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Male Cleavage: When’s It Time To Cover Up?


Years ago, I interviewed the lovely Doris Roberts, an accomplished actress, perhaps best known for her role as Marie Barrone in Everybody Loves Raymond.

A mature woman, we were talking off camera about clothing. She leaned over to me and said, “Honey, there comes a time in your life when you dress to conceal rather than reveal.” She may not have been the first to say it but God bless her for tellin’ me. The point Doris was making is that there comes a time in everyone’s life when we can no longer pull off “cute” and must opt for a look that is more suitable for our age. Unfortunately knowing exactly when that point occurs presents a bit of a problem…

You’ll recall a few weeks back we discussed this very topic in our GEM Debate “Can You Wear A Mini-Skirt After 35?” That piece was based on a poll of two thousand women who gave their opinions on when a woman should stop wearing items like mini-skirts, ponytails, even bathing suits. I gave my opinion within the piece but I do think the point was lost on some. It’s not whether you can wear a mini or not but really about whether those clothes are age appropriate. It’s not about having great legs or a perky butt, but more about how you want people to perceive you and the type of image you are trying to portray.  And it’s not just for the ladies; I said then and will reiterate now, the same goes for men. Now there are photos to prove my point!

Today’s Daily Beast  features a photo gallery of male celebrities who are fond of showing off their so-called “man cleavage”. The roll call includes Simon Cowell, Adrien Brody and Mickey Rourke but let’s not pretend this is a new fashion trend as much as a resurgence (Miami Vice anyone?) However, what I once thought was simultaneously cool and hot back then, now I’m just sort of cool on altogether.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some men who can pull the look off, namely those whose pecs that are not bigger than my B cup. And if said pecs are part of a chiseled midsection instead of resting on a Buddha belly I’m all for it. And here’s where some of you are gonna howl; the pecs must also belong to a guy younger than 35.

Now HANG ON! Hear me out. I’m not saying there are not men over 35 who COULDN’T pull the look off. The question is should they try? Now this may be a vast over-simplification but here goes…

When you are younger, everything is nice and taut and revealing your body parts, even a little over revealing, can be chalked up to the fact that you have not lived long enough to know any better. But when you are a “man of a certain age” and you have real accomplishments on your resume, you have more tools in your arsenal. You’ve had some success in business, a bit of life experience and you can carry on a conversation on myriad topics. There’s no real need to show all the goodies in an effort to attract someone; you can do that in ways that don’t appeal to the id-driven, carnal side of human nature. As is the case with women, it’s about how you want people to see you.

For me, mature women AND men showing too much skin, just look silly and desperate. It also signals someone who’s either a) having trouble transitioning to the next phase of their life or b) doesn’t own a full-length mirror. Neither of those is good but at least one can be fixed with a quick trip to Target.

I’ll let you thumb through the Daily Beast gallery and draw your own conclusions but there are some guys in there who very definitely need to button up. Someone ought to tell them there are few things hotter than a good looking man, who clearly frequents the gym but lets his bulging chest keep us guessing as to how much he can bench press. Besides, the imagination is more forgiving than a camera ever will be.

But what about you – do you think men should give up the “man-cleavage” after a certain age? What age is that?

And what are the other style rules for aging guys? Can mature men get away with earrings? Long hair like Fabio? Tight jeans? Start commenting everyone…


  1. Jim Walker

    June 6, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I don’t think there is a hard and fast age limit to man cleavage, but I think when you can see wrinkles of fat or wrinkled skin exposed on the chest, it’s probably time to skip the the exposed chest. That’s why I train seven days per week, cause I’m doing everything I can to be able to keep it high and tight as long as I can.

  2. Dave

    June 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    When I was in college, I was dating a girl who had a sexy mom. They looked like sisters. Once day, a woman remarked to the mom that she can wears her daughter’s clothes. She replied “No, I can’t. I don’t compete with my children. She raids my closet; I don’t raid hers.”

    I’ll be 39 in September and I won’t wear certain things. The stores are full of age-appropriate clothing that are more my style and don’t make look like I’m trying to pick up a 20-something in a club.

  3. Rene Syler

    June 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    @yes, but that’s not the point. The issue is not whether you CAN it’s whether you SHOULD!

  4. Miko

    June 6, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I agree with you, Rene! There’s nothing worse than walking up behind someone with a great body…only to have them turn around with the face of a grandparent.

