If you're of a certain age — say, 35 or older — you'll likely remember J.Crew's Rollneck Sweater. It debuted in 1988 in a bevy of colors, for the somewhat unattainable (at the time) price of $89. People went crazy over it, but over time, fewer and fewer folks have opted for this oddly open, semi-slouched neckline anymore.
14 COLORSVintage J.Crew Rollneck Sweater Read More
J.Crew hopes to change that with its new vintage campaign, which focuses on three pillar styles from the brand's past (and present, in a way): Rollnecks, Anoraks, and Barn Jackets. It's the sweaters I'm most excited about because the J.Crew Rollneck is an underrated icon — a style that defined an entire genre of dressing. It was early, enviable prep for the masses, done in an understated yet easy-to-spot kind of way, a combination that's kept J.Crew in business since 1983 when it switched from Popular Merchandise to its current name. (J.Crew is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.)
A limited stock of near-mint '80s and '90s Rollnecks will be available directly from J.Crew, through J.Crew Always, its resale market facilitated by ThredUp. More than a publicity play, this is a testament to the brand's history, because while its new products are pushing J.Crew back into the fold — I do love the Giant-Fit Chinos — it's the Rollneck that put the brand on the map in the first place. In fact, it came out before J.Crew even had a retail store.
"It encapsulated this low-key, not trying too hard, East Coast vibe," author Maggie Bullock, whose debut book, The Kingdom of Prep: The Inside Story of the Rise and (Near) Fall of J.Crew, was just published by HarperCollins imprint Dey Street Books, said in an interview on Good Morning America. "It's really hard, when you're trying to be cool, to look like you're not trying to be cool, and the J.Crew Rollneck really delivered that."
Now, Bullock argues, the easiest way to recapture shoppers is through its basics — basics like the Rollneck Sweater, even if these aren't new. (J.Crew sells a new version of its classic Rollneck Sweater, but not in nearly enough colors — just navy, white and pastel pink.)
"I think they're trying to go back to a place where it's really the button-down shirts, chinos, cashmere sweaters," she says, "the basics of a work to weekend wardrobe."
With this vintage drop, J.Crew fans can travel back in time and embrace what I'd argue is J.Crew's best design ever, just as it was when it first came out.
"The Rollneck sweater was so iconic during the '90s and I think a lot of people from that generation have a personal connection or memory tied to it," Brendon Babenzien, J.Crew’s Men’s Creative Director, tells Gear Patrol. "The quality of J.Crew is at its best with our vintage pieces – many of the original garments that were created decades ago are still stylistically relevant and have stood the test of time."
But even if you miss out, there are loads on resale sites like eBay, Depop and Grailed. Hell, if you ask nicely, I'd even consider selling mine, a navy number from the early 2000s.
Vintage J.Crew Rollneck Sweater