Despite the continuing boom in the sales of men’s fashion, outfits that appear on the catwalk are often still derided as unwearable silliness or irrelevant tosh. However, this coming season one trend that is arguably far from zany is the return of the simple V-neck sweater. This comeback is admittedly on the subtle side – many men will, no doubt, say they have never stopped wearing one – and yet the V-neck’s fashionable status has been on the wane for several winters, ditched in favour of the sleeker roll-neck, mock-neck or crew.
The V-neck’s revival was anointed this January in Milan by Mrs Prada. The opening look of her autumn/winter 2017 show featured a very simple, almost school-uniform-like grey V-neck sweater worn over a classic blue Oxford shirt, semi tucked into a pair of sandy-coloured cord trousers. The only flashy thing about the look was a furry belt. Ten other V-necks appeared in the show, and, with the exception of one that looked a bit like a still life painting, they were mostly plain, and often worn with nothing underneath. Prada, herself, took her bow wearing what appeared to be the exact same sweater as the model of “look 1”. Backstage, the designer, considered to wield much power when it comes to setting the fashion agenda, talked about a mood of “simplicity” and “reality”.
Prada is not alone in championing this neck-line revival. Kim Jones at Louis Vuitton showed 14 variations on this theme as part of a collection that featured the sell-out Supreme collaboration. Jones’s lovely deep V-necks were pleasingly worn with half-tucked-in opened shirts – shirt tails dipping luxuriously out from the sweaters’ hems. Meanwhile, super chic Parisian label Lemaire also offered the look on the runway – worn with nothing underneath and tucked into simple, tailored trousers.
For some, the notion of a fine gauge V-neck will only ever mean one thing: Michael Douglas in Basic Instinct cavorting about a nightclub dance floor with femme fatale Sharon Stone. I know, it’s hardly a ringing endorsement. So, if this particular silver screen V-neck moment is putting you off, immediately Google James Stewart in Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Stewart’s take on the look has an air of retro suave – the V is cut quite high, the white shirt beneath is worn opened. It looks both smart and relaxed. Better still are vintage images of Yves Klein. His V-neck is, naturally, paint splattered, and the shoved-up sleeves and popped shirt collar give the whole thing an air of breezy effortlessness.
On the high street, Zara is backing the look, and features them in its men’s autumn/winter ad campaign. V-necks in tan, pink and lilac are worn with checked overcoats and (again) un-tucked shirts. Reiss has a simple version in Bordeaux – a great alternative to black – for £85, while Topman’s plain fine gauge black V-neck is a snip at £20. Uniqlo, a perennial favourite destination for affordable and decent knitwear, is also offering this neckline in a variety of shades including beige, brown and burgundy.
Perhaps the easiest and most obvious way to sport a V-neck is with a simple, white crew-neck T-shirt. Jason Bateman’s lead character Marty Byrde in the Netflix drama Ozark has a wardrobe full of fine gauge knits and when he sports a V-neck, this is exactly his approach. Similarly, a simple Oxford shirt opened at the neck à la Prada is hardly a complex option. Personally, my favourite takeaway from the Vuitton show was the layering of a simple grandad-collared shirt underneath – this looks particularly good with a slightly deeper V. Alternatively, a mock-necked T-shirt or, when it gets colder, a roll-neck sweater will offer a stricter and more minimal finish. And, of course, for the bold there is always the bare-chest approach – embarrassing dance routines are naturally optional.
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