Is The Cropped Tank Top For Men Really A Thing?

It’s either been very, very hot, or a guy’s navel is the next sizzling zone

By Jagkrit Suwanmethanon

For quite a while, photos (and videos too) have been circulating online, purportedly showing one Asian monarch going about his life in public in cropped singlets, on at least four different occasions. These were not regular singlets, rolled up to cool the navel on a hot day, as some elderly men are still inclined to do. These were actually sleeveless tops hacked to extremely short lengths, covering the chest and little else of the upper body. It was probably no longer than 30 centimetre from the shoulder to the hem. Or, about the length of a mini skirt. Donald Trump’s tie is clearly longer.

Now, I am not one to judge or begrudge. These days, it is, of course, acceptable that a man can wear whatever he chooses—even a skirt, which is, frankly, not the least unusual. Fashion is no longer binary, the media keeps reminding us. Even monarchical style. But the said photos raised eye brows because in kingdoms across the world, subjects do expect the male—even female—members of royal families to dress in a conservative way. If not modestly, at least not in a manner that puts the torso out for show, like a belly dancer’s.

It seems that this monarch doesn’t concern himself with kingly style. No one I know could explain to me why he would be partial to so little fabric, except to say that he has “quirky” tastes. It is appreciable that a king does not adhere to the dictates of exalted convention, but such extremes are eye-brow-raising, even among the most liberal of any company. But it seems that this royal’s particular preference for cropped over crown isn’t unusual among some of males far away outside his court.

More cropped tops. Photos: (from left): Lazada, Asos, Lazada

By chance, I came across these very, very short tops on Lazada recently. Eleven eleven had drawn me into the black hole of discount shopping. I have no idea why Lazada thought I might be interested in an abbreviated lace vest that costs an unbelievable S$6, and gob them out as recommendation. It appeared under the category “Men’s T-Shirt”. Have things around me changed so much that ‘T’ is no longer of a shape I recognise? For a quick moment, I thought I had landed on a La Senza store. Or, viewing a Kardashian wardrobe. But the musculature before me was indisputably masculine. Could it be the narrow horizontal strip of lacy fabric that threw me off?

The accompanying description called it a “clubwear top”. I may be deprived of any semblance of nightlife for the past nine months, but I don’t think the lack of alcohol and a relentless beat is making me forget what dressing for the club was like. Perhaps things have changed during my social snooze. But then, I remember one king. And the past, which stretched back to around 1992, when Marky Mark—now, mostly Mark Wahlberg—wore an abbreviated black tank top in a Calvin Klein ad that also featured Kate Moss, held close to the then-rapper. Mr Wahlberg’s cropped piece didn’t look shocking then, as he wore a lot less in the same series, shot by Herb Ritts. Today, that top would be considered long!

I also remember, just two years ago, online retailer ASOS had availed a white cropped singlet (bottom photo, middle) for sale, much to the chagrin of Netizens. It was described as “reclaimed vintage inspired extreme cropped vest”. At least, ASOS didn’t mince words: Any top for men that ends just below the nipple is not only extreme, it’s radical. I always wonder why guys in the gym succumb to stringy singlets with armholes that open to the hips. Much of the body is exposed. One need not look hard at all. There must be something really pleasurable about clothing the body so minimally. When will it be that even the chest, too, won’t deserve cover? Unsurprisingly, Lazada has something for that look as well: it’s called a harness.

Photo: (top) Vgobuy/