A Very Important Cultural History of Cute Boys in Menswear Crop Tops

There is something brewing this fashion season. It’s silly, it’s sexy and it’s a bit subversive. We’ve seen it at Prada with leggy boys in granny-patterned skorts and we’ve seen it at Fendi, with a handful of short-sleeved blazers that were also navel-cut. Cute boys in crop tops! Shorts-shorts! Clothes that speak of a summer of frivolity, playfulness and reflection on the blue sky. Or maybe no thought at all – “break the codes and be free whenever you want”, as Silvia Venturini Fendi explained, after having a series of pieces from her collection guillotined.

Over the past 40 years, bare-bellied fashions have morphed in and out of menswear, laden with all the cultural baggage of the times. Crop tops in particular have gone from an American sports staple to a pride parade standard, and now they seem to be making their way back into the mainstream via Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, and Lil Nas X. Speaking of a so -calling Hot Vaxx summer on the horizon – a nirvana of libidinous pleasures where the only entry requirements are a five-inch seam and a double-stamped vaccination card – it would make sense if the designers wanted to offer a bit of skin.

In pop culture, belly-flashing tops have always been about more than just feeling the wind beneath your wings. Many are hailing Fendi’s crop tops as embracing a moment of gender fluidity in menswear, or at least, gender fucking. And, historically, there is some truth in that. While once stereotypically hyper-masculine, post-AIDS crop tops became heavily coded into femmephobia. So splice that with a suit jacket, the uniform of the patriarchy, it’s at least a little transgressive. Whether it’s sexy or subversive, below we do the really hard work and take a closer look at the cultural history of cute boys in crop tops.