Countercultural Knitwear - The allure of the Roll Neck by Leanne Cloudsdale

Worn by the higher echelons of society since the 15th century, the opinion dividing roll neck has certainly stood the test of time. From feudal knitwear to the aristocratic polo players of the mid 1800s, it has maintained a similar reputation throughout the centuries – as a choice for progressive radicals eschewing the fashion status quo.

A countercultural statement piece, with references to beatniks, poets, academics and intellectuals, their appeal is unwavering. For those of us born in the 1970s, a cursory flick through the family photo albums will confirm the roll neck’s popularity during the chillier winters of discontent. Such nostalgia is lost on the children of the 1980s however, who are probably more likely to reference the ubiquitous black version worn daily by Apple’s Steve Jobs. Sartorially precarious, it’s a garment always teetering on the edge of good and bad taste, which is what makes it all the more controversial, and therefore interesting.

Fine gauge knitted versions offer a perfect thermal alternative to the shirt, elegant and luxurious, the high neck acts as a plinth for the face and draws attention to the sensuality of the shoulders. Supremely practical, they perform the function of both jumper and scarf, providing androgynous comfort as well as warmth. Crafted in 100% merino wool, with subtle split hem and cuffs, the Bourgeois roll neck is the ideal option for layering with other wardrobe staples providing effortless insulation throughout the transitional seasons.

Leanne Cloudsdale is a writer, lecturer and creative consultant.