The reason for all these bare chests isn’t that deep, at least according to Barnett, Wade’s stylist. She sees the no-shirt look as a natural point in menswear’s cyclical rotation. After polos buttoned to the tippity-top, air ties, and turtlenecks took hold in the mid-2010s, we’ve fashion-trended our way to the opposite end of the spectrum. “It’s just a part of fashion where it’s like, ‘We’ve had enough. Now we’re gonna go the other extreme,’” Barnett said. What started with what she called “man cleavage”—a shirt unbuttoned to revealing depths—has evolved into ditching the shirt altogether.
Of course, this isn’t just about the trend pendulum. As fashion takes steps towards its freakiest and most enjoyable state, few things feel more carefree than going shirtless on a red carpet. That was the case for Marte. He had spent the morning trying and failing to nail his ESPYs look when Alan Suriel, the Mets’ bilingual communications coordinator (and in-a-pinch stylist) suggested a Tom Ford number—with one change. “[He]suggested I wear it without a shirt,” Marte wrote in an email. “I warmed up [to] the idea quickly. Sometimes you just have fun and show out during an event like that.”
Also, have you considered that it is currently insanely hot all the time, with record-breaking heat waves taking place across the globe? Seen through the lens of our rapidly escalating climate crisis, going shirtless seems pretty reasonable. Barnett said Wade is going to take “any opportunity he has to not wear a shirt, especially if it’s going to be hot outside.” For Barnett and Wade, the blazer-sans-shirt is a great way to meet some middle ground between formality, practicality, and statement style.
Going shirtless seems like a simple two-step process—remove shirt, party—but no high-level maneuver is without a guidebook. Barnett prefers a jacket with peak, as opposed to notch, lapel. “A peak lapel feels way more dressed and formal,” she said, “So it’s that juxtaposition of having this more formal, tailored suit and then you have bare skin.” Fit matters here, too. A single-breasted suit should be buttoned and tailored—”like the suit is painted onto your body,” Barnett said—but an oversized fit calls for no shirt and no buttons. “Your body needs to be like artwork,” she explained.
No matter how many rules you follow, going shirtless under a jacket probably isn’t something the everyday dude is going to try out. Imagine showing up to your buddy’s black-tie wedding without a shirt and trying to explain that, actually, it’s chill because it’s tailored and buttoned. But going shirtless has become a reliable way for celebrities, constantly playing a game of sartorial one-upmanship, to outdo the competition—a logical endpoint in the race to stand out. It’s hard to imagine a statement better built for big moments. As Marte said of going shirtless, “I knew it’d be the look of the red carpet.”