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Can I Wear Quarter-Zipper Long-Sleeved Athletic Shirt with Trousers or Dress Pants?

While it is not really recommended to wear a quarter-zipper athletic shirt with trousers or dress pants, you can get away with this combo by sporting it as a smart casual outfit. Check out our tips on how to pull this look off.

Couple wearing quarter zipped athletic shirt against yellow backdrop.

When someone asked me about quarter zippered athletic shirts and trousers or dress pants, I immediately thought of the fleece type. If it looks like a sports jersey, I would say do not wear it with dress pants.

Otherwise, it does complete your “smart casual” outfit. Materials, textures and colors all come into play when choosing the right quarter zippered pullover shirt.

What is a Quarter-Zippered Shirt?

Gildan Men's Fleece Quarter-SweatshirtZip Cadet Collar -Sweatshirt Style G18800, Russet, Small

I had to ask myself that question. At first, I was thinking more like one of those baseball T’s that was popular in the 1980s within the heavy metal crowd. However, I did more research and found ones made of other materials besides cotton or polyester.

It’s a pullover shirt that has just long enough of a zipper on it to make it easy to fit your head through. I think it’s not quite as handy as a zip-down shirt or sweater, but it’s better than one with a tight collar.

Pullover shirts in general are a reason to make sure you wait until after slipping it over you to decide to comb or style your hair, but I like the zipped ones better than the ones with no zipper.

The Fleece Pullover Version 1

Avalanche Women's Outdoors Midweight 1/4 Zip Mock Neck Soft Micro Fleece Pullover Sweatshirt Jacket With Zipper Pocket Ivory S

I’m not a huge fan of the fleece pullover in general. However, this one may barely make Casual Friday in the office, especially since it’s fitted and won’t appear too baggy in the correct size. Of course, when working at home, you can wear whatever you want.

I’d call this one acceptable for online video meetings or for nights out. It may work fine with some neutral-colored dress pants, such as beige, tan or navy ones. I like this one better than the softer cotton versions that collect lint balls after a while.

The Fleece Pullover Versions 2 and 3

Amazon Essentials Men's Quarter-Zip Polar Fleece Jacket, Golden Olive/Green Colorblock, X-Small

Concerning the above example, it’s one that looks worn out. Do you see what appears to be lint balls on it? It’s these and the ones that have a texture like a velour that I like the least with dress pants.

The loose-fitting ones look even worse than these types, in my opinion, unless you are using them as pajamas while working at home. In defense of fleece with trousers, however, a Lands’ End expert does say that “not every outfit has to be casual.”

The softer zipped pullovers feel more comfortable and probably do keep you warmer than ones made from finer thread. See this example:

Amazon Essentials Women's Quarter-Zip Polar Fleece Jacket Outerwear, -Black, X-Large

You might prefer a fine-knit pullover in the summer, however. I know I would. Thus, my bias toward the finer-knit pullovers provides comfort without appearing excessively athletic.

Finer-Knit Pullovers

Amazon Essentials Women's Long-Sleeve Lightweight Fleece Quarter-Zip Top, Coral, X-Small

To “fleece or not to fleece” probably has much to do with the weather. I’d prefer a lighter material in summer, and it’s possible to find quarter-zips made of breathable fabrics.

You can see the difference between the quarter-zippered shirts made from a finer knit than the fleece. They usually look more professional and fit into the “smart” or business casual dress code.

I call the fine-knit pullover a safe bet if you’re not sure what to wear to a work party that doesn’t require a complete suit. You can usually find this type made from polyesters, spandex, Lycra, nylon or other stretchy material.

When in doubt, choose the solid-colored quarter-zipped shirt instead of a print one if it’s an office event. Likewise, solids usually work best for any other occasion that calls for more than faded jeans and t-shirts.

Ribbed Sweaters

Runcati Mens Quarter Zip Up Sweaters Turtleneck Cable Knitted Pullover Slim Fit Ribbed Chunky Winter Twisted Sweaters Dark Grey

I like the vertical ribbed quarter-zipped tops instead of the “checked” ribbed. They look stylish both with jeans and with Khakis or other business casual outfits. My favorite is the black one, but I also think it looks professional and clean in navy blue or other dark shades when wearing with solid-colored dress pants for all genders.

Women could possibly wear ribbed pullovers with leggings in professional environments too, but it’s not that men can’t. In fact, tighter pants seem to be more popular as of 2021 for not just wearing them at the gym according to Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gallagher.

This maybe would end up becoming another trend for men who also wear quarter-zipped shirts in business casual settings. That’s one change from when I grew up, by the way. However, it could present new options for anyone identifying other than as female. 

Print Pullovers

Women's Casual Color Block Quarter Zip Sweatshirts Long Sleeve Tops Stand Neck Pullover with Pocket BlackWhite S

I’m shy about wearing most print patterns. However, this marled, fitted black sweater looks sophisticated enough for smart-casual dress. It would look especially exquisite with black dress pants, in my opinion.

The Coffee Brown or Maroon versions would probably work well with khakis, or if you’re brave, you could always try white pants. Navy blue, however, usually matches well with these of these colors though.

So Athletic Quarter Zips or No?

Close-up of man wearing quarter zipped athletic shirt.

Again, if it looks too much like a sports shirt, I would not recommend it for business or smart casual dress. It also may look tacky when wearing it out to a dance club or while fine dining. On the other hand, you could keep warm in most of the other ones, including select fleece print shirts, in most semiformal settings.