after work.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa
He Spoke Style

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Chime In

  • Mequell Green

    Hi Brian,
    I really like the turtleneck with blazer look but have always stayed away because I just don’t find turtlenecks comfortable and I get seriously overheated when wearing them. Is there any solution for someone who likes the look but hates the feel of a traditional turtleneck?

    • Gail Leoniak

      Maybe a mock turtle.? Less folds at the neck which can make you feel constricted.