Dudes in Cropped Tops—Putting the Omph! Back in the Omphalos

You know what we just don’t see enough of these days? The male navel.

Gone are the days of the cropped top fashion trend that dudes seriously embraced throughout the early and mid-80s. Sure, men will still go for a run sometimes with no shirt. But, we have reached an either-or place with respect to male skin up top. Not so in the 80s. 80s guys liked to split the difference. I mean, on the one hand they needed to keep it classy by having some sort of shirt on (remember, “no shoes, no shirt, no dice”); but on the other hand, they needed to offer the ladies a hint of their hirsute treasure trail. The answer: the cropped top, clothing’s mullet. There were two basic varieties: the cropped jersey and the cropped t-shirt.

The Cropped Jersey

Here are two gorgeous examples of the cropped jersey. The first features a very young Johnny Depp (gulp!) in his role in 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. The second is a more real life example of this entire look in action. This is what every football dude at your high school looked like. Am I right? That was certainly the case at mine. The hair, the top, the socks: there’s so much 80s happening here, and it is so choice. Bonus points if the cropped jersey was made of that see-through mesh that Scott Glenn wore in Urban Cowboy when he beat John Travolta up outside the diner.

    Johnny Depp in Nightmare on Elm Street in a cropped jersey

80s men's fashion trend: cropped tops

The Cropped T-Shirt

Sometimes the jersey just wasn’t what you needed: enter the t-shirt or sweatshirt crop top. Nothing could be easier than lopping off the bottom of a boring old regular-length t-shirt. Of course, in the 80s, you didn’t have to go the DIY route. You could buy the t-shirts already cropped (and therefore hemmed) at any number of stores in your local mall. Either way, it was the first step on your way to looking hawt.

80s men's fashion trend: cropped tops

Check out Wyatt from Weird Science in his top, a perfect complement to those righteous underpants. Or, how about Bill S. Preston, Esq. rocking the look in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in 1989 (frankly a little late to the game, but he makes it work).

Wyatt from Weird Science in a cropped t-shirt and very little else


Next, we have then-Bruce Jenner in what looks like a DIY crop from the 1980 movie Can’t Stop the Music.

Apollo Creed needed both the bottom cropped and the sleeveless look to adequately show off those arms.  I think it pairs quite nicely with his stache. Don’t you?

Apollo Creed in a cropped top

One of my personal favorites is from arguably the best horror movie of the 1980s, 1983’s Sleepaway Camp.  His top is tight to match his shorts.  Holy moly.


The Complete Package

Note that you didn’t just throw on a cropped top with any ole thing. There was a total package at play, and achieving the look needed help from the rest of your getup. Two additional fashion trends often went hand-in-hand with the cropped top: short shorts and striped tube socks. As if the top itself needed anything else to make it awesome, the three combined gives you the 80s fashion hat trick. This would be the easiest ever 80s party costume idea, but be sure to go all the way with the shorts and tube socks.

After careful re-examination, I think we can all agree that we need more male navel in the 21st century. Maybe without the tube socks this time around.

Author: Pia Sooney

Just a little obsessed with all things 80s, Pia still has her Swatch, her cassette tape collection, and her Converse Chucks. When not making friendship pins or listening to Depeche Mode, she runs a web design business.

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  1. I can’t recall how many crop tops (half shirts as we called it) I had during the ’80s but there were many.

    My home football jersey was my favorite. Actually, our home jerseys (red) were cropped but not the away jerseys (white) and both were made by Champion. We also used to cut t-shirts that we wore under our shoulder pads to match the crop of our home jerseys. Also, cut the sleeves off so they wouldn’t twist and put our arms in a bind.

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