Hero in a Half Shirt: The History of Ezekiel Elliott's Trademark Crop Top

By Kevin Harrish on May 22, 2016 at 12:00 pm
Hero in a half shirt

'Hero in a Half Shirt.'

Ezekiel Elliott took the college football world by storm in 2014, leading the Buckeyes to the first-ever College Football Playoff Title by gutting three consecutive top-10 teams for a combined 696 rushing yards. Ohio State's title run certainly made Elliott a household name, but it also made his game day wardrobe a social media sensation.

Elliott started rolling up his jersey like a crop top as early as the 2014 opener against Navy, but it garnered little attention as the then-sophomore out of St. Louis began the season relatively unknown to the college football world.

Early on, Elliott split caries with Curtis Samuel, Rod Smith and Dontre Wilson as the Buckeyes searched for a viable replacement for the departed Carlos Hyde – Urban Meyer's first 1,000-yard rusher at tailback. By midseason however, Elliott had established himself as the team's feature back, and people began to take notice of his game day wardrobe.

Initially, the reason for the rolled-up jersey wasn't to show off his abs, to have a iconic look, or to pay homage to old time greats like Eddie George. It was simply for comfort.

“I just don’t like how loose jerseys are at the bottom, so I just tuck it up and roll it," Elliott told USA Today Sports. “I get in trouble for it every once in awhile. I’ll have to come out at halftime, pull my jersey down and tuck it in.”

Regardless of motive, it wasn't long before Elliott made his mark on the college football, and his famous crop top look took on a life of its own.

Following Ohio State's title run, hundreds, if not thousands of photos were shared on social media of fans donning crop tops of their own – from peewee football players to high school prom goers – many of which were retweeted by the self-proclaimed "Hero in a Half Shirt" himself.

But just as the iconic look began to gain popularity, the NCAA took a page from the No Fun League. In March of 2015, the NCAA Football Rules Committee approved legislation that effectively banned Elliott's iconic look.

Officials will treat illegal equipment issues – such as jerseys tucked under the shoulder pads or exposed back pads – by making the player leave the field for at least one play. The equipment must be corrected for the player to return to the game. The player may remain in the game if his team takes a timeout to correct the equipment issue.

The NCAA can legislate fun away, but they can't kill it entirely. The crop top train was already rolling with steam, and NCAA regulations were powerless to stop it. In fact, they might have given it fuel. An online petition for the NCAA to reverse the rule circulated around social media with the hashtag #SaveTheCropTop and ultimately gained nearly 12,000 signatures.

Despite the Internet's best efforts, the petition was unsuccessful and the new regulations were implemented during the 2015 season. Elliott could no longer wear his crop top during games. Even then, however, the iconic look still did not die. 

Buckeye fans had grown fond of the star running back's staple look and kept it alive themselves. Ohio State's official student section, Block O, even put together a crop top card-stunt and several students donned the crop top look with painted-on abs during a home game.

Meanwhile, Elliott continued to wear his jersey rolled up in pregame warmups, practice, team interviews, and sometimes even after plays. The crop top became his identity, and his trademark – literally. According to the Associated Press, Elliott filed a trademark on the restaurant name "Zeke's Crop Top Bar and Grill" in August of 2015.

Elliott's Buckeye career came to a close after the 2015 season as he elected to take his talents (and his crop top) to the NFL. He's since made quite the splash with his trademark look, showing up to the 2016 NFL Draft with a crop top dress shirt under his jacket and rolling up his jersey the first time he wore a full Cowboy's uniform. The Dallas Cowboys even told NBCDFW.com that a Cowboy's Ezekiel Elliott half shirt is in the works. 

Elliott hasn't donned the look in a game in an entire season, and likely never will again given that NFL rules state the jersey "must be appropriately tailored to remain tucked into the uniform pants throughout the game." But rest assured, the crop top is alive and well despite the bans and regulations, and given its stoicism, it will likely be around for quite some time.

The crop top is invincible. The crop top is here to stay. Long live the crop top.

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