The Quarter Zip Sweater Is Coming Out of Retirement

Q: What layer has the simplicity of a crewneck, the put-together vibes of a polo, and the chill of a cardigan? A: The quarter zip sweater. Particularly now that it—and its close pals, the half-zip and full-zip sweater—have gone through some image rehab.

Growing up, I viewed quarter zip sweaters as something that came free of charge with a mortgage and a quiet suburban desperation. They seemed to pair best with frumpy jeans and “comfort shoes” or in place of a suit jacket for a business casual power lunch in the financial district. It was the layer of choice for chilly dads and corporate dweebs—two very unlikely sources for fashion inspiration. Key word: “was.”

Because in 2024, the once-stodgy quarter zip sweater has reinvented itself. It’s infiltrated certified cool labels like Our Legacy, Mfpen, and Studio Nicholson. All of a sudden the zip sweater is everywhere, from downtown clubs to runway shows to, yes, the GQ offices.

So how did a knit that was once so aggressively dad-coded make its way into the closets of the tastemakers and creatives? You could point the finger at a few fashion trends: the rise of slightly ironic corporate-core (now that we’re all often working from home), the old-money inspirations behind the whole stealth-wealth Succession trend, and the logical extensions of what happens when dad sneakers and dad jeans and ’90s dad fits get their moment in the spotlight. Maybe we’re cosplaying as desk jockeys with serious financial portfolios or just pining for an early retirement.

Or maybe we’re realizing that the zip sweater—full-zip or fractional, take your pick—can be more than just functional. Zipped to the neck it’s a sporty sort of turtleneck; an opened quarter-zip is a polo with teeth (literal and metaphorical). And it’s not a coincidence that the recent track jacket bump has led us to its grown-up friend, the full-zip sweater.

Let’s talk brass tacks. The coolest zip sweaters are made of a good wool or thick cotton yarn and have a full collar for maximum styling options. The fit’s a little more chill than your investment banker bro’s Brooks Brother zip sweater: bigger, but slightly cropped, so they’ll work as well with a T-shirt and baggy jeans as they will under a short jacket and airy dress pants. They’re endlessly layerable and infinitely flexible, which is all the more reason to add one into your repertoire.

I pulled together a few great zip sweaters (of all fractions) as much for my benefit as yours. Because it’s time to join the zip sweater contingent, even if I’m nowhere near retirement.

Inis Meǎin

Alpaca, Merino Wool, Cashmere and Silk-Blend Half-Zip Sweater


Wool and Cotton-Blend Half-Ziip Sweater

Banana Republic

“Raoul” Italian Merino Sweater


Half Zip Mock Neck Sweater

L.L. Bean

Organic Cotton Waffle Sweater

Maison Margiela

Ribbed Cotton and Wool-Blend Zip-Up Cardigan

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