The turtleneck is a style of shirt with a long tubular collar that, when extended, is able to cover the entire neck. The name turtleneck is derived from the fact that the tubular collar can be worn high or low to create a different effect. Much like the retractable neck of a turtle it is the malleability of this collar that gives the turtleneck both its charm and its name.
Typically a turtleneck is close-fitting around the neck however this is not always the case especially when it comes to women's turtleneck shirts. Women's turtlenecks tend to range from tight to very loose depending on the desired look of the shirt. Obviously with a loose turtleneck the collar is quite baggy and cannot be worn up the entire neck. Instead it is usually folded over itself. This type of loose turtleneck is sometimes referred to as a cowl turtleneck top.
Turtleneck style shirts first gained notoriety in the 1920’s when British actor Noel Coward made them a part of his daily style. From this point on turtlenecks had modest success, however it was not until the 1950’s and 60’s that turtlenecks really gained worldwide acceptance and popularity thanks to the increased usage of the shirt among members of the feminist movement.
The turtleneck style is not limited to just shirts, it is not uncommon to find turtleneck sweaters, dresses and sometimes even turtleneck coats; though this style of coat is fairly uncommon and almost exclusively worn by women.