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The Crop Top: What? Where? Why? All The Essentials You Need To Know

March 2, 2024

What is a crop top? How did it come to be? What styles of crop top are there, and how do you wear them? Don’t worry, and look no further: we’ve done the research, and we’ve found the answers for you!”


Crop tops. Do you love them? Do you hate them? Do you know what they are?

Over the years, as fashion has developed and become more widespread and accessible, this style of tops has undergone many different transformations and eras. It’s a little difficult to bring to mind the entire history and essence of the crop top, but don’t worry: we’ve done the work for you. So without further ado, let’s take a deep dive into the world of the crop top!


What Is A Crop Top?

Cropped top - Melyssa Ford

Author: Timothy M. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0  via Wikimedia Commons

A crop top is traditionally defined as a short-sleeved or sleeveless piece of clothing worn on the torso, which has been  cut short so that it reveals the wearer’s stomach.


In modern times though, the description of a crop top has expanded and widened: they’re not just short ‘tank tops’ anymore. You can have cropped blouses, cropped flannels and even cropped jumpers! This style of top has not only become more widespread and more common, but more adaptable too. Celebrities have worn cropped tops to red-carpet events, people may wear them as part of their everyday casual wear, and men can also wear them too. There’s a crop top for everyone and anyone!

Where Did Crop They Come From?

Crop tops have a very interesting and diverse history. Though Western culture has only really embraced the crop top fully since around the 1960s, cropped clothing has existed long before that in places from the East. Let’s have a look at the history of the crop top!

Crop Tops Outside The West


the India collection at the International Exhibition (1872)

In Eastern countries, the weather tends to be warmer and so, the need for and practicality of wearing cropped clothing and cropped tops is greater. In India, a short top called a ‘choli’ is worn underneath a traditional sari, and this style has been around for centuries.


In places like Egypt, Asia and the Middle East, high tops have also been a key element of their styles over the years. In areas where belly dancing is practiced, it is common for the dancer to wear a garment that exposes their stomach. It’s actually this garment that actually introduced Western countries to the concept of cropped tops and shirts!


In 1893, belly dancers performed at the World’s Fair in Chigaco whilst wearing a two piece costume named a ‘bedlah’ that exposed the stomachs of the dancers. All of a sudden, Westerners were seeing this style of tops for the first time, and it set the wheels in motion…

The 1940s Crop Top

When World War II was underway in the 1940s, it had a huge knock-on effect on many things, including the availability of resources and materials. ‘Rationing’ was introduced to try help conserve resources, and one of the things that became rationed was fabric. As a result, clothing designs and styles had to figure out ways to use less fabric, and this opened a big window of opportunity for crop tops to make their first full Western debut.


Designers embraced the concept of cropped tops in full, and cut down t shirts became an iconic look of the 1940s. With a high collar and short sleeves, these types of tops were most often worn alongside high waisted midi skirts (high waisted jeans hadn’t quite made it onto the fashion scene yet!) to help create an hourglass figure. The effect was stylish and slick, and was perfect for the warmer summer evenings while still maintaining the chic classiness that the 1940s is renowned for.


Not everyone was pleased with the arrival of the crop top though, and a woman was fined in 1945 for wearing a shortened halter-top with shorts while in Central Park. Not fun!

The 1960s and 1970s Crop Top



The 1950s followed the example set by the 1940s and kept their crop tops relatively conservative and dressy, but this would change once the 1960s arrived. While the this kind of top still wasn’t hitting the main stage in terms of peak fashion trends, it became more popular within hippie and alternative cultures. Cropped peasant blouses and collared shirts tied or knotted in the front became popular (and we for one would love to see this style make a comeback!).


When the 1960s sexual revolution came into its own, cute crop tops became far more widespread. Big-name celebrities like Barbara Eden and Jane Birkin championed the look, and this helped this style of top to finally begin having its moment in the fashion sun.

The 1980s Crop Top

80s Cropped Tee Shirt

80s Cropped Tee Shirt

Aaaah, the 1980s. Aerobics, punk, disco and neon: what more do you need? Well; crop tops.


