Point/Otherpoint: Whither the Undershirt?

by Jason Toon & Scott Lydon

Presenting the first in a series of probing debates on the least controversial issues of our time. For this installment of Point/Otherpoint, Jason Toon and Scott Lydon ponder the future of the men's undershirt.

Put It On by Jason Toon

A gentlemen always remains discreet on certain matters. The precise contours of his nipples. The density of his chest hair. The moisture pooling under his arms and down his back. The racist chest tattoos he received in prison. (Hey, you don't know what it's like in there. You have to get with your own kind to survive.)

For this, he relies on the humble undershirt. Like the best personal valet, it's there when he needs it and invisible when he doesn't. Hidden safely behind the cotton curtain, his nauseating intimacies cannot damage his social standing, offend his peers, or chase off the chicks. Whatever goes on under there, it'll be their little secret. No undershirt ever wrote a tell-all memoir or sold its master's secrets to the tabloid press. Its heart is true; it's a pal and a confidant.

In the spirit of discretion, I'll pass lightly over the nipple-chafing issue, saying only this: it sucks to have chafed nipples. A gentleman should not have to choose between papillar comfort and his cherished burlap guayabera.

When it comes to displays of conspicuous consumption, an undershirt is perhaps the least vulgar way to say "We both know I'm better than you." Haven't I the right to enjoy the fruits of my spectacular natural talent and my unerring instinct for excellence? Anyone who doesn't approve is invited to get his own undershirts and watch the positive effect it will have on his bearing and manner. As it happens, I know a wonderful source of undershirts that I'd be glad to share. It's called Target.

Now, this apologia should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of wearing an undershirt as an overshirt anywhere outside a basketball court. But we, as a society, also frown on those who wear their underpants on the outside without prohibiting the garment itself...for now. If the baying anti-undergarment mob has its way, who knows?

Take It Off by Scott Lydon

Sure, it comes in handy when you need to swagger around with a beer can, yelling to your neighbors about the Napoleonic code and why Meat Loaf is better than 2Pac, but on the whole, the undershirt is a relic we no longer need as a species.

First of all, the undershirt was invented around the time of the Spanish-American war. Remember the Maine? No? Well, then, why keep the undershirt around? Even the archaic Phone Excise Tax has been done away with. As newspapers are already learning the 21st Century is a very, very, very different place. With that in mind, why keep this relic of yellow journalism pressed to our chests, day in and day out, for even a second longer? Let us take the first forward steps to red and gold unitards and shiny shiny rocketpacks! Set our collective chest hair free!

Secondly, what does the undershirt mean? What does it truly say to the world? Obviously, it says to the world "Hey, I'm the kind of person who can afford to wear two shirts!" And, speaking strictly statistically, what sort of person is the most likely to be targeted by criminals? That's right, the person who has the most to lose. The person with the most shirts. Unless you're Superman or Robin, a second shirt is a good way to be marked as a target. What good will that second shirt be when you no longer have a television?

Don't keep giving in to the crypto-fascist undershirt industry. Take control of your wardrobe, and wear shirts the way they were intended. Against the skin. Freedom's just another word for nothing left to take off.

Photos taken from two scans by Flickr member cod_gabriel. Used under a Creative Commons License.