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V-Neck Makes Sense. But Why Is This Called a 'Crew Neck'?

Further Details.

crew neck

Welcome to Further Details, a recurring column where we investigate what purpose an oft-overlooked product element actually serves. This week: the odd name given to conventional sweatshirts.

Some things cannot be explained. UFOs, Godfather Part 3, these — unsolved mysteries, we may never know the true answers to in our lifetimes. If that's stressing you out, be comforted by the fact that most things indeed can be explained, even if they don't make much sense at the outset.

Take for instance, the crew neck. You've seen it on every kind of knit pullover. It's not hard to understand it as a fashion concept, but the name itself doesn't make much sense, especially when you take its angular sibling, the V-neck. Thankfully, this sartorial head-scratcher falls within the realm of explainable things.

Like many fashion origins, the crew neck originates from the world of athletics. It gets its name from the types of sweaters worn by rowers in the early 1900s. The oarsmen were often referred to as 'the crew'. In the United States, the sport is commonly known as 'crew' and the nickname eventually became attached to the garment as well. The earliest known use of the term crew neck dates back to 1939, though the neck style had been in use well before.

The neck on these sweaters were circular with no collar attached and, generally, fit close to the wearer's neck. In time the crew neck became associated with t-shirts as well. Today, crew necks most often feature an attached piece of ribbing in order to finish the neck and keep its shape when being pulled over the wearer's head.

loc rowers
Library of Congress

This is not to be confused with a boat neck, which is often seen on breton striped shirts and sweaters, originally donned by French seafarers. This type of neck is also collarless, but is distinguished by its wider opening which extends outward to the wearer's shoulders.

Today, the crew neck isn't limited to the decks of an eight. You'll find it everywhere from cashmere sweaters to plain undershirts and even puffer vests. Likely, you're part of the crew already.

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