In director Robert Eggers’ Viking epic “The Northman,” Prince Amleth spends much of the film’s two hours shirtless. As the film takes place at the beginning of the 10th century, the choice is consistent with the story. But it also seems destined to display actor Alexander Skarsgård’s six-pack. In nearly every fight scene, the future king looks prepped for the CrossFit Games or for having his traps captured in marble. (Mr. Skarsgård’s trainer told “Variety” that the actor gained 20 pounds of muscle for the role.)
If he could travel back in time to a department store today – and be convinced to put on a shirt – the shameless Amleth might like his options: menswear has entered the era of leaving nothing behind. ‘imagination.
On the edge of scarcity are options from American designer Thom Browne and surf-soaked brand Saturdays NYC, whose shirts are just thin canvas on the torso. They manage to pull off a “nipple free” expression while maintaining a fully buttoned placket.
A more tame touch is the $1,370 airy knit shirt sold by Italian fashion empire Prada. Others offer a range of delicate laces, from the $1,690 iteration by Valentino to a $168 sold-out version by young Los Angeles brand No Maintenance.
The look has a story. In warmer climates, the mesh shirt is a breezy staple. In the 2002 movie “Paid in Full,” Rico (played by rapper Cam’ron) layers a lightweight lace shirt over a tank top, a look commonly seen during the summer in sweltering cities like New York. At its extremes, the pectoral shirt can also hint at S&M attire, like Frank N. Furter’s suggestive outfit in 1975’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
But this current crop of skin-revealing shirts shows how men (especially young men) are embracing clothes that have traditionally been siloed in the women’s department.
“There are more men who are able or comfortable doing something that was originally more feminine in the past,” said Zachary Banducci, 25, a Dallas software developer. Mr Banducci often wears a lace shirt with pleated trousers and suede boots, an outfit that nods to the 1970s, perhaps the last time revealing clothes dominated the pages of men’s magazines as GQ.
Julien Tanrattan, 32, a dentist in Paris, also said he felt very 70s when he wore a lace shirt by Aimé Leon Dore of New York under a light blazer. He praised the delicacy of the buttonhole and noted with approval that it was reminiscent of the frilly doilies at his grandmother’s house.
Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s creative director since 2015, continues to earn credit for bringing pussy-bow blouses, delicate Mary Janes and, yes, sheer shirts back into the men’s wardrobe. Hollywood’s most powerful Gucci fanboy (and paid brand ambassador) Jared Leto wore the brand’s see-through shirt at a media event in Los Angeles last month.
But more than a haute couture reverb, the transparent shirt testifies to a personal will, even a desire, to show off one’s physique. (I should pause here to note that all of the men I spoke with were fit.)
“I think the older I get, the more confident I am to wear whatever I want,” said Rudy Arevalo, 39, an interior designer in Phoenix. Two years ago, he bought a lace shirt from fast fashion retailer Asos, but was initially only comfortable layering it over a t-shirt. In recent months, after losing 35 pounds, he’s worn the singlet alone, to better show the fruits of his exercise regimen.
This lace shirt from Kevin Montes of Japanese brand Niche lets his tattoos and chest hair show through, even when paired with a low-key tank top. The 27-year-old Houston tech recruiter associates the look with the late salsa musician Héctor Lavoe and said the style is “definitely more brash” than your standard summer shirt.
And as the warmer months arrive, translucent shirts have practical benefits. Mr. Montes and Mr. Banducci from Texas said they were drawn to lace shirts in part to combat the relentless Texas heat. After all, a see-through shirt is as close as it gets to wearing no shirt at all.
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