AKA: jewel neck, t-shirt neckline, round neck
How to say it: as it looks
- rounded shape
- sits just above the collarbone
- no collar
- often has a ribbed binding
- close fit
…of the style: While the round shape of the crew neck has been around forever, the high neck and ribbed binding of the style dates back to 1932 when it was developed as part of an undergarment what would absorb sweat and prevent chaffing under American Football uniforms. The t-shirt style was originally developed by Jockey Inc, for the University of Southern California Trojans, but was so popular that non-football playing students soon started stealing them, causing the University to stencil “Property of USC” on the t-shirts (which actually made them more popular). The US Navy adopted the crew neck into their uniform and were quickly followed by the rest of the Armed Forces, including the Marines who had theirs dyed Kelly green to keep them comfortable and camouflaged.
Although it was originally designed as an undershirt, the crew neck t-shirt quickly became acceptable to wear the style on its own, as evidenced by a the 1942 cover of Life magazine featuring a soldier wearing a printed t-shirt. By WWII the US Army had changed their standard issue undershirt to a ribbed A-shirt or tank top, but many soldiers chose to continue wear their own crew necks instead.
The popularity of the crew neck continued to grow in conjunction with the popularity and acceptability of the t-shirt. At some stage the crew neck made the jump from t-shirts to other clothing and became popular amongst women as it provided a simple background for necklaces. The style was also favoured in the 1960s by at-home sewers and DIY dressmakers as it was a simple, easy to make style that could be used on tops, dresses and sweaters. By using psychedelic prints and brooches or pins seamstresses could use the same basic crew neck shift pattern many times and create a different garment every time.
Part of the appeal of the crew neck that has allowed it to persevere on the fashion landscape so consistently is the ability to use it in layering. As it usually sits high on the neckline, the style goes well underneath shirts, sweaters, coats, vests and bib-front garments, or can be used on an outer garment over a collared shirt to create a more preppy/business-like look – think J.Crew Fall Collections.
In more recent times, the term crew neck no longer just refers to the high, close fitting neckline,bound in ribbed fabric – pretty much any round neckline with a binding of any kind, close or looser-fitting, is called a crew neck in the modern fashion marketplace.
…of the name: It is thought the name crew neck comes from the shirts traditionally worn by rowers.
The name jewel neck is applied to the style as it provides a simple background on which to show off the jewels in a necklace.
- In some German American neighbourhoods in the North Eastern United States, crew neck sweaters (particularly grey ones) are referred to by the German word ‘Schrank’
21st Century Crew Necks
On a dress, a sweater, cardigan or a t-shirt, the crew neck is always a good option. Especially when combined with a statement necklace or sassy print.
MM6 Maison Martin Margiela, J.Crew