The selected hollow of the ab crack has become the defining body obsession in the era of the crop top and the show offs bra. Thanks for that, Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift baring her impeccable abs at the MTV awards.

Taylor Swift in the buff her impeccable abs at the MTV awards.
Photograph: Rob Latour/Rex/Shutterstock

Fashion has a new rendition of the chicken-and-egg question, and it goes like this: which be broached first, the crop top or the ab crack?

If you don’t know what an ab crack is, appropriate me to enlighten you. It is the hollow that runs vertically down the pivot of the abdominal muscles, from the breastbone to the tummy button – but no greater than if those abdominal muscles are extremely toned, and the shape of the musculature balled by very low levels of body fat. If you want to see an ab crack in all its glory, critical to the Instagram pages of Emily Ratajkowski, or Kendall Jenner, or either Hadid sister. Although, be alerted: you may find yourself overwhelmed by nostalgia for the relatively forgiving age of the thigh gap.

In 2016, account abs are fashion’s favourite body part. The 00s were all about members (the rise of the denim cut-off) and the 90s were all about cleavage (Hello Urchins, the 1994 Wonderbra ad starring Eva Herzigova, was voted the most iconic advertising model of all time). But this decade, across the spectrum of fashion from renown to streetstyle to catwalk, focus has shifted to the mid-section. Taylor Speedy, whose wholesome and accessible style has made her a huge impact on young fashion consumers, made crop tops ragged with shorts or mini skirts her signature look on hold out year’s 1989 tour and has kept it since. At the Grammys in February, she stepped an orange bandeau top that finished way clear of the waist of her fuchsia skirt. Streetstyle stars take pushed the look further: Danish blogger Marie Jensen off wears a crop top-style Nike sports bra with a thoroughly midi skirt to Paris fashion week. On the catwalk, parings of waist-level flesh have shown up everywhere from Dior to Dolce & Gabbana, Versace to Jacquemus. Temperate bridalwear is getting in on the act. Last year on the Reem Acra conjugal catwalk, a lace blouse that ended at the lower ribs, make knowing four inches at the waist above a formal ivory silk skirt, was equitable one of several ab-exposing wedding gowns.

What? You mean your abs don’t look like this?
What? You mean your abs don’t look feel attracted to this? Photograph: Nadya Lukic/Getty Images

The 90s returning, a slow-burn influence on fashion for most of the last decade, was the prime mover behind the crop top’s mount rebel to catwalk status. In the first series of Friends, in 1994, sassily tied-above-the-waist plaid shirts were a signature look for Rachel. Low-slung trousers and retreat from vests were a favourite of 90s pin-ups from Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera to the Spirit Girls. The crop top momentum snowballed with the arrival of high-waisted jeans, which crossed over from Shoreditch-hipster to Topshop-mainstream – because a crop top drive ensure everyone in the club notices your newly-purchased high-waisted jeans. Begetting been consigned to market-stall partywear for a decade, its rehabilitation into squiffy fashion society was confirmed at 2014’s Met Gala, when Cara Delevingne, Rihanna and Margot Robbie all opted outfits that bared a toned slice of ab.

Serena Williams displaying her enviable abs.
Serena Williams splashing her enviable abs. Photograph: MediaPunch/Rex/Shutterstock

But fashion is only half the fish story here. The catwalk show that has had most influence on this lean doesn’t happen during New York, London, Milan or Paris construct weeks. It is, instead, the Victoria’s Secret show. Because when you utilization a crop top, its purpose is to frame what lies just below: specifically, the abs. In a culture obsessed with fitness, toned abs are the utmost prize. “Strong is Sexy” proclaimed the cover of September’s Self periodical, on which Serena Williams bared her six-pack in a crop top and minute sprint shorts. Many of the most fashionable exercise drifts of the decade – Pilates, and ballet-based barre classes, for instance – objective a tight, zipped-in ribcage and pancake-flat abs as key goals.

Abs have be proper the acceptable face of body perfectionism. We are more sensitive now to the hurt wrought by endless images of unhealthily thin bodies. Twenty years ago, it was healthy for magazines to suggest ways to get “thin thighs”. This intention be frowned upon now, but having “toned abs” is still an acceptable civil goal, because it foregrounds exercise, strength and hard run. (Never mind that you can tone your abs as much as you go for, but the effect won’t be visible unless you lose any fat that lies on top.) And in 2016, abs are also the refined way to signal sexiness: both Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé often stress their curves by wearing a tight skirt and a clingy-but-not-revealing top, with a belt-width despoil of flesh visible at the waist. The silhouette is similar to that created by a corseted cocktail clothe: but instead of squeezing herself into a corset, the wearer forced to spend two hours a day in the gym. Progress? Now, there’s a question.