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A very important cultural history of cute boys in crop tops

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With Fendi and Prada both sending out bellybutton-baring looks for SS22, we look back at some of the moments the crop top has cropped up in pop culture

There is something brewing this fashion season. It’s silly, it’s sexy, and it’s ever so slightly subversive. We saw it at Prada with leggy boys in granny pattern skorts and we saw it at Fendi, with a smattering of short-sleeved blazers which had been sliced at the navel, too. Cute boys in crop tops! Short-shorts! Clothes which speak to a summer of frivolity, mischievousness, and blue sky thinking. Or perhaps no thoughts at all – “breaking codes and being free whenever you want,” as Silvia Venturini Fendi explained, having put a series of pieces from her collection through a guillotine. 

Over the last 40 years, midriff-baring fashions have morphed in and out of menswear, loaded with all the cultural baggage of the time. Crop tops in particular have gone from an Americana sports staple to a Pride parade standard, and now, they are seemingly circling their way back into the mainstream via Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, and Lil Nas X. With talk of a so-called 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 that designers might want to offer up a little skin. 

Within pop culture, belly-brandishing 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-fuckery. And, historically, there is some truth to that. While they were once stereotypically hyper-masculine, post AIDS, crop tops became heavily coded in femmephobia. So to splice that with a suit jacket, the uniform of the patriarchy, is at least a little bit transgressive. Be it sexy or subversive, below, we do the really hard work, and take a deeper look at the cultural history of cute boys in crop tops.