So We’re Just All Okay with Being Shirtless in the City Now?

There, on Bastille Day, was a shirtless guy checking out the windows at Bergdorf Goodman; there, on Lafayette Street one Tuesday morning, ambled a shirtless shopper hauling Urban Outfitter bags; there, on the R train, was a rider wearing nothing but jeans and sandals; there, on Astor Place, a cluster of topless men flaunting their abs and pecs.

“I was on my way to the bank and I saw not one, not two, but three guys” walking shirtless across Eighth Street, said Rob Morea, a personal trainer and an owner of Great Jones Fitness in NoHo. As might be expected of someone in his line of work, Mr. Morea’s own physique resembles that of a bendable action figure. Despite that, he would never go shirtless in New York, he said. “It doesn’t feel right. It’s like going to a business meeting in your underwear.”


While the Times has a less-than-stellar track record of delivering timely news—they just discovered that rich college kids are hooking up, which 82-year-old writer Tom Wolfe wrote about nine years ago—they kind of hit the nail on the head here. I have noticed a sizable increase in shirtless dudes walking around the city. There are hundreds, at any given time, who won't even take the two seconds necessary to put on their finest novelty tank top.

You can't really say the weather has caused this phenomenon. True, this summer was unreasonably hot, but so was last summer, and I can't recall seeing in 2012 a single guy with the cajones to walk sans shirt among the tourists and rich older women of Fifth Avenue. The Times blames the movement on a “dressing down” of our culture—fashion has gotten more casual, and this is the logical next step in a progression that has taken us pretty fucking far from Don Draper and Roger Sterling.

It is all a predictable part of the dressing-down of America, said Patricia Mears, deputy director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

“It’s great we live in a democratic society, but we’ve lost all sense of decorum and occasion,” Ms. Mears said. “To be on Fifth Avenue is now about the same as being on the Coney Island boardwalk.”


I dunno. I don't think anyone is really taking their cues from a 80-year fashion arc. I think the shirtless guys are acting similarly to how smokers react when they see someone light up indoors—you realize it's allowed, then you pull out the pack and join in. To smoke inside is technically an appropriate response to the social cues of others, but it's still shitty for those forced to be around you.

Comment discussion: Would you walk around a city shirtless? Do you think guys are douchers if they do? Are we all heading to a second Garden of Eden?