Crawford was born in Lubbock, Texas. His father, Chris, is a dermatologist, and his mother, Dana, is a teacher. He has a younger sister, former beauty queen Candice Crawford. Crawford was raised a Southern Baptist. While his father was a medical student, Chace lived in Bloomington, Minnesota, for four years, attending Ridgeview Elementary School. When his father completed his training, the family moved back to Texas and settled in Plano, a suburb of Dallas.
Crawford was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder as a child. During high school, he worked in an Abercrombie & Fitch store and modeled for Hollister. He graduated from Trinity Christian Academy in Addison, Texas, in 2003. Following his graduation, Crawford attended Pepperdine University, studying broadcast journalism and marketing, but dropped out after a few semesters to focus on his acting career. He temporarily worked as a car valet to make ends meet.
Crawford made his film debut in the 2006 supernatural horror-thriller The Covenant, as Tyler Simms. In March 2007, he landed the role of main character Nate Archibald on The CW\'s teen drama series Gossip Girl, making his television debut. In 2008, Crawford co-starred in the crime-thriller Loaded, and portrayed the lead role in the supernatural horror film The Haunting of Molly Hartley. The following year, he played English singer-songwriter Leona Lewis\' boyfriend in the video for her single "I Will Be", which was released in January 2009. That same year, Crawford was named "Summer\'s Hottest Bachelor" by People.