A brief history: The Crop Top

Boys Love  Gay underwear and Crops Tops design by Project Claude

Fashion trends come and go, and crop tops are no exception. They weren’t in for a while, then they were again. Then a few fashion wheels fell off in the late 90s, until being fashion-conscious became OK for men again. Now, crop tops are back, and they’re staying put. Even if you’re an ‘ass’ or an ‘arms’ man, we can all appreciate a good crop top. Abs, a belly, or some well-placed tattoos. It makes you think about running your hands over his body and up what remains of his shirt while you’re kissing him. And who doesn’t love some underwear peaking out? Just come and do me in the mouth already. Though consistent in design, the popularity of this summer favourite has changed multiple over the decades.

A Feminine Touch

Crop tops emerged in the 1940s for women, and were influenced by garments worn by belly dancers in the late 1800s. They go waaaaaaaaaay back. The 1940s variant was designed to show off a woman’s stomach and accentuate her cleavage. The crop tops initial concept as a feminine garment has been the basis of its social perception as too ‘gay’. Fragile masculinity has only really been exposed in the last 10-15 years, which is why crop tops have transcended gender stereotypes and become prevalent again. But when did men start wearing them? Well, I was only a little surprised to learn that this steady fashion choice popular among queer men had its origins in sport. Hyper-masculinising athleticism seems to be a trend, and I have no complaints.

Francois Sagat

Athletes & Muscle Daddies

American-football is where it all began. Male sports are some of the most homo-erotic activities. Who doesn’t love thirty or so sweaty athletes running around and smashing in to each other. Then going to the locker room. Then getting undressed. Then showering together. Then all having sex together? Maybe not, but you can see how homoeroticism and sports are very closely linked. Anyway — the rough nature of the sport left jerseys damaged and torn and athletes abs exposed. Though initially accidental, the trend of ripped jerseys turned intentional in the early 80s. Players would cut off the bottom of their jerseys because they liked showing off their abs. It would also accentuate their already enlarged upper body from shoulder pads.

The midriff cut extended their silhouette and enhanced the size of their torso and muscles. It was a very masculine gesture, or look’

Vicki Karaminas, 2014

From here, the crop top expanded into the gym and bodybuilding community. Athletes were already sporting the look and would often train in the gym, while gyms were banning being shirtless. Such a sad time for all. My guess is too many injuries related to checking out muscle daddies. A crop top was the gym clothing alternative as it still counted as clothing while showing off the goods. The trend grew even more when sports companies tried to market their own versions, which formed the iconic hyper-masculine aerobics look.

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

From here, there was a decline in popularity due to changing social standards and, of course, fragile masculinity. These backward steps were the result of the UK’s Section 28 and America’s ‘Dont Ask, Don’t Tell’ in America in the late eighties and early nineties respectively. Acceptability of queer representation in any shape or form was up for debate again, and anything slightly homoerotic was demonised. A crop top was associated as a fashion choice, and being associated with fashion was seen as being gay. So straight men took them out of their closet while us homos were stocking up. Being too fashion conscious was a no-no for heterosexual men. A lot of the f*cked up fashion during the early 2000s makes a lot of sense now. Sorry ‘bout it.

Come Back Here!

This pause continued throughout the 2000s, until conversations on sexuality, gender expression, and fashion crossed paths again. Come 2011, when large brands like Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, and Prada featured their own runway variations of the crop top. These spilled over into the wardrobes of multiple famous hotties in the years to come, including Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, and Kid Cudi’s iconic 2014 Coachella appearance (he looks so good — it’s ridiculous). Once again, pop culture played a huge part in contemporary fashion trends, as crop tops have emerged into the light once more. More online stores and brands have been adding a crop top or two in to their collection in the last few years, even if it’s just for a specific audience (I’ll give you a hint: it’s us).

Fashion has evolved into focusing on self-expression as gender norms and expectations have undergone similar transformations in the last 10-15 years. We are now more inclined to wear what we want because it makes us feel good. Fortunately for us, crop tops are fashionable, breathable, and sexy as f*ck. W’ve got out own variations here, and have a range of designs, fabrics, and sizes. You’ll also see a healthy boost to the steady fashion trend each Pride season. More and more boys commit to trying out a crop top for the first time. I remember my first time – what’s yours?

If you like our article on crop tops, then be sure check out our other articles back in the Locker Room. Have a look – you know you want to.

Project Claude


“Crop tops are back in style”. Lovelyish, 15 July 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2020