Other than mesh, glitter, and leather, crop tops have been the historic staple of gay fashion. In fact, the crop top style shirt was even made by and created for men originally. However, only recently has #boysincroptops become “fashionable.” Is this an example of modern society finding gay fashion exotic, adorable, and flamboyant, or more like a mockery movement?

Regardless of what others think, crop tops have always been an important part of gay fashion. They are an expression of queerness, and more importantly, they are an open statement that the wearer is gay, out, and proud. Crop tops have been used for clubwear, beachwear, and everyday use. While most of the crop tops worn are hand-cut by fashion-minded gay guys with fabric scissors or bought in the women’s section of stores like Forever21, some designers do make crop tops just for men (Merek+Richard and Andrew Christian, for example).

I will admit it: I am a proud crop top wearer. I’ve made crop tops, I’ve bought women’s crop tops, I’ve ordered men’s crop tops, I’ve even paid for a shirt solely to cut it into a crop top. I wear my crop tops wherever I want: to class, to the gym, to work, to the mall, to dinner, anywhere. I am pretty self-conscious about my body, and although I’m slim I don’t have a six-pack to show off—however, I love crop tops. I don’t feel self-conscious or anxious in a crop top; I feel confident, proud that I am gay and that I’m expressing it through my fashion. I’m also a theatrical costume designer/wannabe fashion designer, so cutting a shirt into a crop top makes me feel like I created and designed something.

Yes, crop tops draw attention. People may stare. When I walk around my very queer liberal arts college in a hand-cut crop top and very short jean cutoffs, people smile. When I wear that same outfit to the mall, or a restaurant, or anywhere off campus I get not-so-polite looks seeping with judgment and homophobia. So wearing a crop top is a measured decision, you must know your audience. Or, just be yourself and wear a crop top wherever you want, who cares if other people stare? (I like to think they’re just jealous.)

For better or for worse, #boyincroptops has become a popular tag on Instagram, Tumblr, twitter, etc. in the past year or so. Although this spreads awareness of this amazing gay fashion trend, the viewers of the boys in crop tops are often gawking instead of admiring. In this case, the gay guys in crop tops are treated more like zoo animals to stare at and less like a woman whose purse you want to compliment.

Some high fashion designers have even had a few crop tops in spring/summer runway fashion shows. However, as always, the distance between the runway and the department store is very far, and almost no crop tops are sold in stores. The only ones available are from gay-designers (as I mentioned before). Thus gay guys are stuck shopping in women’s sections or spending hours online searching for a crop top (thank god for Amazon).

In the history of gay fashion, the crop top has always been associated with the twink. I am a twink, and I am proud of it. Gay stereotypes and categories can be odd and exclusive, but for some, they can be empowering and unifying. I love that “twink” is a thing. It makes me feel good to know that there are other gays that are feminine and like to sing show tunes. Crop tops help me identify as and with twinks, wearing one allows me to feel empowered and connected to other queer people in my community, expressing our beautiful differences via fashion.