Why are British men called gentlemen

Almost a year ago, a large British fashion mail order company caused a minor scandal. He put a new item of clothing online, called "Extreme cropped vest", in German "extremely cropped undershirt": a white tank top, similar to the good old fine rib classic - with the small difference that it ended below the chest. And was worn by a male model. It appeared in the online shop in the "Men's fashion" category. Belly free for men.

For such a narrow piece of cloth, the outcry was relatively broad. A year later, photos of it spread on Twitter with head-shaking comments from men like: "I'm giving up". Various men's blogs devoted their own texts to the textile, which cost just ten British pounds, mostly in an equally uncomprehending tone: The top "comes in small, medium and large," wrote Ladbible.com, "but in truth it only comes in one size: too small. "

The biggest fashion trends have first met the biggest rejection

The rejection is based on the same arguments: cropped shirts are girly. They require an extremely well-trained body and are totally overpriced, after all, you can turn any undershirt into a crop top with scissors. Overall, the feedback on the innovative garment did not sound as if the cropped men's shirt had a great future.

But big fashion trends often start with a lot of rejection in the mainstream - think of mom jeans, ugly sneakers or bum bags. Probably only the ridicule of the prudish majority ennobles a new look as really visionary. In any case, Asos, the British fashion mail order company, has not just one, but a good dozen different crop tops in its men's range this summer. Some are snug and end just above the navel. Others fall from the chest down in wide fringes to the waist. Some come in see-through mesh or neon-colored synthetics.

And the topic is everywhere outside of the web shop too: on Pinterest, fashion aficionados have long been curating picture galleries with the most beautiful men in the bare-bump look, including American football professionals, the rapper Kid Cudi, Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith, the 20-year-old son by Will Smith, who is considered a highly trend-sensitive style icon. Already clear, the part is still not really effective. But the crop top for men seems to be gaining ground among hipsters.

Why this summer of all times? It's not that difficult to explain: the crop top combines several current major trends in its few square centimeters of textile. Firstly, it's sportswear and, secondly, it's retro: after all, the crop top originally comes from the fitness sector. His breakthrough in the eighties was closely related to the triumph of aerobics. Bodybuilders also wore box-shaped shirts that were cut short at the bottom. The short men's top in "Rocky III" had one of its greatest moments so far, when the heavyweight champion Apollo Creed trained with his protégé Rocky in a crop shirt.

Why should only women be allowed to show off their flat bellies?

In addition to box-shaped male bodies, the navel-free look also puts other phenotypes in the limelight: the androgynous lank. Sex symbols like Prince, the "Suede" singer Brett Anderson or the young Johnny Depp (sensationally cropped in "Nightmare on Elm Street") have proven this since the late seventies. The men's top also benefits from the fact that androgyny is once again very fashionable. And then of course there is another factor, without which a quote from the eighties and nineties would hardly be conceivable or wearable in current fashion: irony. How important it is to pull off the bare-bump look as a man was made evident not least by the many uncomprehending Twitter men.

In their defense, however, it should also be said that the crop top is not tailored directly to the common shape of the male body: it emphasizes the waist. Ever since it first came into fashion for western women in the 1940s (in India a crop top under the saree has been popular for centuries), it has been combined with high-waisted skirts or trousers. The exposed middle of the body suggests an hourglass, which is traditionally considered to be the ideal female form.

Historically, men, on the other hand, have approached the crop top through its functionality. When football players now and then roll up their jerseys, it is actually no coincidence, but a kind of tradition: In the middle of the last century, the so-called "tear away jersey" was widespread in American football. It had a predetermined breaking point at stomach height and tore off as soon as opposing defenders tried to hold a striker by his jersey. Because half the team was often on the field with exposed six-packs after the final whistle, the NFL 1979 banned tear-off jerseys. Which is a good example of the fact that the male belly that is exposed in public tends to be problematic - especially when it is well trained and therefore potentially sexually arousing.

Interestingly, this aspect is seen as far less problematic by women. After Cher, Madonna and Britney Spears plowed the look for decades, no one is upset about female navel gazing for a long time. In this respect, the arrival of the crop top in men's fashion can only be welcomed. After all, why should only women with a flat stomach be allowed to show off (and torment themselves with thousands of sit-ups)? And isn't it, in view of the ever hotter summer, also a question of convenience, a kind of textile liberation, as a man to finally be able to walk around in public with a bare stomach without being immediately considered camping cheek? Even the oldest known male testimonial for crop tops knew about their unbeatable cosiness: Phew the bear. In contrast to him, and in order not to drive the prudish critics completely insane, you can still wear pants for the time being.