The ability to go out again, after more than a year at home, heralds the inevitable reconsideration of going-out tops. This summer, we’ve already welcomed back chainmail halters with cowl necks à la Paris Hilton’s getup from her 21st birthday party and Keira Knightley's in Bend It Like Beckham. Similarly, cropped cardigans held together by nothing but an inconsequential pin have become regulars in the wardrobes of Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber, and Hailey Bieber (not to mention our own). With the summer fading into fall, there’s just enough time for one last party piece to have a moment in the sun.
Welcome to the tube-top renaissance.
Like most of today’s trends, the return of the once-maligned strapless top can be attributed to a viral hashtag on TikTok. As it stands, #tubetop has more than 52 million views on the Gen-Z-favourite platform, with thousands of videos popping up daily, featuring styling tips, DIY tutorials, and hacks for wearing the style when you have big boobs. But tube tops aren’t reserved for members of Gen Z, nor is their comeback only present on TikTok. Instead, the going-out top beloved by early-aughts stars like Britney Spears, J.Lo, Ashanti, and Sarah Jessica Parker — whose Sex and the City alter ego wore a bevy of tube tops during the series, paired with a jersey skirt and an arm scarf (Season 4, Episode 13), knit hot pants and a newsboy cap (Season 4, Episode 8), and cargo trousers (Season 3, Episode 13) — is as pervasive in fashion as Y2K itself.
New York-based Australian designer Dion Lee kick-started the trend’s runway presence when he included a fringe-hemmed tube top in his spring ‘21 lookbook. Later, Christelle Kocher sent midriff-baring tube tops in an electrifying shade of orange down the runway at her Paris Fashion Week show for Koché. Meanwhile, Etro’s colour-filled collection included strapless scarf tops effortlessly tied in front. Saving the best for last, plus-size model Jill Kortleve modelled a black tube top with hot pink trousers — secured with a chain belt, because it is, in fact, 2003 again — during Chanel’s runway show at the Grand Palais.
Off the catwalk, the strapless style has been spotted on the likes of Kendall Jenner, Beyoncé, and Bella Hadid — a trifecta that could bring even the most hated sartorial item back from the depths of fashion purgatory. In April, the elder Jenner sister was seen on three separate occasions donning various versions of the minimal garment, including a tan leather style worn with matching trousers and a tiny shoulder bag and an orange printed top that she styled with black leather pants. In June, Beyoncé posted photos on Instagram of herself wearing a black patent leather strapless mini by David Koma. Hadid followed suit during Paris Couture Week, when she wore a Balenciaga corset-style tube top with wide-leg joggers for the house’s show in July.
Seeing a Y2K trend on Hadid, though, is one thing. For a trend as controversial as this one to truly be back — especially one that necessitates boob tape and doesn’t take kindly to tan lines — it has to have the peoples’ approval, too. And that it does.
According to global fashion shopping platform Lyst, searches for tube tops are up 79% in the last two months. Specifically: searches for silk, cropped, and halter tube tops have increased by 25%, 27%, and 30%, respectively. Digital shopping platform ShopStyle has witnessed a similar spike, with searches for tube tops increasing by 33%, compared to data from 2020.
According to Alison Stiefel, ShopStyle's General Manager, "it’s not surprising that shoppers are searching for tube tops this summer.” This season, going-out staples, from party dresses to heels, are back in fashion following a year-plus of loungewear and loungewear only. According to Peter Henderson, the head of the Lyst Index, shoppers are now “acting on pent-up demand for going-out-wear." Tube tops, being a party-scene staple, fall into that category.
As people look to get the most out of the remaining days of summer, Stiefel says they can wear the top as is “or dress it up with chunky jewellery for an evening out." (Or, if you ask Jenner, with leather trousers.)
To keep up with demand, brands have included the style in their recent collections, all the while adding new twists to the tops of yore. Barcelona-based jewellery and ready-to-wear brand Gimaguas recently introduced a checkered tube top that transforms into a mini-skirt, styling the multifaceted piece both ways on its website. Fellow Instagram brand Miaou has its fair share of strapless options on offer, including a teal-coloured corset made of faux leather. Eloquii, Victor Glemaud, Sherris, Tibi, and more fashion industry darlings are here for the tube-top renaissance, with versions up and down the minimal-to-flashy spectrum.
Another reason behind the tube-top renaissance? The steadfast return of trends from the '00s. We’re essentially living in a Y2K time capsule, with old trends, like low-rise jeans, belly chains, bandage dresses, and more controversial styles from the early aughts frequently appearing in new ways. It was really only a matter of time before the no-strap-wonder made its triumphant return to fashion.
Thankfully, this time we have roughly 52 million TikTokers to show us how to do them right — nip slips not included.