It is often the case that, as summer approaches and temperatures rise, so do the hemlines. As men have embraced shorter shorts over the past few years, some have also started wearing shorter shirts—specifically, crop tops.
Although men have been known to wear a tummy tuck when playing sports or going to the beach, recently crop tops can also be seen on men in shops and bars. The most modest styles hit the waistline, but many are cropped just short enough to expose the navel. Some wearers make their own by taking scissors for old shirts; Others buy them off the shelves, often in the women’s departments of stores.
David Mendoza, 29, a New York-based COO, has crop tops in varying lengths. Deciding on any outfit, he said, often comes down to the occasion.
“If I were to wear one just to go out casually, a crop top would be medium to long,” said Mr. Mendoza. If he’s going out with friends, or if he wants a crop top to be the focus of an outfit, he’ll choose one that shows more skin.
At first, Mr. Mendoza would cut the shirts himself. But as he started wearing more cropped tops, he discovered that stores including H&M and Rainbow sold women’s fashions that fit his preferred size. He said Rainbow has “sizzier, more open crop tops that are cut even shorter.”
Mr. Mendoza started wearing crop tops about two years ago, he says, after noticing that some of the male fitness influencers he followed on Instagram were wearing them to exercise. “I was like, ‘Wow, she looks really good, and she looks so natural,'” he said.
But just recently, when Mr. Mendoza accidentally packed a workout crop top, he wore one to the gym. “I was very shy about it,” he said.
To boost his confidence, Mr. Mendoza posted a photo to Instagram that showed him wearing the T-shirt with the caption, “Let’s normalize crop tops for the gym.” Then, he said, “I started getting friends posting themselves in a gym shorts and tagging me.”
Ethan Garland, 25, a Chicago photographer and videographer, said he also gets rave reviews for his crop tops. Since he started wearing the shirts last year, he said, they have become “kind of like a uniform” for him.
Mr. Garland said he’s drawn to crop tops because they make his legs look longer. As a man, he added, “If you’re willing to do something a little bit over the norm, something over the bottom line, people usually appreciate it and notice it.”
Some men say that attracting attention can be unwanted. Joseph Damian, 22, a content creator in Fresno, California, said he started adding T-shirts to his wardrobe about three years ago and has been wearing them in public for about a year and a half. “People have been looking at me weird because I’m wearing one,” he said.
However, the negative attention didn’t stop him, and it did Posting videos on TikTok showing other guys how to make and design their own costumes.
“I feel like the way I actually control myself is by being very self-assured,” Mr. Damien said.
Ben Barry, dean of fashion and assistant professor of equity and inclusion at Parsons School of Design in New York, said crop tops have emerged as a menswear trend before.
He noted that in the 1980s they were briefly “the epitome of American straight manhood in football” after several players began ripping off their jerseys to expose their stomachs. He added that Johnny Depp wore a crop top as Glenn Lantz in the 1984 movie “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and Will Smith later wore a crop top in the TV show “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”
Cody James, 27, who works in advertising in New York, said he grew up watching movies and TV shows from the 1980s and 1990s. He said he started wearing crop tops about a year ago, partly influenced by the styles he saw on screen when he was younger.
Mr. James said that about 70 percent of the shirts he owns are cropped. He added that most of the blows were below his navel, though some were short enough to show.
He said, “My girlfriend always makes fun of me because sometimes she just wants to wear a T-shirt to bedtime, but they’re all crop tops.”
Professor Barry said men’s crop tops come at a time of “changing gender dynamics” and “opening up in male fashion to really embrace a variety of aesthetics”. This trend is relatively affordable for most men, he added, requiring only a T-shirt and scissors.
Professor Barry said that for some men, crop tops can be more than just a fashion statement. He said he saw crop tops embraced by men with larger bodies “as a way to kind of assert their bodies and challenge the stigmas against their bodies in public.”
Xander Torres, 30, a college student and bartender in Vancouver, Washington, said he started making his own last summer by cutting the bottoms of some of his old favorites. “It seemed like everyone was harvesting all their stuff, and I kind of fell in that direction,” he said.
But as he tried to cut more of his shirts, Mr. Torres said he “went a little overboard,” cutting some very short and others on a diagonal.
“My new rule of thumb is that if it’s a classic single-stitch shirt, maybe just tuck it in,” he said.