Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter

Beware the bare-chested British bloke

There is no surer sign of summer than the sight of British men without their shirts

Man getting tattoo
Shirts off ... a tattoo or ample belly is no impediment to going shirtless. Photo: Tony Alter

THERE is no surer sign the summer has arrived than the sudden appearance of a creature known as the Bare-Chested British Male (BBM). All across the nation, men of all shapes and sizes strip off their shirts in public to expose pallid skin to the sun’s rays. Some of these men have a physique like David Beckham, or the guy from this celebrated Old Spice advertisment, but many do not. BBMs are not discouraged by a beer belly, a hairy back or an embarrassing tatoo. This isn't a ritual reserved for the beach either. If the sun is shining, you'll see British men going topless at shopping centres, in beer gardens and at barbeques in parks. BBMs even collect their takeaway topless and drive their cars without a shirt, risking a bad case of seat belt chafing in the process.

Not everyone approves of the national obsession with partial male nudity. In recent years BBMs have been banned from buses at the English seaside town of Brighton and a funfair at another seaside town, Southend. In 2006, one London politician called for a ban on shirtless men because they were bad for business. “They’re actually putting people off coming shopping in our town centre,” said Nicholas Bennett, a member of Bromley Council.

The BBM phenomenon also raises the issue of equality. Why are British men free to parade in public without a shirt when the same behaviour would see a woman mocked, cautioned or even arrested? What do you think about the phenomenon of the topless British male? Let us know.

Back to more UK Culture