Thursday, January 20, 2005

The aesthetics of men's t-shirts. This morning I was looking at the picture of Paris Hilton and Courtney Love that adorns my fridge, thinking "What is the aesthetic limit of the clothed female breast?" Like, how much boob can you reveal before the onlooker can no longer sustain his/her curious or fevered speculation about what the naked breast would look like? What looks best: a wide-necked top with the boobies peeking plumply over (what they call the 'balconette' look); a narrow and deep V revealing the cleavage and the rounded inner curves of the tits; or simply a relatively low top that reveals only the cleavage? And so on, with lots of other possibilities. The things you think about while waiting for the kettle to boil.

After I realised just how much time I devote to thinking about tits, I began to wonder, as I periodically do, if heterosexuality is that compatible with being a tit-woman. (On Saturday, someone politely asked me if my crisis of confidence over my sexual attractiveness is a sign of my latent lesbianism.)
But then I said to myself, "NO! This is purely aesthetic! Let's face it: the female body is nicer to look at than the male body."
Continuing my internal dialogue, I interrupted myself: "But think of all the time you've spent analysing what makes a man look good in a t-shirt."
"You're right," I answered. In fact, Nerdy Blog Night had provided an excellent opportunity for this, because several men had been wearing the same t-shirt.

So now to How I Like Men in T-Shirts. Let me just say that for simplicity's sake, I am referring to men of any build, except when it interferes with the line of the t-shirt and forces other aesthetic considerations (like, manboobs or a gut would force a looser t-shirt, as would really big muscles).

1. We meet at last, Meester Bond! The t-shirt must not be one of those tight raglan Bonds t-shirts, which I don't find as interesting because they reveal too much of the body and hence, are beyond the 'aesthetic limit', or what I will call the 'curiosity threshold'. They are worn actually to show off the body, and apart from the fact that Bonds t-shirt-wearers are more likely to be gay, I prefer to work out what the underlying body looks like through more subtle means. The loose raglan t-shirt is okay, but a poor substitute for a 'proper' t-shirt.

2. The cut of his jib. So, how should it fit? Well, think again of the curiosity threshold. The t-shirt must not be so baggy that it obscures the shape of the wearer or hangs from his shoulders as if from a hanger. But nor should it be so tight that it grips his biceps and armpits and pulls across his chest and stomach. It should be a little loose all round, just enough to sit flat against the top of the chest and the upper back, hang nicely and look comfortable and unwrinkled. Yet it should be fitted enough to suggest that there is a nice body underneath, even if there isn't.

3. The long and the short of it. In hip-hop circles it is apparently de rigueur for your t-shirt to come down to your knees. I really do reject that. At the same time, some men (particularly the young and buff) wear their t-shirts short enough to reveal their stomach. I have a weakness for this and find it very distracting; sort of how I suppose it must be for a man to have to converse normally with a woman with spectacular headlights. I think there is a happy medium. When his arms are by his sides, the shirt should sit below the hips. Then when he lifts the arms, the shirt will rise to just above the waistband, revealing a glimpse of stomach. The self-conscious man can wear it longer; but the fabric of the t-shirt will determine how good this looks. Stiff t-shirt fabrics generally look better longer; softer ones look better shorter.

4. A few tricks up his sleeve. T-shirt sleeves are very important! Again, only the young and buff, like my 18-year-old brother, can get away with very short sleeves - the kind that sit at an angle. And so far, Shane is the only man I know who can get away with cap-sleeved t-shirts. The seam between sleeve and body should sit on that hollow spot between the end of the collarbone and the end of the shoulder, erring towards the end of the shoulder. The sleeve should end about the middle of the biceps, and the arm should almost, but not quite, fill the sleeve.

5. Giving me the hot shoulder. By far the sexiest thing about a man in a t-shirt is the way it sits across his shoulderblades and upper back. It is so nice to watch him moving through a crowd or reaching for something in a well-fitted t-shirt. There is a lovely collection of illustrations by Chong on the wall at my work, of various staff members at their computers, drawn from the back. Looking at the male ones illustrates my point very well. The t-shirt is too tight if it pulls across the back; but it's too loose if you can't make out the shoulderblades through the fabric.

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