Which isn’t to dismiss the proportion discussion, either—it’s arguably the most foundational one in menswear. It’s the reason why, for example, Macaulay Alves started cutting his shirts and why, today, virtually every shirt he owns—tee or button-up—is cropped. Standing at “a whopping 5’5”,” he says shirts typically looked off, and he wanted to achieve that golden ratio of menswear: the rule of thirds, where the top comprises one-third of an outfit while the pants make up the remaining two-thirds. Alves, who lives in Massachusetts and works in real estate finance, recalls cutting that first shirt—a Blondie T-shirt he bought on Amazon—and immediately feeling like he unlocked something, even if that first try was, in retrospect, a bit too short. (A word of advice: your tee will likely curl up a bit over time and with washing, so consider keeping it a half-inch or so longer than you think.) He’s since ditched the scissors and invested in a key tool from the modern handbook of cropped T-shirts: a rotary fabric cutter.
“Oh, it’s definitely changed the way I dress,” admits Alves, who says he now wears more mid-waisted pants that sit slightly above the hip and toward the natural waist. “I wouldn’t put that much effort in before, because nothing would look that great on me and I’d get discouraged. So cropping my shirts has definitely given me courage to dress better.” Alves’ TikTok feed is now filled with outfit inspiration, each one with a shirt that hits beautifully at the waist.
And then there’s the elephant in the room: as far as garments go, cropped T-shirts are on the far end of the horny spectrum. Consider them the summertime equivalent of fall’s beloved gray sweatpants—they are not overt in their thirst-trappery, but a coy rejoinder. They are a more advanced version of the ribbed white tank top, and come complete with a host of hot cultural references, like Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or a young Johnny Depp in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Moreover, they allow the wearer to embrace looking sexy without looking like you’re begging for attention (i.e. just walking around shirtless). While an exposed midriff is blatant in its request for onlookers to, quite literally, navel gaze, this breed of cropped T-shirts are a slyer, friskier provocation. They merely hint at a glimpse of skin, those missing two inches of fabric promising a glance at that much-loved but less-seen erogenous zone, the lower stomach. With this promising to be summer of the male thirst trap (see: J.Lo’s Father’s Day Instagram post of a shirtless Ben Affleck, Maluma’s prideful post-body transformation posts, Throwing Fits’ declaration of a Slut Boy Summer) a cropped shirt is a way for guys to coquettishly ask for attention, not beg for it.
“I think it’s great. The midriff is hot, it’s great to show it off,” says Ian Bradley, a stylist and noted crop top-wearer. “And I love that straight guys are doing it. We should all liberate our bodies.”
Of course there are hints of backlash brewing, as Abou Ammo noted in our conversation. Some argue the crops are ruining clothes for a fleeting trend, soon to be filling vintage shops with chopped-up tees. Others cry queerbaiting, while still more say that, in an attempt to create an individual look, now everyone just … looks the same. Those discussions, valid or not, are part of just existing online in 2023.
“For me, it just looks better,” says Jacob Jordan, whose TikTok page is filled with cropped T-shirts—endorsing their appeal both all winter long and with baggy jorts. “I tend to do mine a little shorter than the average guy. Some may assume things about me because of it, but I don’t care.” Jordan notes that there’s also the practical matter in warmer months: “The updraft yo