Crop Tops for Everyone: Crop Top Types & How to Style Them

Person in a black croptop

by Alex Reilly - April 2023

The crop top is a piece of clothing synonymous with the pop culture whirlwind of the 1990’s. The trend emerged in the 90’s and would continue to be very popular throughout the decade. While you might associate the crop top with what is traditionally considered as a women’s fashion, just like any other clothing item, crop tops are for everyone - whether you identify as a cis man/woman, trans man/woman, or non binary. In this article, we will explain what a crop top is, briefly look at its history, explore different types of crop tops and give plenty of styling tips.

What is a Crop Top?

According to the Parsons School of Design, a crop top is “a shirt or top shorter in length, exposing a portion of the torso above the waistline”. Crop tops come in a ton of different designs, including tank tops, halter tops and long-sleeved shirts. They can be made from pretty much any material such as standard cotton and lace, to more experimental fabrics like PVC. Depending on the design and fabric, the crop top is a versatile piece that any person can wear in any setting.

The Brief History of the Crop Tops

When people think of crop tops, they instantly think of the 90’s. Huge celebrities at the time like Britney Spears, Cristina Aguilera and Pink wore crop tops often as a performance outfit. Despite being popular in the 90s, the history of the crop top dates much further back. The crop top first gained prominence in eastern parts of the world during the late 19th century. Dancers in this part of the world would regularly wear crop tops while performing. It was the perfect garment for lengthening the body and accentuated the movement of the body. Crop tops allowed for a full range of motion which permitted the dancers to commit to the emotion of the dance.

The crop top was not an instant success in the West mainly due to its revealing nature. In fact, as late as 1945, women were being fined for exposing too much skin when paired with shorts. The 1960’s, particularly the hippie movement was the first decade to really cement the crop top into the wardrobes of the West. People like Cher wearing crop tops while performing on television broadcasts greatly helped to popularise the garment especially in America. It was also around this time that we started to see people experiment with how to style the crop top, such as with low-waisted jeans.

woman in 90s style crop top

In the 80’s and 90’s were the golden age of the crop top. Everyone started wearing crop tops regardless of their gender identity or gender expression. For example, a lot of men started wearing crop tops to show off their physiques as it helped them to bypass gym regulations which prevented training shirtless. American Football pads also adopted a cropped design. This protected the wearer around the shoulder without sacrificing mobility in the lower abdomen. By this time, the crop top had successfully earned its place in the everyday wardrobe for everyone.

The crop top design saw a steep drop off in the early 2000’s and was widely considered outdated. But luckily, that did not last long. Crop tops made quite the major comeback starting from 2010 along with the revival of the 90’s fashion.

Different Types of Crop Tops and How to Style Them

A huge part of crop top’s popularity comes down to the absolute adaptability of the garment itself. The everyday wearability of the crop top has meant it has become one of the most universally versatile pieces of clothing we have available. Crop tops seems to seamlessly blend into any fashion collection and there is myriad of styling options available to crop tops. Here is an overview of most common types of crop tops and our tips on how to style each type. 

Short Sleeve Crop Top

The short-sleeved crop is for many, the quintessential iteration of the cropped top. Great as a graphic option to add some spice to your outfits, you can’t go wrong when paired with some above the knee shorts. These can tend to fit close to the body and are often referred to as the ‘baby’ tee. But there are plenty of other, looser options too. Short-sleeved crop tops can work great in the summer as a transitional piece from day to evening wear. Pairing these with a wide-legged cropped trouser will elevate the look. If you are looking to soften your shoulder line, look for the ones with a ruched top.

Long Sleeve Crop Top

The long-sleeved crop top is the perfect option for anyone looking to nail the crop trend in a modern and minimalist way. Additionally, long-sleeved crop tops offer a level of coverage that some wearers might prefer. When worn with a skirt, the long-sleeved option is great for rounding off an outfit by providing balance and proportion. This style is great for people with square shoulders as the long sleeves really help elongate the arms. But bear in mind, this will draw more attention to your navel. Long-sleeved crop top is also perfect with some low rise, loose fit jeans for a heightened casual look.

V Neck Crop Top

The V-neck crop is a simple and fantastic way to nail the crop trend with a subtle classy upgrade. These are available in both long and short sleeved options and are perfect for pairing up with pretty much anything. They can be styled as easy-breezy spring outfits, but they can also be dressed up with some smart trousers and loafers. The V-neck crops are a great option especially for those with a pear shape and/or big chest as they will help balance out your hips.

Cropped Tank Top

Of all the styles, the cropped tank has remained a staple for its admirers since the 1990’s. This is a great option for anyone looking to show off their physique and is a gym essential. The ones with thin-strappes fit very close to the body, they also leave much more of your back and chest exposed. If that’s not your scene, we love the wider finish too, which gives off a more relaxed vibe. Oversized, boxy fits are great for people uncomfortable with fitted clothing and are a great choice in the warmer months. For those who are looking for a more fitted look, cropped tank still work well by accentuating natural curves. 

Cropped Shirt

Cropped shirts are probably the chicest a crop top can be. The combination of the traditional button-up shirt with the modern crop top is the perfect choice to bring the crop top to a more formal setting. Cropped shirts can be worn with high-waisted formal trousers to serve an elegant look, but they can also be great with skirts. If you’re looking for something a bit sportier, try pairing it with leggings and a sneaker for an instant athleisure hit. We recommend the cropped shirt as a great entryway in wearing crop tops. It can even be layered on top of a standard t-shirt if you’re not comfortable having your midriff exposed. Try and get a cropped shirt that hits at the narrowest point of your waist for a good finish.

Crop tops come in a huge variety of styles, fabrics, and cuts. It is a highly versatile piece that deserves its spot in anyone’s wardrobe, regardless of their body shape, size, or gender identity. Whether you pair a crop top with some low-rise denim shorts or a flowy boho chic skirt, you can find a crop top that works for you. How will you wear a crop top? tag us in your looks at @offbinary on Instagram.


Parsons School of Design (n.d.), Glossary of Fashion Terms, available online: (

Alex (he/him) is a writer from Dublin, Ireland. When he’s not obsessing over his indoor plants, you’ll probably find him with his nose in a good fantasy novel.