Roll neck jumpers have endured a bit of a rough ride over past years, with nasty connotations of Bond villains, fuddy-duddy geography teachers and pretentious, tortured-soul poets immediately springing to mind.

However, the style underwent a mini renaissance during AW12 – developing into a key knitwear trend and cementing its place within many style-conscious gents’ wardrobes – and it only looks set to build on this popularity during AW13 after designers such as Tom Ford, Topman Design and Lanvin featured them prominently within their collections.

Several writers here at FashionBeans have also been singing the praises of the roll neck jumper throughout 2013. Matt Allinson, in particular, is a fan, including them in his Experimenting With Layering article way back in January and then recently adding them to his own personal Christmas wish list.

So leave all past associations and stereotypes behind as we examine how the roll neck trend has evolved for AW13…

The Roll Neck: AW13

After browsing the AW13 collections showcased at fashion weeks across the globe, four distinct ways of styling the roll neck came to the fore – each of them suitable for different scenarios and likely to resonate with different types of men.

Look 1: Chunky Knit Roll Necks

At the slightly more casual end of the roll neck spectrum are chunky knits. This aesthetic will probably appeal to the largest target audience as it retains a classic appeal which is slightly less adventurous and fashion forward than some of the looks that follow. Yet it is important not to confuse classic with boring or safe.

One of the biggest supporters of the chunky knit roll neck was Topman Design, whose collection theme centred on rugged texture, exploration and adventure. Featuring examples in striking whites/creams, they were paired with parkas, cropped pea coats, biker jackets, wide-legged trousers and hiking boots for an outdoorsy feel.

Topman also showcased chunky, textured roll necks in bright oranges, sunny yellows and fiery reds, which helped inject an element of colour into a predominantly white palette and offered a fresh and modern spin on a winter classic:

Elsewhere, the collection by E. Tautz demonstrated that chunky knit roll necks needn’t be plain, with the label applying striking animal motifs to the front of their jumpers.

Similarly to Topman Design, E. Tautz also featured them in vibrant colours such as orange, demonstrating that even with a safe roll neck style, risks can be taken and pay off:

Get The Look

Below we pair a French Connection cable knit roll neck in classic navy blue with a Woolrich khaki parka jacket to recreate the adventurer vibe present at the Topman Design show.

Complete the outfit with slim-fit indigo jeans and a hardy pair of hiking boots (currently experiencing a moment) for a practical, outdoors-inspired look:

  • French Connection Yule Wool Roll Neck Jumper
  • Woolrich Arctic Parka Coyote-trimmed Down-filled Coat
  • Paul Smith Regular-fit Brushed-denim Jeans
  • Merrell X Dover Street Market Wilderness Boot
Look 2: Knitwear Layering

The second look concerns the notion of layering knitwear over knitwear and was championed at the AW13 shows by designers such as Jil Sander and Tom Ford. For many men the concept of multi-layering knitwear would not even occur to them, but if you want to develop a more unique look you need to start thinking outside the box and getting creative.

The Jil Sander showcase was one of my favourites when researching the roll neck trend. The collection featured lightweight versions layered beneath crew neck jumpers, which were paired with tailored trousers and document holders for an altogether professional appearance.

Jil Sander cleverly made use of fine gauge roll necks in plain black or marled grey, often layering these neutral pieces underneath chunkier knits featuring patterns, motifs and geometric designs that were designed to draw the eye:

Likewise, Tom Ford layered thin roll necks in shades of cream, black and lavender underneath cable knits in oatmeal, grey and pale purple.

By finishing the outfits with slim-fit, tailored trousers (often checked or houndstooth patterned) Ford managed to retain a sense of refinement and his signature slimline silhouette despite the chunkier upper layers:

Get the Look

Here we layer a dark purple fine gauge roll neck from River Island underneath a crew neck cable knit jumper. This technique produces an interesting visual and textural effect while enabling you create some interesting colour pairings.

Follow the lead of Tom Ford (always) and combine with some subtly checked trousers and smart loafers to preserve a sense of sophistication:

  • River Island Dark Purple Roll Neck Jumper
  • Topman Navy Chunky Cable Jumper
  • John Varvatos Austin Checked Tailored Trousers 176680
  • Poste Lorenzo Tassle Loafer Black Leather
Look 3: Roll Necks & Tailoring

One of the biggest roll neck trends seen across the AW13 runways was the idea of wearing a lightweight roll neck with a two-piece suit, in place of a traditional shirt and tie combination.

