Somewhat lost among “The Slap” on Sunday night was Timothée Chalamet’s pale chest. It was, of course, without a shirt (i.e., bare). And yet, because it was covered by a black sequined blazer designed by the late Virgil Abloh, his shirtlessness still firmly fell on the formalwear side of the ledger. The fabulists at GQ even trumpeted that he “set a new black-tie standard.”
New to the Oscars maybe, but in recent years, Harry Styles bared his shirtless chest with a leather blazer and a pale green scarf at the Grammys. Shawn Mendes did something similar at last year’s Met Gala. Jay-Z wore a double-breasted seafoam green suit sans shirt in the video for his song “Apeshit,” and Jonah Hill did the same at the premiere of Don’t Look Up. Donald Glover also went bare-chested on a red carpet back in 2018.
But they, too, were far from the originators. As John Bramaan points out in Menswear Market, if anyone deserves credit for popularizing the jacket-without-a-shirt-look, it’s none other than the Godfather of Punk himself — Iggy Pop. “Indeed, trace any ‘youth culture’ trend back far enough, and there’s a high chance that you’ll find Iggy there, sneering at you with his shirt off,” Bramaan writes. (More largely, he adds, “when it comes to sartorial deviance, there are few avenues that weren’t explored by 1970s punks.”)
When Pop was asked in 2016 why he adopted the look, he told the audience at the Red Bull Music Academy in Montreal that when he dropped out of college, he held on to his library card so he could still go to the library and check out books. “Cult books about culture and religion,” he clarified, “and I kept seeing these pictures of the Pharaoh. He never wore a shirt. That just looks about right, you know? I don’t know why. I feel lost in a shirt. I just get lost.”
In 1980, Prince put his spin on the aesthetic by laying his chest bare under a trench coat (save for a bandana around his neck) for the cover of his album Dirty Mind (he also, it should be noted, wasn’t wearing pants either).
Obviously, it’s not something that’s become particularly mainstream. (Not that it stopped GQ from offering their readers some advice in case they feel like popping up at a formal event for normies — read: not the Oscars, Grammys or Met Gala — namely that you should trim your chest hair beforehand and wear a double-breasted jacket if you’ve got a little extra meat on your bones.)
“You don’t have to be a rock star or Chalamet to pull it off, but if you have to ask if you can, you most likely can’t,” a subscriber to the r/MaleFashionAdvice subreddit tells me. Another echoes this sentiment, offering, “It’s going to look terrible with a generic blazer. So if you’re determined to pull it off, look into the Rick Owens/Yohji Yamamoto-style blazers. Or maybe try it first with an extremely deep-cut flowy tank.”
Above all else — to the first redditor’s point — confidence is the main accessory here (Rick Owens/Yohji Yamamoto-style blazer or no Rick Owens/Yohji Yamamoto-style blazer). After all, do you think the Pharaohs worried about what outerwear matched best to their bare chests?