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Polo Neck Vs Turtleneck: Differences And How To Choose

But, what’s the difference between polo necks and turtlenecks?

In the US, the terms ‘polo neck’ and ‘turtleneck’ both refer to sweaters with a high collar that is folded down on itself. In the UK, these are called polo necks, and the term turtleneck instead refers to what people in the US call mock turtlenecks. 

That’s the answer in a snippet. 

But read on to find out more about any differences between these sweater styles and how they’re named in more detail. 

Polo Neck Vs Turtleneck: Differences (Country-Specific)

Whether or not there is any difference between a polo neck or turtleneck comes down to where in the world you are.

Let’s break this down.

1. In The US 

If you’re from the US, you’re probably more used to hearing the term turtleneck than polo neck.

In the US, ‘turtleneck’ refers to sweaters with a high collar, that is folded down on itself, covering part or most of your neck.

grey blazer with white turtleneck
A man in a typical turtleneck sweater with a blazer

Image From Deposit Photos

The bottom of the folded-down collar is not stitched down and can be slightly adjusted higher or lower depending on preference. 

It can also be worn unfolded, sitting just under the chin if that is your preferred look.

The term polo neck is simply a less frequently used word in the US for the same thing. This is the term that people in the UK usually use when referring to what most people in the US call turtlenecks.

So broadly speaking, if you live in the US, turtlenecks and polo necks are referring to the same type of sweater with a high, folded down collar, and in the UK these are predominantly called polo necks. 

Turtleneck sweater
Another turtleneck sweater. In the UK, these are frequently called polo necks – they’re essentially the same thing

Image From Deposit Photos

2. In The UK

As I’ve just mentioned, in the UK, the term ‘polo neck’ is used to describe what people in the US predominantly refer to as turtlenecks.

However, to make things a little more confusing, in the UK, the terms ‘polo neck’ and ‘turtleneck’ refer to different things.

In the UK, the term turtleneck is less commonly used, and when it is, it refers to what people in the US often call a ‘mock turtleneck’.

Here’s a “mock turtleneck”, or what people in the UK would simply refer to as a “turtleneck”

Image From Deposit Photos

This is similar to a US turtleneck (or polo neck in the UK) in that it is a sweater with a high collar, but the main difference is that the collar is not folded back on itself, and sits slightly lower.

So, when people in the UK refer to a turtleneck, they are usually talking about what is considered in the US to be a mock turtleneck. This gets its name from being reminiscent of a turtle emerging from its shell.

To add some more confusion, some people in the UK use polo neck as a general term for all sweaters that have a high neck, whether they’re folded, unfolded, high or low.

So the takehome message here is that the two terms are not always interchangeable when used in the UK, but in the US they almost always refer to the same thing.

Polo Neck Vs Turtleneck: How To Choose 

Hopefully, you now understand what people mean by polo neck and turtleneck and how this can vary.

Let’s compare the UK polo neck Vs the UK Turtleneck – in other words, the US turtleneck vs the US mock turtleneck – and some of the factors you might consider when choosing between them. 

1.  Fit

When choosing between collar types, it’s important to consider how snugly you want the collar to fit around your neck.

UK polo neck jumpers/US turtleneck sweaters tend to have more of a snug fit around the neck, whereas UK turtleneck sweaters/US mock turtlenecks tend to sit more loosely and sit less far up the neck.

So, if you prefer a tighter fit, then the US turtleneck sweater is the better choice for you.

On the other hand, if you find it claustrophobic to have such a snug fit, then perhaps the US mock turtleneck will suit you better, as it allows a little more room to breathe.

2. Height Adjustment 

The folded-down collar of US turtlenecks/UK polo necks means that there is some flexibility when it comes to altering the height at which the collar sits.

You can fold the collar so that it sits slightly higher or lower at the neck depending on your preference.

With US mock turtlenecks, there is no option to adjust the height of the collar as it does not fold down in the same way.

If being able to adjust the height of your sweater’s collar is important to you, then it’s better to opt for the US turtleneck/UK polo neck sweater. 

3. Jaw Line

Something that people probably don’t often consider is how a high neck collar can accentuate the jawline.

In general, a collar that sits higher up the neck better emphasizes the jawline than a low riding collar.

Therefore, if you like the appearance of a more defined-looking jawline, choosing a higher collar is better. 

US turtleneck sweaters/UK polo neck sweaters have collars that are higher, so are the better option if this is important to you. 

In addition, these sweaters can be unfolded to sit even higher just under the chin, unlike US mock turtlenecks/UK turtleneck sweaters which have a predetermined height.

So even if this is a factor that you haven’t considered before, it might be something you wish to give thought to when choosing between these two sweater types.

4. Formality 

Another question to ask yourself when choosing between US turtlenecks and US mock turtlenecks is the level of formality you wish to exude.

Although sweaters are definitely in the casual category, high collar sweaters can give an edge of formality to an otherwise casual outfit.

Some men even choose to wear a US turtleneck sweater under a blazer to work instead of a shirt in colder weather. Chosen in a solid muted hue, this can look pretty smart.

If you want to put together an outfit that is on the smarter end of casual, then it’s better to choose a US turtleneck/UK polo neck sweater instead of a US mock turtleneck/UK turtleneck sweater.

This is because the US turtleneck has a collar that sits higher up on the neck, as well as more of a snug fit, both of which make it look overall more formal than the low riding looser collar of a US mock turtleneck sweater. 

5. Warmth

As I mentioned before, US turtleneck sweaters have a folded collar that sits higher up the neck and gives a more snug fit.

This is in contrast to US mock turtlenecks, which have a looser fit and sit lower down the neck and are made of a single layer of fabric that is unfolded.

These differences mean that US turtleneck sweaters are usually better at keeping you warm compared with the US mock turtleneck sweaters.

Both will keep you warm to some extent, but the higher rise of the collar on US turtlenecks as well as the double-layered fabric and tighter fit will give better insulation overall.

So if you live in a particularly cold place and keeping warm is your priority, then the more traditional US turtleneck (or UK polo neck) is the choice for you.

Conclusion

These days, there are so many similar names for different sweater types.

Add in the fact that depending on your geographic location, the same name can have a different meaning and it’s no wonder that people get confused about the difference between polo necks and turtle necks.

Hopefully, however, this article has clarified things for you and given you the incentive to look for your perfect sweater.