A great sweatshirt is basically the paradigm of comfort, but it doesn’t have to be relegated to lazy Sundays and post-sweat sessions. The newest cropped versions are neither frumpy nor boxy. Designers from Rodarte to Kenzo to Alexander Wang have turned out ultra-cool versions with abbreviated lengths—and that means tons of styling potential.
“The cropped sweatshirt is a versatile piece that can be easily styled pre- or post-workout,” explains Dallas-based stylist Diamond Mahone, who co-founded styling collective The CLAD Life. Mahone points to Jennifer Beals’ cropped sweatshirt in Flashdance as an example of the silhouette’s staying power. “The effortlessness of the cut-off, one-shoulder styling made such an impression that designers still reference the look today,” she says.
Here, 7 cool crops—plus stylist-approved ideas to make these sweatshirts more *fashion.*
Start with next-level basics
The sportier piece has fully been embraced and fancified on the runway. “I love how Raf Simons added the crop sweatshirt into Calvin Klein’s collections,” Mahone notes. “I think whether he’s designing for his own line or Calvin, the sweatshirt is a staple that he’s perfected: I love the elevated fabric and smaller detailed design aesthetics he used to transform a basic.” Case in point? This sleek, minimalist black crewneck take on the trend.
Pair color-blocking with luxe texture
Similarly, this Fila banded colorblocked sweatshirt might seem like a super-sporty piece, but with a bit of savvy styling, it works well for swishier, after-hours occasions. “This would be a great way to play up a leather legging,” says celebrity stylist Jason Bolden, whose client roster includes Yara Shahidi and Taraji P. Henson. Or, go the vegan route with a leather-esque liquid legging or a plush, velvet style.
Pay attention to volume
For further proof of the cropped style’s dressier potential, consider Rodarte’s embroidered voluminous pullover complete with dramatically proportioned sleeves. “This sweatshirt would be great with a proper trouser,” Bolden says. For a pair that’s equally (and stealthily) as comfy as the top, consider Aella’s various silhouettes of fancy-ish pants that feel like leggings, or Everlane’s elastic-waist equipped style.
Go for the high-low
The versatility factor here is huge: The same piece in a sporty light gray hue can work for a nighttime getup or a buttoned-up work look with equal aplomb. (Yes, really.) “Pair a cropped, athletic gray sweatshirt with a evening skirt, or layer it underneath a suit to give it more of a relaxed feel,” Mahone says.
Embrace the coziness
Clearly, there are some clever ways to obscure the casualness of a sweatshirt. But sometimes, the best part of a comfy piece is simply reveling in its coziness, right? Opt for a flared-sleeve velvet-trimmed sweatshirt (above) for a kombucha date with pals, no skirting or suiting needed. “I love this look for a casual hang with your friends, paired with a black boyfriend jean,” Bolden says. Choose denim with a belted, paper-bag silhouette for a bit of definition at the waist or a lightly distressed, slimmer style.
Another low-key styling possibility: a lace-up, soft pink iteration of the trend for an afternoon shopping stint, toughened up slightly: “This piece is a great way to play with army cargo shorts,” Bolden suggests. The cropped hoodie also comes in handy while chilling poolside on a family vacation. A sporty logo pullover makes for a great twist on a cover-up at the pool, Bolden says. (As for the pool-ready underpinning, opt for an ultra-versatile LBD of swimwear, AKA the perfect black one-piece, or one of these on-trend suits.)
When all else fails, grab a dress
Or, use a shrunken zip-up hoodie for yet another spin on a ’90s throwback staple. “I love to place hoodies like this over slip dresses to edge it up,” Bolden says. Another cool option: a nude crewneck sweatshirt perfectly suited for a mellow meditation session. Opt for a simple, pared-down look with this style. “It’s the perfect sweatshirt to rock with skinny jeans,” Bolden says. Your go-to black leggings can certainly stand in for jeans if you want to up the flexibility factor.
Now, you’ve got plenty of brilliant reasons to wear a sweatshirt for nearly every occasion. And isn’t that the athleisure-fueled dream?