It is possible that we are witnessing a tongue in cheek redefinition of what is and isn’t appropriate outerwear (at least in Hollywood). It wouldn’t be the first time. Tees weren’t always the acceptable go to we know them as today. “A T shirt, until the early 20th century, was effectively a piece of underwear,” says Dr. Shaun Cole, an associate professor of fashion at Southampton University. “There are cultural moments when these things change.” Cole has researched the ever changing cultural norms and visibility around underwear, specifically among men. Over the years underwear has gained visibility through the rising prominence and sway of intimates advertising (Calvin Klein ads in the ’80s being a key watershed moment and, later, Victoria’s Secret shows), the adoption of sagging amongst communities of color, and queer image making. He argues that a series of factors could be behind fashion shedding pants entirely this go around.
One could also argue that, in a way, the shock value of seeing someone in their underwear has faded away slightly—at least compared to, say, Victorian times. Celebrities nowadays publicly in a variety of barely there ensembles—leotards, chaps, nude dresses, etc. A pair of underwear covers no more or no less than some of those looks. At the same time, social media has increasingly become replete with people sharing intimate photos—whether it be artistic, personal, or a shameless thirst trap. Shawn Mendes shared a photo of him in underwear on Instagram this week to millions of followers—how different would it be if he took it to the streets? “One of the ways to analyze this is in terms of privilege,” said Dr. Jill Fields, who teaches history at Fresno State and wrote An Intimate Affair Women, Lingerie, and Sexuality.”Who can dress like this, be photographed like this, and still feel safe. Not only physically safe, but also in terms of their reputation within their communities.” Her short answer Probably not everyone. Celebrities, however, are a different matter.
The musician is not the only notable person turning underwear into outwear as of late. A quick survey of runways and celebrity fashion reveals that intimate wear is fast becoming, well, not so intimate. Just last fall, Bella Hadid enjoyed pizza while out and about in a pair of snug white short shorts that called to mind boxer briefs, the piece crafted in a similarly thin fabric. Earlier this week, Julia Fox donned a pair of Diesel boxer briefs for a trip to the gas station, styling them with a blazer and tee that read “High class white trash.” Kendall Jenner put a different spin on the trend by wearing her underwear over a sparkly semi sheer dress, crafting an intriguing reverse dressing ensemble for a Met Gala after party. Singer Mahmood performed at Eurovision last weekend with a prominently exposed thong pulled over his tucked in button down, almost like a deliberate wedgie. And over in Milan, Miu Miu’s gender inclusive fall 2023 show featured various models in chic, thick weave briefs. All of these moments seem to go beyond merely being shocking. Instagram content
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