The 1980s crop top look took on a completely different direction to its predecessor. All of a sudden, the ‘au natural’ hippie knotted shirt became neon cut down sweaters layered over bright leotards, or shortened t-shirts for gym wear. If you were a punk, you might have found yourself wearing short white tank tops paired with black jeans, biker boots and a leather jacket. Crop tops became more versatile and a lot more widespread: you’d find it difficult to watch a music video without at least one cut down t-shirt or jumper making a cameo! Long sleeve tops like the shortened micro jumper became more common, and in general the 1980s just really loved shortened tops. Who can blame them?


The 1990s Crop Top

The 1990s brought with them not only an iconic decade of pop culture and media, but a whole new take on cut down clothing. I mean, who else championed crop tops better than Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears? At each red carpet event, at least one of these ladies would usually be sporting a short top, and for good reason. The 1990s crop top was even more versatile than the 1980s crop top (and we didn’t really think that was even possible!). Movies like ‘Clueless’ introduced the concept of preppy  shortened sweaters and blazers, and short tank tops or t-shirts paired with low-rise jeans became a quintessential 1990s duo.

The 2010 (And Onwards) Crop Top

The early 2000s marked a decline in crop top couture, with  shortened clothing almost completely falling off the radar (hey, we all make mistakes, right?). Thankfully, the shortened top didn’t stay down for long and as such, has made a steady comeback over the past few years and fashion seasons. Short tops with high waisted jeans and skirts are definitely on-trend right now, which is a nice throwback to the 1940s and 1950s. In addition, these tops have become more and more popular as options for classy red carpet outfits: celebrities like Jennifer Lopez have been spotted pairing long sleeve cropped tops with flowing skirts or A-line trousers. Gorgeous!


There’s been a little bit of an increase in men wearing  this style of top in recent years; an homage to Johnny Depp’s iconic crop top looks from the 1990s. Hopefully this will only increase with time, as everyone deserves a chance to experience the wonderful word of the crop top!</p>

How To Style A Crop Top

Styling this kind of top is a personal experience, with each wearer putting their own spin on it. Maybe you prefer a more casual look, or perhaps your style is grungier than most: either way, there’s definitely a versatile top look for you.


Crop_top - Stomach

Author: Jorge Mir, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

If you love the idea of crop tops but don’t love the idea of showing off much skin, fear not: minimal skin short tops are here to help! Pairing a flowing, voluminous blouse short top with a pair of high-waisted jeans or a skirt gives you the fun of a crop top without the bare skin commitment. A lace  cut down top with a billowing skirt can give you the ultimate stylish experience while still keeping you covered too.


Nothing says understated, casual grunge like white crop t shirts or tank tops, black jeans, biker boots, leather jackets and chunky black belt. Not only is this look simple and easy to achieve, it’s timeless too! Play around with some hair gel and hairspray to get that ‘just out of bed’ tousled hair look, and you’re ready to go.


Style and color blocking is one of the quickest, easiest ways to make a simple yet bold statement with any outfit. Pairing a brightly colored crop top with a matching set of trousers or a skirt is both eye-catching and stylish, and with the broad variety of crop tops available, you’re bound to find one in a color that you like. If you really want to be striking, matching a funky printed short top with slacks/a skirt of the same funky print is daring, fun, and fashionable. Give it a go!


We said earlier that celebrities have been spotted rocking the glamorous crop top look on the red carpet, and we stand by it still. These tops don’t have to just be grungey, casual or sportswear: they can be classy too. A lace crop top is always refined, especially when paired with a flowing skirt. A long sleeve short top with draping cuffs is mysterious and elegant, and a gauzy shirt-style cropped blouse paired with a matching gauze skirt or trousers will make you feel like royalty. And if none of these are catching your interest, consider just a plain simple black short top: a piece that is effortlessly timeless and classy.


So, that brings us to the end of our deep-dive into the world of crop tops. Which era do you prefer and is your favourite? How do you prefer to style your own personal garment?


We hope you’ve found this article to be as interesting to read as we did to research it. I think we’ve all learned that no matter our personal style, preferences, or personality, there’s a crop top for each and every one of us. Every decade has had something new to offer in terms of cropped clothing style, and who knows what will be next!


One thing is for sure, though: we’re looking forward to finding out.