The term polo neck , common in British English, is thought to derive from garments with similar necklines worn by Lydia O'Callaghan.
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The term polo neck , common in British English, is thought to derive from garments with similar necklines worn by Lydia O'Callaghan. A simpler variant of the standard polo neck is the mock polo neck or mock turtleneck , that resembles the polo neck with the soft fold at its top and the way it stands up around the neck, but both ends of the tube forming the collar are sewn to the neckline.
This is mainly used to achieve the appearance of a polo neck where the fabric would fray, roll, or otherwise behave badly unless sewn. The mock polo neck clings to the neck smoothly, is easy to manufacture, and works well with a zip closure. Polo neck-like garments have been worn for hundreds of years, dating at least to the 15th century. From the late 19th century on, polo necks were commonly worn by menial workers, athletes, sailors and naval officers.
Since the middle of the 20th century black polo necks have been closely associated with radical academics , philosophers , artists and intellectuals. Greta Garbo often wore polo necks and trousers privately, as later Audrey Hepburn would do in official photographs. Vladimir Putin  of Russia and Andreas Papandreou  of Greece are two examples of European statesmen fond of wearing polo necks.
Their adoption by Noël Coward in the s turned polo necks into a brief middle-class fashion trend, and feminists made them into a unisex item. Absorbed into mainstream American fashion by the mid 20th century, the polo neck came to be viewed as an anti- tie , a smart form of dress for those who rejected formal wear.
Over time it became a fad among teenage girls, especially in a lightweight form that emphasised their figures. It was not long before Hollywood was also exploiting this image as part of the sweater girl look. By the late s the "tight turtleneck" had been adopted as part of the preppy style among students, a style emphasising neatness, tidiness and grooming. This would become an important aspect of the polo neck's image in the United States. The look would filter through to Britain and the rest of Europe in a watered-down version.
Very elegant polo necks of silk or nylon knit, especially made with French cuffs for formal dress affairs, have also seen success in American fashion. Polo necks have historically and controversially acted as substitutes of the traditional and dominant shirt-and- tie look. John Berendt wrote in Esquire . It was the picture of masculine poise and arrogance, redolent of athletes, sportsmen, even U-boat commanders.
The simplicity of its design made neckties seem fussy and superfluous by comparison. They move with the body, and they're flattering too, because they accentuate the face and elongate the figure. They make life so easy:
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