Protect ya neck: reflections on turtlenecks

6 mins read

So I was told the theme of this particular CJ issue was about “change” … It’s a fitting theme, no doubt focused on ,if not completely derailed by, the putrid maelstrom that is the election of 2016. But as you do, as you do, as you do. I’m here to give some friendly, completely idiosyncratic advice regarding adapting to another type of change — the damning blizzards of the Eastern Seaboard. Grab your goose-feather parkas and gingerbread mittens, and settle in with a cup of steamy cocoa. Or not, up to you. Whatever floats your marshmallows.
Therefore, as the wind begins to blow, and the snow readies itself to fall like an army for seasonal occupation, it is necessary to defend oneself against such forces of nature, and if possible–certainly possible –to do so with style. Now, of course, style is one of those terms that can become anyone’s game, provided they make the effort or somehow stretch the definition like a very cheap, but very durable, nylon scarf. For this little sojourn, I’ll delve into a piece of fashion I didn’t even start to wear until a couple of years ago: the turtleneck –or as Aussies refer to it, the skivvy.
A disclaimer: fashion is one of those things that is difficult to pin a catch-all description to. I don’t know what it is, but I guess it has something to do with the feeling of how to comport oneself. How one lives life in line with that prophetic mantra of Samuel Beckett, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on,” which, if you’ve ever been stuck outside your dorm submerged in snow because you forgot your key, then you know all too well. Maybe that might be too submissive to the absurd but whatever it is, it lends an importance to how one dresses with respect to their fellows. Clothes may, in fact express an ideal or reveal an inner personality if one wants them to (To the naturalists and the nudists, I’m afraid I have no insight to offer —but enjoy the cordoned-off beaches.) You may read this little column as a sort of self-discovery, self-convincing on my part.
Alright. Enough with the academic chit-chat, and on to the more fun-fun stuff.
There’s a useful and unique function to the turtleneck that makes it particularly attractive: it reliably keeps the neck soundly warm. We Swatties like to think we are of above-average intelligence, verging somewhere between a well-trained chimpanzee and premature Einstein on a reliable schedule. If the brain is our factory of imagination, then the neck is the road on which our red-blood cells race to reach our neurons with their precious packages of oxygen. Have you ever tried to drive on a cold, stiff road? It’s kind of terrifying, by which I mean, hurry and scribble your will and throw it to the lawyers fast! The turtleneck is a comfy reminder to keep your blood warm when your skin gets cold, and because it’s attached to an ordinary sweater, you don’t even have to think about it when you slip it on. Real time-saver. You can, of course, just wear a scarf, but why take two wooly barriers when you can just wear one??
Utility aside, there’s a kind of cultural baggage associated with the turtleneck –thank you, Steve Jobs– that may be impossible to ignore. Wearing one is not shorthand for genius and it certainly does not make most pompous or pretentious. I hope it hasn’t made me as such, because I hate to conform to something as form-fitting as a nice and reasonably priced UNIQLO garment. I think of a different kind of baggage, one bestowed by the animated TV show Archer, in which the titular character, a class-A douchebag and hilarious Bondy impresionado, has an affinity for the turtleneck. Instead, he calls it a “tactleneck” in reference to its sizzly, stealthy, secret agent status. Like his ego, he thinks it’s sexy. Settle for warmth, and let the grace fall where it may.
To wrap up: winter is fast afoot, and it ain’t slowing. Next time you find yourself in H&M, or a department store, or just perusing through a clothes-shop of the thick caliber, try yourself out for a turtleneck. It’s not all that reptilian, and next time you find yourself shifty and uncomfortable with frost on your window and an assignment ticking down to a deadline, remember what Archer says: “I gotta get my turtleneck. I’m not defusing a bomb in this.”
(Note: Of course, my New Englander friends are cursing me for my blatant ignorance at this very moment, in which they suffer through an almost Russian, distinctly Puritanical, Game of Thrones-esque Long Night compared to us here in Pennsylvania. I hope they have some turtlenecks because, as television has taught us, winter is coming.)

Abhinav Tiku

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Abhinav is a Honors History major and Film Studies minor. He has lived in numerous countries around the globe and considers himself from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. He is a restless traveler trying to find someplace to stop. He loves creativity in all its forms, and he particularly enjoys writing, photography, and filmmaking. He can’t decide what his favorite books or films are as they usually change on the hour of the day, but his favorite comic series are The Adventures of Tintin. In his spare time, he loves munching potato chips, coining silly gibberish words, and searching for a pen that can double as a lightsaber.

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