CRASS: Shirt unbuttoned too far down.
Yes - the temperature's rising and you want to stay cool. No - just because you feel cool don't mean you look it. Unbuttoning your shirt down to the navel is seriously taking it too far, but if Fabio is your idol and you're proud of it, read no further. Unless you're one of a handful of men in the world who can navigate this treacherously territory (see "exempt" below), I suggest that most of you stop after releasing that second button.
Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with opening up your shirt. Worn the right way at the right time, it sends out an open, subtly welcoming vibe that works well as a weapon of mass attraction. Remember that clothing is a powerful vehicle of communication. As with all intelligent dialogue, know what you and your chest are saying with that open shirt of yours. You know what it means when someone's described as "buttoned-up." So think about what it means to be "unbuttoned."
So what's wrong with Rico Suave here? EVERYTHING. But since the focus of this post is on the open shirt, I'll just go there. First, he's too amphibious - a look that may win gold medals on the Olympic swim team, but not at a party when all that you hope to score are some phone numbers. He looks like he gets his entire body - including his eyebrows - waxed. I understand that guys from certain ethnicities, like my Asian bros, don't have much body hair, but there is a difference between a guy who's naturally light on hair and a guy who unnaturally manscapes his entire body.
This guy may think he's coming off virile, but he really comes across as sterile - high maintenance, sanitized, and probably much prettier than his dates. The open shirt is meant to say he's up for a good time, but I have a feeling the good time will come to a screeching halt once a strand of his coif falls out of place. I closed up a couple of buttons for him with the help of Photoshop, and already he looks more masculine, more respectable. He would actually look pretty hot if he quit his waxing habit and lost the belt, chains, and that fake ice on his finger.
If being amphibious isn't your problem, but rather, being mistaken for a bear, you may want to bring out the clippers, turn the dial down to, say, a 3 or 4, and give yourself a tasteful deforesting. Go for a little less density while staying natural, not like you dragged a lawnmower across your chest. Most women prefer a bit of chest hair - it's a sign of masculinity. So be glad that you have the goods, even if it's a rug. Just exercise routine maintenance and keep it well trimmed and groomed.
Two words that define crass: Simon Cowell. He's neither a sex symbol nor a superstar (although I'm sure about 3 women in the entire world and his girlfriend might disagree). He's a television personality whose biggest claim to fame is for being equal parts prick and discovering unknown talent in the pop world. I do sometimes respect his straight talk now and then, but the guy is clearly mean-spirited at worst and arrogant at best. Opening his shirt well below his sternum and exposing his famous man-breasts is his way of telling us all to ... must I finish the sentence?
EXEMPT: Here are some men that came to mind that I feel are exempt from this discussion. In fact, they transcend class and crass altogether by being in a category all their own. These men are in complete congruence with who they are and their way, waaay open shirts - in other words, they unapologetically embody the open shirt. Can you imagine any of these guys buttoning up? Sir Tom Jones: At close to 70, the man still has hysterical women throwing knickers his way. Tom Ford: This man is a bona fide International Creative Man of Mystery. The way I see it, if he can do this on his ad campaign, he can bring it down as far as he wants. Mickey Rourke: Well, because he's Mickey Rourke. Case closed.
CLASS: I can't call this look class in the strict sense, but it is an edgy, radically cool alternative to the topmost look. This guy exudes mystery, danger, intensity (well, he does play a vampire). He keeps things lean, mean and modern with a fitted, monochromatic look. The boots are a bit exotic, but keeping the rest simple and in one color scheme balances out a little flash. The real wild accessory is his hair - on his head and face - they add to the unpredictable, untamed vibe, like a menacing modern day James Dean.
On the opposite spectrum is this charming look. The newsboy cap, the tailored vest (notice how it strategically quality-controls the shirt opening), the by-gone era look - all suggest that he's a creative type. Again, no excess fabric - everything fits close to the body. The sky blue shirt and deep blue vest bringing out his blue eyes. The exposed chest hair says that, beneath his youthful and playful facade, he's all man. This is a great example of a man who utilizes everything he's got - his eyes, his chest hair, and even his camera - to contribute to his overall look. This is a studied look - not for a dude's dude, for sure. But if you're a poetic, artistic type who doesn't mind showing a bit of sensitivity and creativity, this is the look for you. I bet he has killer kicks too, like desert boots, artfully distressed bucks, or a pair of vintage brogues to finish off his masterful look.
This is an elegant, luxurious, smooth-operator look, great for winding down after work over martinis at a dimmed-down, upscale boutique hotel bar. Everything fits well. His grooming is impeccable, but deliberately not too finished or perfect. The refined pendant that follows the shape of the shirt opening draws the eye invitingly to the patch of exposed chest, and the substantial stainless watch (as far as I can discern from the photo) offers the heft needed to counterbalance the delicate pendant. Altogether, the look is sleek and masculine, with a sense of ease and an element of mojo ... like a black panther on a midnight prowl.
Here's another one that I think is a mighty fine look. Again, much of the same principles apply to this guy as the one before, such as the fit, the watch, and hair - except there's facial hair as a counterpoint to the shellacked 'do. This guy gives off more of an old-world gentlemanly vibe as opposed to the contemporary look above, but the same sleek, dashing qualities are all fully intact in spades.
CONCLUSION: Stop after the second button please, unless the buttons are spaced more tightly so that the third is high enough for you to unleash it safely and responsibly, without undoing your dignity.
As a general rule, don't buy shirts that, no matter how beautiful the fabric, have awkward button spacing - the ones in which the second button is placed too high or too low, mucking up the entire alignment. As a designer, I never understood how other designers could conceive of such an egregious oversight. Anyway, it happens, so it's up to you to actually try on your shirts to make sure you're satisfied with where the crucial second button lands.
Pick shirts in solid colors or in simple, classic patterns such as stripes and small checks that fit close to the body, but not tight. And notice how all these guys have their sleeves rolled up - congruence is key: Buttoned up sleeves don't quite harmonize with an unbuttoned collar, nor the "undone look" in general.
Maintain good grooming. Even in the heat, a freer, looser vibe never means sloppy - know the distinction. And lastly, it's about a certain attitude. Open, relaxed, generous - easy to be with, easy to work with, easy to like. That means being an all-around cool guy, who, while opening up a little chest, never forgets to keep an open heart and mind.