Was surprised that shirtlessness is the norm for guys working out in Hanoi. I was there a month ago and even in high end gyms, some guys workout shirtless and no one seemed to be bothered by it.
I read a book on the history of the YMCA. As recently as the 70s, guys were working out in just shorts. I was with two guys at church the other day, one was my generation, the other was early 20s. I mentioned how hard it was to find a jockstrap in my size. The twenty something said, "jockstrap,,what is that?" He was 23 and never wore one. Do you believe that? The other guy and I stared at each other, couldnt believe it.
Goodness! As late as the 1960's there were YMCAs that were actually limited to men only, as the name implies. Nude swimming was the norm and pools were constructed with high windows to allow light but prohibit views. Now, the YMCAs are co-ed and there are men (mostly Muslim (which is another peculiarity)) who swim with pants and tee shirts. Their poor wives "swim" with long-sleeved outfits with head coverings.
I have always been puzzled by the hangup of American society about male shirtlessness. The males torso is not a sexual organ in need of concealment.
Not only am I puzzled by the present hangup in our society, but why was it acceptable at one time, and it is not now?
Maybe this is just limited to America. As i have titled this forum, shirtlessness is the norm working out in Vietnam or even in other parts of the Asia. I have been living in the Philippines for quite some time. Even if most of the guys here got more pruder when it comes to shirtlessness, the guys, especially on the lower class don't have any hang-ups about this. In the gym where I work out, there's always a guy or two working out shirtless every time I go there.
There are lots of reasons this has changed:
1. Pre-occupation with body image
2. Huge increase in obesity (embarrased to be seen shirtless)
3. Shirtlessness increasingly equated to the person being a slob or uncouth behaviour.
4. Modesty requirements of some religions observed by others
5. Air-conditionning everywhere (sometimes downright cold) including gyms, cars, stores, indoor stadiums, etc.
5. People increasingly consider it a sign of immorality, or a suggestion of sexual deviancy (eg. the phrases half-naked and naked are applied to a guy with no shirt.
6. Some guys keep their shirt on for fear of being thought gay (go-figure!).
7. A belief (mostly incorrect) that it is unsanitary - spread of germs in gyms etc.
8. The belief (completely wrong everywhere) that there may be health laws against it.
9. The alarming increase in the number of people who think they have the right and the duty to complain to you if you aren't wearing a shirt. It used to be considered rude behaviour to openly ridicule and criticize the way another person is dressed.
10. An equally alarming increase in the number of men who don't have the courage dress comfortably and practically due to fear of being criticized or ridiculed. (It doesn't actually require courage, but they think it does.)
11. Increased gentrification of men who think that dressing up is the only proper way possible to dress.
etc. etc ... I could go on.
Thanks for your reasoning Bruce. You made good points. Americans are more and more overweight. Even young men and teenagers. As you said - Pre-occupation with body image - makes some men uncomfortable shirtless. On the flip side men that workout - and especially those with recent fitness successes love to take their shirts off and tout their efforts --and rightly so. I am an older chubby guy. I like being around shirtless men as it inspires me more towards doing something about my expanding gut - love handles, and man boobs. However regardless of my current shape- If I am hot and sweaty - I will take off my shirt - and I don't care who doesn't like it.
It used to be the norm here too in many places when it was hot, a few decades ago. Guys removed their shirt to workout do physical work or just relax if it was comfortable to them. It's natural and practical. Although there are several reasons why this has changed, the main reason is likely the pre-occupation we have with body-image. Even many buff guys these days are embarrased to take off their shirt because they think they are not perfect adonises. Also, most women these days, think it is their duty to complain, object or ridicule anyone with a bare chest.
I agree with your list one hundred percent. I feel that I am dammed if I do, dammed if I dont. If I go without a shirt, people passing in cars yell at me. If I wear a good suit with a fedora, people yell at me. I sometimes feel like getting the polo shirt/kakhi/flannel PJ bottoms and join the rest of the herd.
Do guys in the US not do yoga and pilates without their shirts, it would be pretty normal here?
I am Vietnamese and I live in Ho Chi Minh city. I started working out more than a months ago, and the gym where I work out is totally cool about being shirtless. Even shirtlessness is expected, not really require but, 90% guys there work out without a shirt.
In Vietnam, being shirtless is not a big deal, you can easily find a shirtless guy on streets, riding his bicycle or even motorbike. Though shirtlessness is except but you cannot enter buildings, malls or formal places without a shirt on.
Over here in Europe it is said that shirtlessness in the far Eatern countries like China, Vietnam etc. is strictly forbidden...