Concorde 010: This sweater has looked good for centuries
New and vintage rollnecks, an easy DIY upgrade for clothes you already own & handmade belts
Welcome to Concorde, a 2x monthly creation from Blackbird Spyplane where Erin takes the lead. You could call it a women’s vertical, but the insights, intel and “cute swag information” transcend gender. The full Concorde archive lives here…
Hiiii — Concorde coming at you once again! Today we’ve got:
An easy technique for not only rejuvenating but adding ENCHANTMENT to clothes you already own
Beautiful new pieces that assert the supremacy of FORM over FUNCTION
Intricately embellished handmade BELTS from an under-the-radar line
Rollneck sweaters — anyone will tell you they’re having a moment. In part this is thanks to the IG-abetted infatuation with casual ‘90s styles that’s been bubbling up over the past couple years, via moodboard accounts like Simplicity City. It’s also thanks to the splashy “new J. Crew” roll-out: the brand that *KINDA* invented the rollneck (more on that in a second) has not only been pushing new ones, but they recently unveiled a “curated” collection of their own vintage rollnecks, too, charging a certified preowned-type premium for sweaters that Mach 3+ resale-search-term wielders could easily find themselves…
I (Erin) have my own firsthand ‘90s associations with rollneck sweaters, and they’re mixed. In high school they were indivisible from the standard uniform of prepped-out brahs whose styles and energies I tended, on the whole, not to f**k with — I was too busy wearing ‘70s-era plaid golf pants from the Salvation Army!!
Between that and a skepticism toward clockwork nostalgia cycles generally, I’ve felt some ambivalence toward the “rollneckaissance,” respecting it but not fully jelling with it. UNTIL the past few weeks, when, watching two different PBS programs (a reliable swag goldmine) I spotted two different, thoroughly unpreppy Real Ones looking stupendous in rollnecks. First, in Martin Scorsese’s excellent 2005 Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home, I clocked the musician and photographer John Cohen’s unraveling black rollneck (5. below). And second, in this episode of Craft in America, I admired the faded and clay-dusted blue-ish rollneck on Philly-based sculptor Syd Carpenter (2. below)…
These two don’t look preppy and they definitely don’t look like ‘90s-retro try hards. What they’re tapping into, instead, is the centuries-spanning history of the rollneck. The design has its earliest origins NOT with J. Crew but in seaside villages across the UK, Normandy and Holland, where, known as Ganseys, they were the defining jawn among fishermen. Ganseys came in a bunch of different variations, but the quintessential version had a squared-off mockneck-style collar, cut wide so the sailors could rock scarves underneath them, staying warm and keeping wet wool from chafing their d*mn throats.
When knitters left the collars unhemmed or when the collars frayed with wear, they’d curl over, creating the now-familiar “roll” effect…
Cut to the late ‘80s, when J. Crew scion Emily Woods remembered a frayed-collar sweater her ex-boyfriend used to wear. Mimicking it, she got J.Crew to mass-produce an unhemmed design, marketed as the rollneck. An iconic 1990s jawn was born — and an iconic 1890s jawn was reborn…
It’s that play between 1890s and 1990s vibes I respond to with Cohen and Carpenter. Both are throwing back to a bohemian moment when — in an early example of artists appropriating workwear — old UK fisherman’s sweaters proliferated on “the downtown scene.” Instead of looking straightforwardly preppy, these two help emphasize the rollneck’s “unfinished,” “raw,” “handmade” energy. For a contemporary downtown NYC example, peep Spyfriend Porches (4. above) rocking an old indigo Barneys rollneck.
And keep in mind that you don’t need to rock a rollneck as is. Those open necklines allow for some cool layering possibilities: Let a colorful base layer peek out, and/or go H.O.P.E. mode and let a scarf blossom from the collar??
In this light, rollnecks start to read less like a resuscitated ‘90s fad and more like evergreen pieces you can wear until they start to unravel, then keep wearing because the fraying will look cool on some ancient Gansey s**t.
I dug up a bunch of great vintage rollnecks for you, but first, some of our favorite contemporary designers have cool takes on the style, too:
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