The early history of the crop top intersects with cultural views towards the midriff, starting with the performance of "Little Egypt" at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Although the crop top started gaining prominence in the fashion industry during the 1930s and 1940s — the latter in particular due to fabric rationing in World War II — it was largely confined to swimwear at the time. It was not until the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s that it started to achieve widespread acceptance, worn by celebrities such as Barbara Eden and Jane Birkin. A variant style, the tied-up top or knotted shirt, also started appearing in 1940s fashion and spread in popularity during the 1960s.
In the 1980s, cutoff crop tops became more common as part of the aerobics craze and as a result of the popularity of the movie Flashdance. Singer Madonna wore a mesh crop top in her music video for the song "Lucky Star". In the 2010s, the crop top experienced a revival due to the popularity of 1990s retro fashion.
The protective gear of American football with no shirt resembles a crop top. Eventually cropped jerseys became available which carried over to several 1980s broadcasts. Men also started to wear crop tops regardless of sport. Acceptance for men wearing no shirt could be seen to eliminate the need for a crop top. Various crop tops have been worn by rappers as well as American football athletes. However, in 2015 the NCAA has increased restrictions on men wearing crop tops, which also includes rolling up longer jerseys, giving no reason for the change.
Since the mid-2010s, the male crop top has seen a major resurgence in popularity, including prominent celebrity figures such as footballer Ezekiel Elliott, rapper Kid Cudi, rock star Josh Kiszka, and actors Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron.
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