Jennifer Beals says she invented the collarless sweatshirt by accident. “When I was in high school, I had a favorite sweatshirt that had remained in the dryer for too long, so the hole for my head was too small, I couldn’t get my head through,” she recalled in a 2011 interview. “So I cut around the hole. I wore it to one of the auditions, and they liked it.”
The torn garment became a fashion must-have for women, who often wore it with one shoulder exposed, a la Beals. You couldn’t go to a gym without seeing women dressed like Beals with ripped-collar sweatshirts and leggings – probably doing aerobic exercises to the sounds of Michael Sembello’s “Maniac,” from the Flashdance soundtrack, to boot. Soon, the off-the-shoulder look expanded to everyday-wear,(some boutiques would rip your T-shirt collar for you for a small fee), suitable for secretaries and teenage girls. The look was a precursor to the layered, punk-ish, artfully-ragged thrift shop look soon to be popularized by Cyndi Lauper and Madonna.