Male crop tops!

The title of a Humans of Tumblr video on June 21st:

(#1) From Sleepaway Camp (1983), Frank Trent Saladino Jr. (b. 1953), playing camp counselor Gene at a baseball game (in full costume: sleeveless crop top, short shorts, and tube socks)

What happened to the male crop top? Male crop tops were all the rage in the ’80s and ’90s [and a rhyming name was especially attractive]. Here are some of the quintessential male crop top moments worth remembering. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And Johnny Depp’s cropped jersey in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Here’s Bruce Jenner rockin’ the crop in Can’t Stop the Music. And Apollo Creed from the Rocky films just had to show off his goods. Cropped tank tops were popular as well. But as we all know, no male crop top was complete without short shorts and tube socks. As seen in this classic scene [a baseball game] from Sleepaway Camp [see the screen capture above].  Should we bring this trend back?

(Hat tip to Daniel MacKay in the Facebook lgbt group,  posting the link for its homoerotic pleasures — “for those among us who love boy bellies”.)

Some of them are are indeed the smooth bellies of sweet boys, beautiful young Apollo figures in a display of vulnerability, as here:


But some are the furry abs of hunky men, powerful Dionysius figures in a display of muscularity, as in #1, or in the Hot Jock variant, all hard abs and athleticism (in this case without the fur):


And some are the midriffs of men with more complex presentations of self, as here:

(#4) A model for Frankie Morello, on the runway in an impudent t-shirt that originally read F*** ME I’M FRANKIE MORELLO”S FRIEND, but has had the FRIEND cropped off, to display his midriff and up the cheekiness of the slogan

(Launched in 1999, the Frankie Morello brand, of fashion for both men and women, is a partnership between Maurizio Modica and Pierfrancesco Gigliotti.)

In an athletic context, such male garments are designed to allow freedom of movement while providing  fabric at the chest and underarms to soak up sweat; otherwise, they’re fashion statements, designed to show off the mid-section of their wearer as vulnerable or powerful (or, often, both). But what are these garments called?

I made a first stab at answering that question in a 5/1/10 posting “DEFINE “SCRIMMAGE T-SHIRT””, about this number:

(#5) (Like #1, both bottom-cropped and sleeveless.)

The sleeveless scrimmage tee in the … photo is (apparently) sometimes called a cropped scrimmage tee, which is clear though wordy. Unfortunately, cropped t-shirt is also used, reasonably enough, for bottomless scrimmage t-shirts. And scrimmage t-shirts are mostly (but not only) for men, though half t-shirts and midriff t-shirts (or midriff tops) seem to be very predominantly for women (or little girls).

Sleevelessness was the focus of that posting, but here we’re into bottom-cropping, which I touched on only briefly in that posting.

From the OED on crop/cropped top/tee (relevant nominals in the cites boldfaced):

adj.crop in OED3 (June 2005) = adj. cropped.

Etymology: Either < crop v.or shortened < cropped adj.[by t/d-deletion]. Esp. in crop top.

1957 Newark (Ohio) Advocate & Amer. Tribune 28 Feb. 32/1 (advt.) Look for softer box jackets..and short crop jackets.

1971 News Jrnl. (Mansfield, Ohio29 Apr. 33/1 (caption) Crocheted crop-top is a great look for today.

1982 Washington Post 20 May c5/1 Baggy sweat pants and shapeless tops have turned into minis, crop pants,..harem pants and shorts.

1990 California Apr. 74 A sequined crop top makes a sparkling swimsuit cover-up.

1995 Kay’s Catal. Autumn–Winter 4/1 Latest mohair mix crop sweater with front cable design.

2001 B. Hatch Internat. Gooseberry 226 She had..a tattoo on her belly, which you could see under her crop-top.

adj. cropped in OED2, draft addition Jan. 2005):

Of a garment: cut shorter than is usual. Cf. crop adj.

[1951 Ironwood (Mich.) Daily Globe 17 Aug. 8/4 The very full, new skirts are worn with short-cropped jackets.]

1954 News Jrnl. (Mansfield, Ohio23 Feb. 20/1 Party coats are being shown in full-length styles and in tiny, cropped jackets.

1970 Vogue Jan. 37/1 Pillar box cotton jersey for the jeans..and cropped T-shirt.

1982 N.Y. Times (Nexis) 21 Dec. b16 We are continuing the..short cropped tops, which we’re making even shorter.

1999 Daily Tel. 23 Sept. 5/2 Belts made from shells were slung around the hips of..cropped pants.

All the cites are about women’s wear.  In fact,  for a long time the only crop(ped) tops for men in my recollected experience (which might be faulty) were scrimmage shirts, worn by football players. Male crop tops for show appeared in the 1970s, as I recall, and became a thing in the 1980s. From Wikipedia:

A crop top (also cropped top, belly shirt, half shirt, midriff shirt, midriff top, tummy top, short shirt, and cutoff shirt) is a top, the lower part of which is high enough to expose the waist, navel, or some of the midriff. The cropping of a top in this manner is more popular among females but have since grown as a fashion trend for men as a comeback from the 80s

… The early history of the crop top intersects with cultural attitudes towards the [bare] midriff, starting with the performance of [“belly dancer”] “Little Egypt” at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Although the crop top started gaining prominence in the fashion industry during the 1930s and 1940s — the latter in particular due to fabric rationing in World War II — it was largely confined to beachwear at the time. It was not until the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s that it started to achieve widespread acceptance, promoted by celebrities such as Barbara Eden and Jane Birkin. A variant style, the tied top or knotted shirt, also started appearing in 1940s fashion and spread in popularity during the 1960s.

“A fashion trend for men as a comeback from the 80s”: yes, indeed. They’re back. Lots of buzz in the trendy media, and a whole bunch of Pinterest boards devoted to documenting the revival of men’s crop tops:  Here are five:

a NZ board
a UK board

And three YouTube (clickable) videos:

(#6) Twink fashionista Brando Moon on how to wear crop tops; lots of saucy poses

(#7) Connor Manning, a young, thin, gay man announcing a Boys in Crop Tops movement as a gender statement

(#8) Thomas in Action video (2017) on Men in Crop Tops as a fashion thing (Thomas is openly gay); he has a bunch of his t-shorts cropped:

on top of having 3 of my shirts cropped to the shitter I decided to get 3 others cropped to my [waist] line to give a “shirt is too short” effect and I was actually really happy with how they turned out and can’t wait to wear them over the coming months before winter.

I also find it really funny that Crop Tops for men were a thing years ago. [AZ: cut him some slack; he’s young] … obviously after seeing crop tops on men everywhere I did some research and it’s turns out superstars like Prince were wearing crop tops way back!!!

But yes, Prince in the 1980s. Two shots from his performances:


One Response to “Male crop tops!”

  1. Hot Jock Crop Top | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] top: a cropped t-shirt, exposing the male midriff, typically worn in certain sports contexts. From my 8/2/18 posting “Male crop tops!”, about those […]

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