I went to a Boy Scout camp where I shared a cabin with another boy. It was summer and I lived in the southeastern US, so it was very hot even over night. But I wasn't sure what to sleep in and was very nervous about the idea of getting undressed in front of another guy. The first night, I wore my clothes to bed. So did he. After a night or a few nights, I decided it was just too hot to go to bed fully dressed, so I pulled off my shirt. Not only did my cabin-mate not object or treat me oddly, he did did the same. Another night I took off my shorts and slept in my boxers. Again, my cabin-mate did the same right after I did. He was simply waiting to see what I would do! It was something of a revelation for me to realize that other guys were just as awkward and unsure as I was, and that often they were just waiting to see what others would do, just like I was. That realization made me much more comfortable in a variety of social situations and I hope that by sharing my experience here, others can learn this earlier and experience that same freedom and confidence.
While slightly off topic for this blog, I wanted to address an issue that sometimes causes concern and insecurity for young men. Since many of my readers are young men seeking guidance and reassurance on what to wear or not to wear in various situations, I expect a number of them will find this topic relevant. What should one wear when sleeping over at a friend's house? What about when having a friend sleep over at your house? Different households have different rules and habits and feeling these things out can occasionally be a bit awkward. You don't want to feel inappropriately dressed or make anyone else feel awkward.
How to treat these situations depends on the specific circumstances. If there is an extra room you will have to yourself, dress however you like for bed as it should be assumed you will be afforded some degree of privacy by this arrangement. If you will be sharing a room with a friend, you may be tempted to automatically dress more modestly than you ordinarily would, but that may actually make your friend more uncomfortable if they normally wear less. If you dress in pajamas, but your friend (host or guest) normally sleeps in boxers and has no pajamas, it may make him feel quite awkward.
Don't assume that just because your friend wears pajamas, or a t-shirt with his boxers, that your wearing boxers or foregoing a shirt will make him uncomfortable. Some people just have different preferences, it doesn't mean that we will find someone else's choice inappropriate. He may even decide he prefers what you wear, once presented with the option. When in doubt, ask. If your friend dons pajamas for bed, tell him what you normally wear and ask if it would make him or his family uncomfortable.
As a guest, you should mostly follow your host's lead on what to wear to the breakfast table, sitting up to watch a movie, or out in the yard. Some families that find it perfectly acceptable to go shirtless to bed or in the yard, have rules about proper dress for the table, etc. If you are the host, don't be afraid to go shirtless anytime you normally would, it's your house and your guest is more likely to feel set at ease than to be disturbed in any way.
Most of us feel more comfortable knowing what is "normal". For the record, most guys sleep in their underwear, usually boxers or boxer briefs, sometimes with a t-shirt. Very few guys sleep in their street clothes. If both of you are going to bed in street clothes, it is much more likely that both of you prefer to sleep in boxers, etc, and are simply too awkward or embarrassed to undress in front of the other without some indication they will not find it odd. Usually, if you take the lead, your friend will follow. If you aren't comfortable taking the lead, say something. Mention what you normally wear, or that sleeping in clothes is uncomfortable.
It is less common for guys to sleep naked (although certainly not abnormal, it's actually more common than street clothes), and it is more common for guys who would sleep naked at home alone to put on clothes when others are around. If you normally sleep naked, I would suggest at least wearing boxers or something to bed. That said, if you sleep over with a friend and both of you sleep naked and it doesn't bother either of you, that's no big deal, there's nothing wrong with it.
Finally, a note for parents when your kids have a friend sleeping over: There is no reason to expect them to dress more modestly than they would at home. It's perfectly normal for boys to sleep in their boxers or underwear. Unless your guest's parents have indicated otherwise, there should be no reason to enforce a stricter dress code than you normally have in your home. Even if the boys sleep naked, there is no cause for concern, it's no different than what they commonly encounter in a locker room.
Hopefully this will make a lot of people more comfortable and set some minds at ease. Feel free to share your opinions and experiences in the comments.
Maybe you've read this blog in the past and felt that the freedom to go shirtless and be comfortable with your own body would be greatly beneficial to your son or sons, as well as to any young man, but felt that social pressures have become increasingly restrictive among your child's peer group. Are you concerned that your children's friends seem excessively shy about shirtlessness, or may even intimidate their peers who dare to bare their chests? Perhaps you have wondered what you can do to help them overcome these attitudes, to be comfortable in their skin and develop a positive body image. Each person's situation and family relationships are unique, but hopefully some of the advice here will be able to help, at least to encourage you in the right direction.
How you approach this situation depends a lot on your children's ages. It is much easier to start at an early age. Young boys emulate their fathers. Set the example by going shirtless in appropriate situations, such as doing yard work or hanging around the house. When they are young enough for you to dress them, let them go out in the yard to play without a shirt. Wrestle around in the floor with them shirtless.
