When Indiana University rising senior Drew Stagge DJs a crowded party, he doesn’t worry about spilling drinks on his shirt.
After all, he isn’t wearing one.
The Phi Psi fraternity brother likes to go commando-chested under his fitted suits, displaying his chiseled torso.
“It makes me feel confident,” explains the cybersecurity major. “It’s helping to air it out.”
In the increasingly anything-goes men’s fashion world, rocking a shirtless suit is the ultimate flex.
What was once considered a celeb-only style has been adopted by self-assured civilians.
Fans of the breastbone-baring look can pop their pecs, flaunt their tattoos, showcase hip necklaces and save on costly dry-cleaning bills.
“It’s fancy, and at the same time, gives you some freedom,” said Jonathan Frank Normolle, a model-turned-luxury real estate broker at Serhant who loves the look. “It’s a little risqué, and you can show what you got.”
In the last few weeks, LeBron James’ eldest son, the USC-bound Bronny James, swagged a custom black Chrome Hearts suit and a necklace at his senior prom.
Meanwhile, Arian Moayed — who played Stewy on “Succession” and received a Tony nomination for his starring role in “A Doll’s House” — attended the nominees luncheon in a double-breasted Reiss design, casually displaying chest hair.
“We just wanted Arian to feel modern and easy,” explained celebrity stylist Jared Depriest Gilbert. “During the fitting, we tried a few different shirt options but ultimately opted to show a little skin, as the temperature in NYC gets pretty warm during the day. With the minimum chest hair visible, the look felt very sexy yet chic, and a little badass.”
The tailored-suit-over-birthday-suit is growing increasingly common, but it’s not a new move.
Musical artists like Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger and the late Prince and George Michael strutted their stuff in jackets over nothing decades ago. It was considered suggestive and subversive, and the public swooned.
As far back as the early ‘80s, designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and the late Vivienne Westwood sent male models down the runways in variations on the theme.
Today, it’s rampant on Gucci, Dior and Prada catwalks.
“The ‘shirtless suit’ look is a style that can trace its roots back to the ’70s, where men were more daring with their fashion choices and would often wear an exposed chest with body-hugging pants and stack-heeled boots,” said Avon Dorsey, the celebrity stylist and creative curator who put hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd on a 2020 digital cover of Essence magazine in just jackets, pants and jewelry.
NBA champ Dwyane Wade scored universal praise for his iconic interpretation of the trend: He attended the 2022 Met Ball in an immaculate white Versace suit, unbuttoned to reveal his awesomely sculpted six-pack.
While eliminating a layer of modesty might appear daunting to some, Esquire Style Director Jonathan Evans insists going sans shirt will work for regular guys — as long as they own it.
“It should feel true to your style and personality, and it should be employed only in the right circumstances,” he cautions. “This is a special-occasion kind of look.”
Newbies should first consider the silhouette. “The best ‘shirtless suit’ looks have overwhelmingly been double-breasted and worn closed,” said Dorsey authoritatively. “And for those few winning single-breasted looks, they’ve all had some sort of lapel overlay or interesting closure detail.”
As for manscaping, there are different levels.
Normolle and Stagge prefer to be smooth operators, while hirsute brothers Joe and Nick Jonas favor neatly trimmed chest fuzz.
Ready to take your man cleavage out on the town? Don’t forget to check the dress code.
Normolle was once turned away from a stuffy Soho restaurant for going topless under an open jacket. “I had to go outside and buy a tee shirt at a souvenir shop.”