The Shock Value of Belly Buttons

Are these innocent little divots the new nipple?


“Nipple” used to be the most-searched word on the Internet. Websites would find any excuse to insert it into a headline for its traffic-driving purposes — an errant piece of pokey flesh between boring if not completely irrelevant statements that could get almost anyone to click. “Sloth Found On Tree: Unsure if Dead, Nipple, or Just Asleep.” Screw the news, THAT sounds fascinating!

Nipples had become “a thing.” Remember the Sex and the City episode where Samantha inserted fake ones into her shirt to attract men? This was similar, only now, nipples were being used to hook men and women of all sexual orientations. Shock-bait equal opportunists. They marched down countless runways for back-to-back seasons. They were exposed (albeit for political reasons, not fashion) on the street. They were tattooed dark, became the “cool” thing to pierce and were flaunted under see-through tops at celebrity-packed parties.

Eventually, they became so over-hyped that when Kendall Jenner exposed hers last fashion week, the gossip wasn’t about nipples as much as it was that a Kardashian had just walked a Marc Jacobs show.

You see, just as male society eventually grew desensitized to ample cleavage (to quote Mean Girls“It only counts if you saw nipple”), the Janet Jackson generation of Nip-Slips had finally gotten used to seeing female areolas proliferate. Which meant that something had to be next on the list of fashionably scandalous body parts — and I think this spring it’s the belly button.

It became clear once the crop top trend declared it wasn’t going anywhere. I was scared at first, but my personal aversion towards the trend wasn’t about my lack of abs. Rather, it was because the thought of walking around with my “button” showing felt more intimate than going pantsless. For a body part that’s been covered up for the better half of my life (save for beaches, showers and bed time) showing my belly button now would feel almost…scandalous.

Just as bare nipples once had been.

I came around to the cropped-thing once I found a loophole: low-slung pants showing the skin around my hips is fine. That I can do. And Leandra and I both agreed that so long as the little holes on our stomachs are covered up by high-waisted bottoms, we would practically wear bras in public. That’s still a lot of flesh, and yet, walking around with my belly button out feels like a much louder statement — one that says a whole lot more than, “I did sit ups and ate kale all winter.”

If it’s true that history repeats itself (and judging by the fact that the ’90s are back, we can all comfortably agree it does), then there’s bound to be a future moment when suddenly, showing off belly buttons won’t seem so shocking. Until then, I guess I’ll spend my summer anxiously hiking up my shorts to avoid BB-itis, and cursing the day that Britney Spears essentially ruined the innocent belly button for all.

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  • Chelsea

    *Britney 😉

  • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

    I agree on going the classy route and only showing a sliver of skin and No buttons. There is something cringey looking (not exactly sure why) about crop top outfits with the belly button showing.

  • 15 storeys

    Avoid showing the belly button at all costs! Nipples come in various types and the sight of one never makes a body look weird, but there is something about a belly button that can automatically make a body look oddly proportioned. I always find myself wondering why, if a womans belly button is very high above the waistline of her pants, exactly how severe her bikini wax must have been to achieve the look!

  • I went out last saturday with a crop top and black pants. It felt really amazing. Take risks sometimes is very exciting. I approve the belly button showin’!

    • ben roth

      that is nice

      send pic

      • excuse me?

        • ben roth

          you should send them dont be embarrassed they are beutyfull

  • ashleymaciejewski

    I feel like you just read my mind…the second I realized I’ve already purchased a dozen cropped tops, I immediately doubled my high-waisted-things collection. Someday…

  • it’s kindaaa like bragging to adam and eve (or steve), ya know? like SORRY WE GOTS THESE AND YOU DONT.

    • Alex

      TRUTH. Everyone has nipples, but not abs. This trend is very exclusive lol

    • Quinn Halman

      adam and yves

      • HAHA YES YES!

        • Leandra Medine

          I really wanted to find some photos of less-chiseled stomachs to illustrate but they are far and few between

          • Oh I don’t mean about the chiseling! I meant that Adam and Eve (or Steve or yves) didn’t have belly buttons… So the story says! They did have talking snakes though sSsssSss

  • Kate Wilson

    men are allowed to walk around with out their tops off, showing their nipples but women aren’t. The only difference is that females have boobs, which are essentially just fat. We can’t win. x


    • ben roth

      that it but you can do what want

  • I do not have the abs for this conversation. 😉

    Let’s all hope this is a particularly hot summer, or there are going to be a lot of cold bellies hanging out in the next few months!

    • Stephanie

      Here, here! I concur 🙂

    • Martine

      HAHA! Yes, you do sound very Midwestern. OH NO a person that isn’t perfectly toned might wear a crop top? Yes, thats terrible. Actually, they sen to look pretty good on lots of people.

  • Mrs. W.S. Armstrong

    I have a theory about why seeing exposed BBs can seem scandalous and risque. 1 in 3 of Americans are overweight…whatever that means. I am 5’8 and 165 lbs. I am what is called “skinny fat.” and about 10 lbs overweight according to the definition of overweight. I don’t have a muffin top when I am standing up, but as soon as I sit down, my belly hangs over my the waist of my pants (unless they are high waisted. I love high waisted pants for this reason!). So. Wearing a crop top that shows off my belly fold when I sit down is not going to be the most flattering look on me. Which doesn’t mean I won’t try it, but if I do try it,, i will have to admit to myself that there are way, way more flattering articles of clothing I could have put on my tall, curvy, skinny-fatalicious bod. To me, at least, the exposed BB is like flaunting what millions of Americans don’t have, which is a certain type of physique- the skinny tummy/no hips physique. Also, it looks so…young. Prepubescent even. So it’s kinda an exclusive/scandalous/Edenic/impossible to achieve look, which is going to ruffle some feathers and cause heads to turn and tongues to wag and whatnot. Or cause curvy skinny fat whatever the heck you want to call it girls like me to shrug and wear the crop top anyway and shrug off the exclusiveness of the look and make it another excuse to show off their curves. That’s just my take. This might not make sense. I have to type fast because I’m at work. Also, there is just something innately weird about belly buttons. I mean, no one enjoys having their BB poked. Test this out on your friends and family, you’ll see what I mean. My husband hates it when I stick my finger in his BB. Probably because when I do, I tell him his BB is a vajayjay and my finger is a peepee.

    • Martine

      And it looks rather sophisticated when done correctly. Also, very flattering. It makes an hourglass figure really shine. You do need a fairly flat tummy, of course, but I don’t see why you would want small hips.

  • Aubrey Green

    I hate having my belly button poked. I like my belly button and stomach, but I wouldn’t show it off – I don’t really like this trend in general. Is showing nipple, or cleavage better, just curious, I’m not going to do either, but wanted to get your opinion?

    • ben roth

      that is nice to show off that the beaty

  • Beautiful belly buttons!!!

    Mafalda ❤

  • Megan Radatz

    I think its sexy in a tasteful way, that and exposing the upper rib cage with cropped tops and a pencil skirt.

  • AnnaSafronova

    man repeller always among the first ones to spot the trend

  • Amelia Diamond

    hahaha a star belly! i love that.

  • Martine

    Do you ever make sense?

  • bong
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