Once again, the biggest champion of this technique was Tom Ford, who combined on trend checked suiting with fine gauge roll necks in autumnal shades of pale brown, soft grey and natural oatmeal for a subtle yet striking aesthetic.

Many other designers such as Hardy Amies, Canali and Vivienne Westwood showcased similar ensembles, often using brighter shades of blue for a welcome injection of colour:

Get the Look

Below we pair a bright turquoise Topman roll neck with a subtly checked two-piece suit. The combination of a darker outer layer with a flash of colour from the chest produces a great visual impact that cannot fail to get you noticed.

Finish with a pair of trusty brogues and a leather document holder for striking yet professional ensemble:

  • Topman Turquoise Roll Neck Jumper
  • Richard James Hyde Navy Prince Of Wales Check Wool Suit
  • Allsaints Monument Case
  • Ask The Missus Cardinal Brogue Lace Chocolate Suede
Look 4: Fine Knit Roll Necks Under Shirts

Taking the previous look one step further, many designers chose to layer thin roll necks under both shirts (top button unfastened) AND suits. Contrary to belief, this is not a groundbreaking AW13 look; Hermes, Prada and Kenzo utilised this three-tiered approach within last year’s AW12 collections, and all were extremely well received.

For AW13, the biggest designer proponent was Lanvin. Nearly every single look contained a fine knit roll neck in some capacity, with the majority featuring thin, black roll necks worn beneath shirts and suits/blazers.

Lanvin also incorporated other brighter hues such as white, mustard and jade green to help inject a welcome shot of colour:

Get the Look

Although the majority of the Lanvin outfits contained too many rolls at the neck line for my liking – making them appear ‘bunched’ – pairing a fine gauge roll neck with some sharp tailoring and shirting creates a slick and daring aesthetic that offers the perfect way to make a formal statement.

Coloured roll necks can work well here, but a muted tone such as black, grey or white is much more subtle and understated. With this in mind, we have opted for a dark grey version from Reiss.

Worn under a classic white shirt and charcoal grey suit, the look remains at the forefront of fashion and offers an edgier feel than a traditional shirt and tie combination would. Finish with some monk-strap shoes:

  • Burton 24 Hour Tailored Fit White Stripe Shirt
  • Reiss 1971 Thomas Long Sleeve Polo Neck Top Grey
  • Topman Charcoal Skinny Suit
  • Loake Monk Strap Shoes
Modern Lookbook Inspiration

As you can see below, the roll neck’s popularity extends beyond the runway this season. Playing a huge part in high street and mid-priced designer campaigns and lookbooks, the piece is both accessible and wearable by men of all ages:

tesco f&f xmas 2013 digel aw13 digel aw13 he by mango winter 2013 drykorn aw13 zara november 2012 Strellson aw13 jaeger aw13 Canali aw13 barneys new york aw13 reiss aw13 tiger of sweden aw13

Men’s Roll Necks: Key Styles
  • Wrangler Roll Neck Jumper Cable Knit
  • Vintage Renewal Fisherman Polo Neck Sweater
  • Allsaints Nord Cashmere Roll Neck
  • Barbour X Norton & Sons Mens Coleman Roll Neck Woollen Knit
  • Ps Paul Smith Roll Neck Jumper
  • Selected Jumper With Roll Neck
  • Acne Miles Chunky-knit Wool Rollneck Sweater
  • Reiss Busto Heavyweight Roll Neck Knit Emerald
  • Topman Cream And Lurex Cable Jumper
  • Reiss Moon Extra Fine Merino Roll Neck Soft Grey
  • Uniqlo Men Cashmere Turtle Neck Sweater
  • Topman Green Marl Roll Neck Jumper
  • Gant Rugger Striped Knitted Cotton Rollneck Sweater
  • Reiss City Contrast Colour Roll Neck Grey
  • John Smedley Belvoir Rollneck Merino Wool Sweater
Final Word

So there we have it, four ways to wear the roll neck this season. Hopefully the versatility of the piece will encourage you to think outside the box and be a bit more creative with your wardrobe, ensuring you stand out from the crowd in a refined way.

With the fashion press, designer collections and high street stores all backing the trend, there has never been a better time to be sartorially adventurous and try something new.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and musings below…