    On the other hand, if you can pull it off…and not look stupid…I say go for it. I’m a 40-year-old woman who hasn’t given up her mini-skirts, so I get it. But, in my defense, I never wear them tight, and it doesn’t look like I’m one step from the pole. Also, most people don’t think I’m 40, so I’m riding the train of youth until it comes to the last stop. 🙂

  5. Deon Smith

    June 6, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I think its the age we live in where men want to salvage their youth. I find the trend in LOW taste. Most women want their men to LOOK LIKE MEN. They arent as visual as we are and prefer for a certain level of style and finesse to left up to the imagination. (MICKEY ROUKE is a hot mess in that image. Sorry)

  6. Pamela

    June 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Mickey looks ridiculous! I would not even think of going out in public with a man that was dressed like that. Sometimes you have to know when to say when…

  7. Gay Wakefield

    June 6, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    I was scarred for life by the shirtless scene at the well in the movie “Bridges of Madison County.” I did not want that to be the last shirtless image of Clint Eastwood that was burned into my mind.

  8. Christina Gleason @ Cutest Kid Ever

    June 6, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    My husband doesn’t ever show that much of his chest, but I hate when his polo shirts don’t button properly. When he has chest hair showing, it drives me crazy.

  9. m.e. johnson

    June 6, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    What’s with this at a certain age this, at a certain age that?
    What’s with should should should?
    Back in mt granny’s day women, at 40, were relegated to ugly granny dresses, ugly granny aprons (had to have that apron) and those ugly ugly black lace-up granny shoes. Didn’t matter if she was thin, pretty, playful, married, single, etc.
    Certain people think women should be all wrapped up from head to toe. But one person’s ‘should’ is another person’s “screw you.” As it SHOULD be. It’s still a free country. No dictates needed.

  10. Victor Hogan

    June 6, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    yeaaah…. uummmm. in my opinion, male cleavage isn’t a look i was ever going for @ 20something and it definitely is not a look that i’m goin for @ 37. its always been a bit cheesy to me… and a bit… ummmm(i don’t wanna offend anyone) i’ll stick with cheesy.

    earrings are cool @ any age, depending on your profession… it’ll work in the creative world/industry but not so much in the corporate world. Ed Bradley(the late, great correspondent of 60 minutes) rocked his with much swagg! =) I have locs that sit on my shoulder…and i plan on growing them to my mid-back. again, i think how you wear your hair depends on ur profession AND how you wear ’em. I’m not gonna go around wearing them like lil wayne or waka flaka…. that’s just FOOLISH! mine are more of an afro-centric cultural thing. can i wear it like lil wayne or waka flaka? yes… will i wear it like them? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!! that’s like me wearing skinny jeans dropped below my butt or multi colored airforce ones, etc…I’m a grown ass man and i role in grown ass circles. i have to carry myself as such!

    (I can’t relate to man cleavage. but i can relate to the latter)

    I agree, rene…. just b/c you can doesn’t mean you should.

  11. Kolleen

    June 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Man cleavage should be completely covered up no matter what age or body type.

  12. juli

    June 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Screams insecure and trying too hard at me. Lol.. I’d rather watch a man of any age split wood, with or without a shirt Now that is some sexy eye candy.

  13. Pam R

    June 7, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I am not sure I ever liked the man cleavage on any man. Whether they should do it..ummm no.

  14. Taylorgirl

    June 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Renee I am with you, and for that reason I no longer wear shorts. I am 53 and yes the legs are the last to go in most cases, but knees even skinny ones don’t look so well in shorts. And thighs need even more help to carry shorts off so I just don’t wear them. I have considered the longer shorts, but the jury is still out on that for now. As for men of a certain age,” I applaud that men as a group, see less of their flaws than we do and are less concerned about body image. But chest cleavage, hummm, maybe we should give them more stylish options for poolside wears. I know my husband is concerned about how his chest looks and doesn’t totally embrace going bare-chested to swim. But a baggy T-shirt is kind of frumpy too. Perhaps, if there were more options some men would choose something else to wear?

  15. TechyDad

    June 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I rarely show my chest in public. I’m a very hairy guy, verging on furry (and no, not *THAT* kind of “furry”). I have no fantasy that the sight of my slightly overweight, hairy, 35 year old bare chest would make any woman smile (except maybe to stifle a laugh at my expense). Not that I have a bad body image, mind you. I’m just realistic. My strengths are likability and personality. I’m never going to be mistaken as a male model and I’m fine with that. Besides, how many of those models (male and female) have great bodies but nothing going on upstairs?

  16. Todd

    December 18, 2012 at 9:23 am

    ” knees even skinny ones don’t look so well in shorts”

    “Man cleavage should be completely covered up no matter what age or body type.”

    “My husband doesn’t ever show that much of his chest”

    “There’s nothing worse than walking up behind someone with a great body…only to have them turn around with the face of a grandparent.”

    How delicate and judgmental some are. Should humans be so precious?
    “(Male cleavage) Screams insecure and trying too hard at me”

    Huh. Screams ‘don’t care what your tiny mind thinks about my appearance. I choose to be comfortable and if you don’t like it then kindly avert your gaze. Why do you give a **** about trivia?

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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