What men are not wear­ing now in New York

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFESTYLE TRENDS - By GUY TREBAY

Once, it was con­sid­ered de rigueur for New York­ers to wear a hat and gloves in town. Now dress codes have de­volved to the point where folks wear fleecy slip­pers on the sub­way, flipflops to the ballet, run­ning tights for ev­ery oc­ca­sion, pa­ja­mas as day­wear and, re­cently, very lit­tle at all.

We are re­fer­ring here to a cu­ri­ous trend inked be­low his navel. And that was about all.

Mr. Bloom was do­ing what a sen­si­ble per­son might to stay cool, if that per­son lived in Mal­ibu. But Mr. Bloom was not in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

“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 gym owner. (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.”) And yet 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.

Ex­perts say some­thing more is at play than at­tempts to stay cool as tem­per­a­tures this sum­mer have risen to 32° Cel­sius and higher.

It is all a pre­dictable part of the dress­ing­down of Amer­ica, said Pa­tri­cia Mears, deputy di­rec­tor of the Mu­seum at the Fash­ion

As more men go shirt­less in New York, some lament the loss of deco­rum. 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.”

To dis­play your torso on a city street is also, she added, to give proof of the propo­si­tion that in the evo­lu­tion­ary arc of mas­culin­ity, men are no longer the oglers; they are the ob­ject of the gaze.

Signs of this are every­where: on Broad­way, where male nu­dity is now so com­mon­place it evokes fewer cries of out­rage than yawns; on tele­vi­sion, where bare-chested male stars are stan­dard fare; and in ad­ver­tis­ing, where male pul­chri­tude is used to sell ev­ery­thing from Diet Coke to salad dress­ing.

What’s dis­ori­ent­ing about all the ex­posed skin, said Ms. Mears, is “a blur­ring of lines” be­tween pub­lic and pri­vate space, lines crossed long ago in places like South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, where sweat pants are more com­mon than suits and no one thinks twice about wear­ing a bikini to go to the mall.

“Re­al­ity TV has had an ef­fect here,” she said.

In her own New York child­hood, the only ac­cept­able ur­ban set­ting for a shirt­less man might have been a city beach, Ms. Mears, 52, added. It would have cer­tainly been un­think­able for a man in pos­ses­sion of his senses to walk up Madi­son Av­enue, New York’s great re­tail­ing prom­e­nade, shirt­less on a Fri­day af­ter­noon.

Yet there on a re­cent steamy day was JeanLuc Con­stant, a boxer and model, stand­ing bare-chested out­side the Ralph Lau­ren store. De­spite some per­plex­ity among passers-by, he him­self was fully non­cha­lant.

“Maybe it’s be­cause of my pro­fes­sion,” he said. “I don’t re­ally mind be­ing naked at all.”

PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY DEI­DRE SCHOO FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

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