Opinion

If we can’t handle ASOS' 'male crop top' what chance do we have of beating toxic masculinity?

Posted by
Jonnie Bayfield
Published
ASOS Men's Crop Top

News of ASOS’s brand new male crop, or ‘extreme cropped vest’ as they have termed it, has set the internet ablaze, and opened the flood gates for bigots and the old school, fashion police

For those of you not in the know, the online fashion giant ASOS has released a male crop top, that covers only the nipples, before letting the sweet, male tummy do its own work against the daily breeze. It can be purchased for little over £10 and is exactly the kind of alternative fashion challenge that we should all be confronted with daily in 2018, and not just in East London. 

Unsurprisingly, most of the outcry against the flimsy top has come exclusively from men, although some women have also aired some quite unsavoury opinions. 

Just as we thought society had climbed the hump of toxic masculinity, a male version of some fabric we already knew about has sent us back to the dark ages. What is it that this single, strip of allegedly outrageous fabric says about men in 2018?

Well, at a time when we are supposedly living our ‘Wokest Lives’ where anything goes and everyone is respected, it seems one little droptop can send us into a confused tailspin of old fashioned bile. Only yesterday we were all wittering enthusiastically about the importance of smashing gender norms and societal expectations, and then… BAM! 

Suddenly people are up in arms. Too much, too soon. Men wearing dresses? Fine! Men wearing make up? Great! Men loving whoever the hell they want? Absolutely fantastic! Exposing your male mid-rift in an airy crop top? SLOW DOWN A SECOND!

Androgyny has long been a lucrative lure of the fashion industry;  the boyfriend shirt is now a Topshop staple, and the vintage, hipster bubble is practically fuelled by oversized, non-binary jumpers. This year’s Love Island was plagued by castrating male leggings, which have only recently become widely accepted. When I first wore skinny jeans as a teen, their tightness was still a point of ridicule and homophobic slurs

Male clothes have been worn wholesale by women for quite some time but it seems we are still not entirely comfortable with the reverse. The uber sexualised female form is inherently linked with fitted, tight clothes, that reveal titillating flesh, and yet, the concept of a man baring all below the nipple line seems to have been a step too far for the mainstream media.  

Lest we forget that for years the female crop top was also a centre of disdain for more conservative, prudish, sections of society. Hitting the critical mass of American influence during the mid 90’s, along with a Lara Croft lad-ette shift in feminism, the crop top became the unlikely symbol of a new, defrilled attitude to female gender norms, with Sporty spice Mel C perhaps throned as the figurehead of the change. And before that? Men were wearing them anyway. Just watch The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

The ASOS male crop top is less an appropriation of female clothing and more a version of something I saw throughout my youth playing football, where the pubescent alpha dogs would curl their t-shirt in on itself until their stomach was revealed, like some kind of panting, puffed up chimpanzee. Back then it was power play, and peacocking, but today it is simply something some bright spark at ASOS has keenly monetised, a nostalgic fashion trend direct from the playground. Who knows? Eventually, they might start flogging sweatshirt goalposts and peanutted school ties too. 

Besides all this, the male crop top and it’s ensuing media storm are of little consequence. It isn’t a big deal. It’s just vest that is slightly shorter than the previous vests that came before it. 

Wear what you want, let your abdominals feel the cool breeze and be happy! Or, at the very least, be open minded enough to accept the joy that other people derive from having deliciously chilled abs.

Whether you’ll wear the ‘Extreme cropped vest’ doesn’t matter. What does matter is the freedom to look, dress and be whatever you want to be and equally, to not lose your minds when other people exercise exactly that freedom.

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Jonnie Bayfield

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