“There’s one thing no-one can ever take away from you – your instinct,” growls the American voiceover in the new advert for David Beckham’s 38th (!) fragrance, uploaded to the ex-footballer’s Instagram account. However they can, apparently, take away your shirt. During the 15 second clip, Beckham is seen in a series of scenarios, all of which involve him either with his top off or lounging around in bed in an unbuttoned dress shirt. The real star of the ad is not the perfume or the celebrity himself – but his toned, tattooed chest.
Beckham has always been a barometer for what’s happening on the menswear scene and here, he’s doing it again. While the totally topless look is one statement (arguably for only the boldest amongst us) there is also another new dressing example seen on celebrities of late: some chest peering over a vest, here, a rug-exposing v-neck jumper there. It’s “he-vage” (or, “male-cleavage”) – and not since the days of disco have we seen so much of it.
From Barry Keoghan on the Saltburn and Masters of the Air press trails, to Timothee Chalamet, Donald Glover and The Bear’s Jeremy Allen White at the Golden Globes, it’s clear this A-list trend is only getting more pronounced as the current awards season progresses. Keoghan favours a low-cut waistcoat, while Allen White and Cillian Murphy have also donned sheer chiffon shirts in recent weeks.
“The red carpet has been getting more relaxed lately, whether men losing a bow tie with their look or losing a shirt altogether,” says Los Angeles-based celebrity stylist Warren Alfie Baker. “I think people enjoy seeing a less formal look on an actor – it gives them an air of confidence and relatability.”
With clients including Andrew Garfield, Matt Bomer and Ben Affleck, and the Oscars around the corner, it’s his busiest time of year. Another of his clients, Andrew Scott, has notably embraced this chest-centric trend, most recently at the Golden Globes in a white Valentino suit with an almost liquiform, light, deep-oval T-shirt underneath, accessorised with a thin neck chain. What does he think is the attraction for celebrity men to expose a little (or a lot) of extra chest on the red carpet right now?
“Men’s fashion has gained a lot more attention recently, so it’s about finding ways to peacock on the red carpet that oozes an effortless sexiness without having to do too much,” says Baker. “It’s often a small twist on an otherwise classic look that makes the difference.”
Perhaps that’s the real attraction. Unlike exposing muscular biceps or thighs that tend to convey vascular power and a very traditional masculine sense of strength, showing off a bit more chest conveys a sexiness that’s powerful, yes, but a bit more relaxed, a bit less conscious – probably because it’s an area of the body that’s exposed by a loosening of clothes, rather than a tightening of them. And an area of the body for men that doesn’t get seen very often otherwise, making it all a bit more clandestine, a bit more cheeky.
Of course, the fact that this is an area of your body that might not see daylight quite as often does raise a few questions for us mere mortals looking to try the trend. First, is the question of the chest itself. While you can give this a go whatever your physique, a man might feel the need to incorporate a few exercises into his regular workout to target and enhance his chest.
“If you want to grow a particular muscle group faster, you need to be training that muscle group twice a week,” says Connor Minney, co-founder of online strength-training platform GRNDHOUSE (grndhouse.com). “In those two sessions, you need to be training the muscle from different angles, say exercises in the incline position for the first and exercises that involve flat movement for the second. That way you’re going to encompass a broader range of movements for the chest, plus a higher amount of volume across the week, so your chest will grow in areas that perhaps it hasn’t been previously.”
Of course, if the gym isn’t your thing, there are other ways to enhance your chest. It can also be done via a spray tan from a professional like James Harknett, whose clients include supermodel David Gandy. Having honed his craft for over 20 years, Harknett offers a £75 tan contouring service at his studio in the W Hotel in London where he layers different tones of tan onto specific areas of your body using an airbrush.
“When I see a body in front of me, I know where to build up, where to define and where to layer the colour,” says Harknett. “I enhance the natural contours and shadows of the body to give the most impact.” Instant he-vage.
One man who understands this is Andy Coxon, co-founder of deodorant brand AKT London (also useful for ensuring a non-shiny chest on a night out). Last year he embarked on an impressive workout programme that resulted in a chest-baring photoshoot, a spray tan and another big question: to shave or not to shave?
“I’m very hairy and my trainer advised me to remove it as the hair was hiding the definition I’d worked hard to achieve,” says Coxon. “It was the first time I’d ever shaved my chest and it was an eye-opening experience.” While he’s grown his chest hair back in the time since, he now makes sure to trim and maintain it due to his love for a vest. “Now I see my chest hair as an accessory in a way I didn’t before.”
Because the opportunity here isn’t just experimenting with your clothes, it’s experimenting with your chest. For those who want to go full Selleck 2.0, you might just need a little chest hair maintenance. Jack Dunn, founder of JD Waxing in the City of London, offers a specific chest and abs manscaping service for £33 that uses clippers to tidy and trim your hair to enhance definition. You also might like to simply trim at home yourself using a super-easy and flexible tool like the Philips One Blade 360 (£50, Boots).
And others might want to embrace full hairlessness. Sugaring London offers an all-natural chest-only hair removal service for £45 that purports to be far less painful than waxing and have longer lasting results than shaving. All good options that will ensure your chest looks its best, because when you’re headed out this spring, much like Beckham’s fragrance ad, your he-vage is the real star of the show.