Secrets of Sprezzatura: How to Wear a Crewneck

In our last “Secrets of Sprezzatura” post, we showed you how to achieve an air of ars-est-celare-artem nonchalance by wearing your shirt collar deliberately messed up while feigning obliviousness to it.

For this installment, we look at the excruciatingly correct way to wear a crewneck, though we’re at a loss to explain how it became correct.

While neatfreaks wear their crewnecks high in the back and rounded in the front, the more nonchalant way is to wear it low in the back and straight across the front, suggesting you hastily threw the sweater on in order to keep warm, with no concern for your appearance.

Crewnecks are worn this way regardless of how they’re cut, with or without a tie. You see this both in historic images and cinematic recreations of the Ivy heyday, such as “Dead Poets Society.”

I asked a number of sartorial sages to shed light on the origins of this custom, but none could offer an answer. If you grew up with your father or peers showing you the “right” way to wear a crewneck, leave a comment and let us know.

The above photo (exhibit A), plus exhibits B and C below show front views, while D shows a side view of a correctly worn crewneck, wonderfully demonstrated by the venerable French teacher in the movie “School Ties.”

Finally, for double deshabille points, combine the high-in-front, low-in-back way of wearing a crewneck with a messed-up-collar oxford. — CC

12 Comments on "Secrets of Sprezzatura: How to Wear a Crewneck"

  1. That definitely looks like the way my father wears them, though I doubt he could tell you why. For reference, he grew up in Somerville and Cambridge in the 50’s. I can’t remember seeing him in a sweater that isn’t a crewneck, and he wears them just like the fellow in Exhibit A, with just a peak of collar showing in front.

  2. You can easily achieve this effect…if you put it on backwards

  3. Not to nitpick, CC, but it should be “artem.” (I live for chances to validate my Classics degree.)

  4. I think you’ve got a Latin problem here, Christian. The quote should read: ars est celare artem. Ars is a third declension noun, and artem is the accusative singular, which should be used here, since the word is the direct object of the preposition celare. Okay: enough pedantry! This is another interesting post!

  5. Latin fixed; glad no one’s complained about my using it as a modifier. I should probably hyphenate it.

  6. I wonder if a small neck hole would originally cause this look.

  7. Isn’t it simply the fact that wearing it low in the front shows your undershirt and wearing it high/straight is a means of preventing that “unsightly sight”.

  8. That hardly explains the men who are wearing a tie.

  9. Gregorius Mercator | January 18, 2010 at 3:03 pm |

    I’m certainly no neat freak, but I prefer it high in the back and low in the front. Personally, it’s more comfortable that way as I don’t have yet another layer of clothing pressing against my throat.

  10. I know this is splitting hairs but the third picture is a boatneck.

  11. Indeed it is. Boyer and I wondered if what I was seeing in some of the images was boatnecks; we also wondered if it was a necktie that was causing the effect. But I’m convinced you see this with standard crewnecks, with or without a tie.

  12. I just like wearing that way. I have no clue as to here I learned it.Now and again someone (almost always a woman) will try and turn it around with me still in it. Quite Fun.

    Always Bumby

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