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The Black Polo Neck – Scary or Essential?

The name’s Polo Neck. …Black, Polo Neck.” If you didn’t already, please go back and re-read that opening line in your best Sean Connery accent, because if clothes could talk, the black polo neck would always introduce itself like James Bond. There’s just a certain something about a black polo neck, isn’t there? It’s classic, yet cool. It’s timeless, yet contemporary. It’s refined yet rebellious. It’s a three-piece suit and a biker’s leather jacket all rolled in to one. How on earth all this works I have no idea. I just know that it does.

And yet… I must confess something. I don’t actually own one. Why? Because I’m intimidated by them. For all that the black polo neck is a wardrobe essential, I find that it makes such a strong impression that you actually need to be a certain sort of person to pull one off. Or pull one on, as the case may be. I know that this will sound ridiculous to confident people, but those with more of a shy and retiring disposition will know exactly what I mean. You think something like this – “Ooh, I like that. But is it too cool for little old me?” There are actually lots of clothes likes this: pretty much anything that’s eye-catching and that promises to make you stand out from the crowd.

Ben Sherman
Ben Sherman

As children we tend to be less inhibited. I personally had a phase of wearing exclusively black polo necks with black tracksuit trousers. Like some sort of pocket ninja, I was completely hooked on the all-black vibe. When my mother tried to coax me out of the black stuff and into something with the sort of colour, innocence and frivolity in which a boy of seven is more typically attired, I was not for turning. Wearing black had become a sort of necessity to me because I had grasped, even at that young age, that there’s nothing quite like black clothes for making you feel like one heck of a cool dude. 

The good news is that for any adults out there who are, like me, frustrated black polo neck wearers, there’s plenty of inspiration we can draw on to tempt us out of our comfort zones. Take Steve Jobs, for example. He knew all about the pull of the polo. It’s well documented that the late deity of Silicon Valley liked a daily uniform of a black polo neck (or turtle neck as he would have called it, being American) paired with blue jeans and trainers. I’m not sure we could say that he looked quite as stylish as his tech; there was a degree of computer nerd about him that even a black polo neck couldn’t totally supress, but it still made a strong impression. And what it shows it that it’s a garment that really can work for anyone.

John Lewis
John Lewis

If, for instance, you’re the kind of chap who likes to put on a gun show, the close fit of the polo neck will do your beefy arms justice. If, on the other hand, you’re the more aesthetic type, that’s fine too – pull on the polo neck, open a tin of Campbell’s tomato soup and connect with your inner Andy Warhol as you slurp away. Equally, one can wear a black jacket over the top of the polo neck and go for an Usher or Jamie Foxx sort of look – all slick and R&B-ish, ready to hit the club and smooth-talk your way to your next conquest. There’s also the classic thespian look – actors always wear them in headshots so you know they’ve read their Shakespeare and they’re not just in Hollyoaks. And, finally, if you pull the long part of the polo neck up over the bottom half of your face, you can run about the house like some hard nut in the SAS about to fly through the window of an embassy and swiftly rid the world of another bad egg. … Just don’t put that on Instagram. It’s silly. 

Right, I think I’ll roll this one up now as you’re probably up to your neck in my nonsense. I hope I’ve inspired you to purchase a black polo neck if you don’t already own one. I’m sure it’ll make you look cool, whoever you are. I may even have convinced myself to stick my neck out!

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