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Brrrrr! Sweater Weather Is Upon Us, Ode To The Turtleneck

Originally Posted: October 15, 2009

Douglas MacKaye Harrington

Personally, I am a fan of the turtleneck sweater. Photos courtesy of Google Images

Southampton - A Celt by lineage, I play golf throughout the winter as long as the greens are not covered in snow. A light cold rain in October is nothing more than a lovely soft day. It has to be 32 degrees or lower for me to throw on my beloved Hickey-Freeman overcoat in December. That being said, I do need a bit more than an Izod polo shirt and my Brooks Brothers navy blazer when the winter winds blow through the Hamptons. It is sweater weather my friends and I could not be happier.

Sweaters, as we all know, come in many styles - v-neck, crew-neck, vest v-neck, cardigan, full-zipper, neck-zipper, collared, and my personal favorite - the turtleneck - and my least favorite - the mock-turtleneck. Those are just the structural styles and I may have missed a few, there are also various knits like cable, heather and Irish Fisherman. Sweaters come in every imaginable color these days from black to fuchsia and in various print designs from classic argyle and herringbone to embedded designer names and logos, if you like being a walking advertisement. Frankly, after I have handed over a few hundred bucks for a sweater, I think Ralph Lauren, out of pure gratitude, should walk around with a sweater with my name on it. Do not even get me started on the $100 tee-shirts.

Of course, the white linen suit and seersucker sport coats get put away after Labor Day, but I still wear a sport coat every day and sweaters work fine in the ensemble, tie or not.

A good Harris Tweed sports coat can be worn with a shirt, vest or sweater.

I wouldn't wear a tweed sports coat in the summer, but I think they are the perfect choice for the fall and winter, particularly sport coats made with the legendary Harris Tweed wool fabric weaved in Scotland. Add a pair of corduroy pants, wool scarf and the right sweater to these high quality wool jackets and you are set for the worse Mother Nature can throw at you, while still looking classically tailored. By the way, Brooks Brothers is offering a brown wool sport coat this season made with Harris Tweed.

As noted, I prefer the classic turtleneck sweater weaved in a tight knit of merino wool or cashmere. Always understated, I prefer muted colors in solid or heather hues. A solid black turtleneck is a must, as it will go with literally any wool, herringbone, checkered, plaid, corduroy, or tweed colored jacket with the exception of navy. Although argyle sweaters matched with tweed and checkered fabric jackets is considered a British classic, it is too busy for my oversized frame, but if it works for you, go with it. Do not shy away from a nice winter white turtleneck, usually found in cotton cable, it looks particularly sharp when paired with wool or cashmere navy winter blazers, especially if you can find one with patched pockets. A thin enough weave and this sweater will work with a double breasted blazer, but you might be accused of looking like the Captain in the "Ghost and Mrs. Muir."

The 'Irish knit' or Aryan sweater is warm and wooly.

Another classic sweater/sport coat combination is the v-neck, either in the long sleeve or sleeveless vested sweater variety. A nicely starched exposed cotton shirt collar is a smart look and I suggest an oxford button down shirt to keep the collar upright and in place. The right tie and matching pocket square in this combination can even make it appropriate for most winter business meetings. You can forego the shirt in a casual setting depending, in my opinion, upon how deep the cut of the v-neck. Although the ladies may disagree, I don't associate cleavage with men and personally find it tacky.

Classically preppie, the crew neck sweater over an oxford collared shirt is another great combination with a sport coat. Depending on how tight the collar, you can add a tie to this ensemble as well, the knot of the tie really needs to be exposed for both comfort and style. I love Irish Fisherman Knit sweaters, also known as Aran Island sweaters, in both the crew neck and turtleneck varieties, but it takes a fairly loose fitting, unstructured sports coat or blazer to feel unencumbered in these wonderful, thickly woven sweaters.

I have offered some suggestions for sweater/sport coat combinations; however, a beautiful sweater on a brisk autumn day is a great stand alone. So leave the sweatshirts for the gym and stay warm in the cozy comfort of a favorite sweater. Sheep farmers the world over will be most grateful.

Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com Hamptons HamptonsOnline HamptonsOnline

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