The Crop Top: A Criticism

“wHeRe Is ThE rEsT oF yOuR sHiRt?”

The Crop Top: A Criticism

During the fierce push put up for crop top leniency in the school dress code at the beginning of the year, the strong support for these short shirts was made very clear. Students across all grades made similar arguments: the midriff shouldn’t be sexualized, the Charleston climate calls for less fabric, and so on. However, the most interesting of the arguments in the pro-crop-top agenda was the claim that these shirts are everywhere. Step inside any trendy store and this claim holds true; today’s teens simply cannot avoid the crop top. 

In previous years, young teens, like myself, had to dig for shirts that showed a sliver of their navel in the packed racks of H&M. Then the battle lied in convincing our mothers to spend more money on less shirt. If our argument wasn’t persuasive enough, we resorted to tying the fronts of our shirts in little knots secured with a spare hair tie. 

Everything I aspired to be in 2016

However, the situation today is quite the opposite. Every shirt in every store is lacking at least 5 inches from the bottom, not a problem for school dress codes when paired with the also trendy high-waisted pant, but inconvenient for those of us who are frankly over the crop top.

My grievances with this style of shirt are more in its abundance and unavoidability. Not every outfit I create requires my midriff as an accessory. This also makes my closet seem monotonous, as every shirt is the same cut and fit; short and tight. This problem will get exceedingly worse when the fashion powers that be decide that the crop top is out, thus causing a mass exodus of short shirts from closets. 

Until then, we are plagued by severe outfit deja vu. Since every shirt of every style is now prematurely lobbed off at the hem, even when girls seemingly own dozens of shirt-and-pant combos, every outfit they create is essentially the same. The dominance of the crop top in teen fashion is already having detrimental effects on wardrobes everywhere. Firstly, the crop top simply does not complement every outfit. When every shirt is structured so similarly, outfit silhouettes are limited. Though the trendy cut has been extended to every style of top, the versatility is still lacking.  I’d prefer to keep the crop top around, but I hate that it has brought on a singular trendy shape for outfits. The crop top works well with certain pieces, best worn with anything high-waisted. However, this leaves mid-rise and low-rise pants and skirts excluded, as a crop top in these instances would reveal too much skin for any casual situation.  I am by no means implying that the midriff is inherently sexual, merely that it’s school-wide ban forces the hands of female students dressing within the bounds of dress codes. Therein, my issue is not with the crop top itself, but with the limited ways it can be worn. 

The plague of crop tops is worse than fashion fads of past decades, as I believe the trend is worsened by the prevalence of the internet. The crop top is so commonplace that it is uncommon, even strange, to see any online teen icon sporting a “normal” length top. This trend is also perpetrated by Brandy Melville, the “it” store for today’s teens. This store is basically the blueprint for trendy fashion, meaning that dupes of their shirts are everywhere. Not only is the cropped cut of shirts identical everywhere, but the exact styles. Look anywhere online and you can find dozens of direct copies of Brandy Melville’s most popular designs, an entirely different can of worms. This aside, Brandy has expanded their inventory to provide a variety of longer top options in recent months, including, ironically, the “oversized” fit. Somewhat amusing that our tops are either hanging at our thighs or providing a bellybutton breeze.

The infamous “Zelly” top, one of Brandy’s most popular designs, currently sold out on their website

At the end of the day, the problem is not the teenagers buying tiny tops, but the companies who cater to one such trend in an overwhelming manner. With fast fashion faster than ever, it seems that once trendy stores get wind of a popular item, producing and selling it en masse is the only known business model. Rather than taking time to create unique and lasting designs, companies like H&M, Forever 21, and most notably Shein would rather copy a dozen trendy designs every other week. It just so happens that the most lasting of these fads is the crop top, the victim of my angry criticism.

I, of course, am not claiming to have mastered the ways of fashion, nor am I saying that the crop top needs to be immediately extinguished. I am merely making a case for other styles of shirts. The crop top will always be the ideal summer shirt, but I am currently attempting to make my closet a safe space for shirts of all lengths, finding this task near impossible due to the extremity of this trend. While I occasionally use the crop top to complete my outfits, I do not want to sport one daily, especially as the weather cools. Why is this article so fiery, you may ask? The final straw that released my anger is the presence of the cropped sweater. Cute and trendy, but as this week’s temperature dipped below 50 degrees, I asked myself why I owned a top that would warm only the top half of my torso. 

Thankfully, it looks like their may be a tad of light at the end of the tunnel. As summer turns to autumn, the ever-popular American Eagle appears to be making a drastic rebrand, reverting back to the vintage styles of their roots. A quick scroll through American Eagle’s fall collection will likely give many millennials flashbacks to their high school years, as some styles are almost identical to those sold over a decade ago. Nothing original, but also not a cropped sweater in sight.