The half-zip pullover sweater may have started out as a preppy staple, but its versatility and ease have made it one of the most useful pieces in every modern man’s wardrobe. Fabrics have evolved as well, with designs available in every fabric imaginable. Half-zips are no longer just your average sweaters for men. From the dorm room to the board room, they have found a place in almost every level of formality and fashion subset.
The only problem is that there are so many variations available that it can get difficult to know you’re getting the best half zip for your needs. That’s why we put together this guide to the various styles and what to look for when you’re buying, starting with the name.
Half-Zip vs. Quarter-Zip
You’ll see half-zip and quarter-zip used almost interchangeably, which can get confusing. Generally speaking, a quarter-zip will unzip to just below the neckline while a half-zip drops a few more inches to the upper chest. This isn’t a concrete rule, however, as brands will use either term for varying zipper lengths. The rest of the variations really come down to the fit and fabric that match the look and activity you’re going for.
The Quintessential Classic
Polo Estate-Rib Quarter-Zip Pullover
If there is a single brand associated with the half-zip pullover sweater, it is Polo. In the 1970s, Ralph Lauren took the style from ivy campuses and country clubs and introduced it into mainstream fashion. Now his brands offer countless variations in fabric, fit, and color, but the quintessential classic example remains the Polo Quarter-Zip Pullover. There are plenty of color options, but navy blue is the best place to start. Pair it with shorts and a comfy polo shirt in warmer weather or a stylish oxford shirt and jeans in colder weather. Think of it as an extra layer that keeps an outfit at the same level of formality, similar to a solid V-neck sweater.
The Lightweight Casual
Vineyard Vines Sankaty Performance Quarter-Zip
Half-zip sweatshirts were an early staple of the athleisure movement. After the half-zip design was produced in performance fabrics for sports like golf, tennis, and running, it quickly transitioned to leisurewear. The prototypical modern athleisure variation of the half-zip comes from Vineyard Vines. Their Sankaty Performance Quarter-Zip is built for weekend chores or just lounging around the house. It’s also a WFH staple.
The Athletic Original
Colosseum Tortugas Logo Quarter-Zip
Half-zip sweaters first gained popularity on college campuses in the mid-twentieth century. Today they retain their connection to college life in the form of athletic gear. Whether you’re representing your team or not, halfway-zip sweatshirts are a nod to the style’s origin. They come in cotton or cotton blends, which were the original athleisure materials before the word even existed. These sporty half-zips work with a streetwear vibe, a night-in-on-the-couch vibe, or an I’m-actually-playing-sports vibe.
The Cashmere Splurge
Loro Piana Roadster Quarter-Zip
In an evolutionary divergent path from athleisure, half-zip sweaters also became a part of the casual luxury style. Higher-end brands took the wool and cotton design and started making it out of cashmere. Some of the finest cashmere sweaters in the world come from Loro Piana, so their Roadster Quarter-Zip sweater is probably the most luxurious half zip sweater you can buy. This is a preferred look for investment bankers and tech executives. It’s a sweater that says, "I can afford a nice suit, but I can also afford to dress comfortably on the job."
The Statement Piece
Faherty B. Yellowtail X Sherpa Pullover
There really is no limit to what you can do with the quarter-zip men's pullover design. Brands have experimented with fabrics, colors, and textures across the board. Faherty created a sherpa pullover in a beautiful pattern designed by Native American artist Bethany Yellowtail. It can function in the traditional sweater role over a T-shirt or it can function as outerwear. That kind of versatility speaks to the range half-zip sweaters have grown to cover.
The half-zip sweater is often overlooked for its versatility and utility. The simple idea of adding a zipper to a mock turtleneck opened up the design to limitless variations. You can dress them up with a collared dress shirt and leather shoes or dress them down with joggers and sneakers. You can take a navy cotton quarter-zip and use it as the foundation for 100 different outfits, or you can get a tie-dyed fleece half-zip and use it as an accent piece to upgrade a simple outfit. Start with a couple of the options we've laid out and build your collection from there.
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