If you aren't quite comfortable with yourself shirtless, consider working out and improving your own fitness, but don't forget that you don't have to be perfect. See my previous post, Getting Started. Being fitter may also make your children more likely to emulate you as they get older, rather than dismissing your shirtless habit as some kind of old man thing they are embarrassed of. Again, you don't need to have the chiseled physique of a Greek god, but we should all take care of our bodies.
Consider getting your boys involved in activities where it is commonly accepted for them to go shirtless. Especially for older boys, it can really help for them to see the example among their peers as well. Consider activities like bouldering, or any sport or recreation area where other boys their age commonly go shirtless.
Perhaps you yourself previously taught your sons to be somewhat shy and apprehensive about taking off their shirts and have had a change of attitude. Change is difficult and can leave you wondering where to start. As adults we feel like we are always supposed to be right and never change our minds, but it is important that we show our children that we are rational people who change our minds on the basis of evidence and reason. If you have laid out rules, explicitly or implicitly, don't be afraid to tell them directly the rules have changed. "Remember when we said that you should keep your shirt on when you mow the grass? We've decided that it is completely healthy for you to take your shirt off when you are doing yard work if you want to." Sometimes just the suggestion that it is acceptable in a particular circumstance is all it takes to set them at ease. "It's pretty common for guys to take off their shirts when they go climbing in the area we are going to, so you should feel comfortable taking yours off if you want to."
But finally, don't push it too hard or you'll make it seem weird. The whole point is that it should be natural, comfortable. Don't make them go shirtless, leading by example and on occasion a gentle suggestion should suffice. If your kids have already gotten to be really shy, it make take some time for them to loosen up. Don't worry too much. Try get them in situations where it comes naturally and don't push them too much.
If your child seems to have issues with body image and self-esteem, you might want to address that. If he isn't comfortable with his physique, offer him some guidance on how to work towards what he wants. Again, you can find some helpful advice in the post, Getting Started. Let him know that he doesn't have to meet someone else's ideal to feel comfortable with himself, but that if he wants a better physique, and more importantly a higher level of health and fitness, he can achieve his goals through consistent hard work and healthy lifestyles. If you feel like you aren't able to give the help and guidance he needs, consider getting him on a sports team with a coach who can help or even working with a personal trainer.
Ultimately, the important thing is to give your kids a balanced sense of self-worth, confidence, and the responsibility to care for themselves and their bodies. Try to make them comfortable with themselves, but don't worry too much about whether they adopt the same habits you do.
Spending time holding your baby skin-to-skin is a great way for fathers to bond with their babies. Skin-to-skin care has been shown to have a variety of benefits for babies, calming and stabilizing the infant. Ideally, as soon as a baby is born, it should be placed directly to it's mother's breast for care and feeding, but when this isn't possible because of cesarean delivery or medical complications, the father providing skin-to-skin care has also been shown to be beneficial. Of course, even if the mother is available to immediately take the baby, there will always time for the father to spend time later holding the baby skin-to-skin and have that bonding experience.
Some men may feel uncomfortable taking their shirts off in the hospital, but remember this is for the baby's benefit and there is medical research to back it up. Besides, this is your childbirth experience and the hospital staff is supposed to be there to support you, you should not feel uncomfortable about caring for your baby as you see fit.
Especially if the mother is not available immediately after birth or if your baby requires extended care in NICU, etc, you should insist upon being able to provide skin-to-skin care for your baby. If you want some evidence to show your health care provider or hospital staff regarding the benefits of skin-to-skin care, you can use these references:
In keeping with tradition, here are a few shirtless Halloween costumes that were submitted this year. If anyone would like to write a brief story about their shirtless costume experience, I would be glad to include it as a guest posting on the blog. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For now, here are just a few photos of shirtless costumes that were shared.
Three little Indians?
Ok, I'm really not sure what/who the guy on the left is supposed to be. I believe the middle guy (not quite shirtless) is Aladdin, and the guy on the right, Tarzan.
And the Smurfs.
Time to start planning those shirtless costumes for next year! (Depending on your chosen character, you may want to hit the gym now, LOL.)
Maybe you have followed this blog for a while and thought the idea of going shirtless more seemed cool, but you just haven't been sure where to start, a little concerned about what people will think or say. Well, this post is for you. Instead of focusing on various activities where we can promote acceptance of shirtlessness, I want to use this post to help you develop a little more shirtless freedom in your own life. I'll try to include something for everyone, so some of my comments will be addressed to younger guys living at home with their parents, some to guys going off to college, and others to grown men who live alone or have their own families.
Yard work is probably one of these easiest places to get started going shirtless. It's hot and you are working, so it gives you plenty of reason for taking your shirt off. One of the concerns that guys often have when they haven't previously been accustomed to going shirtless, is that people will say something to them that they wouldn't say to someone else because it seems out of character. Why are you going shirtless now? I've never seen you shirtless before. When you are working out in the yard, especially on a hot day, you can always say, "Well, it's really hot out here. I thought it would be more comfortable." And shrug it off as something quite natural. Which it is.
Another benefit for yard work is that you are in your own yard, so you don't feel like you are invading someone else's space. It's your own yard after all, whose business is it but your's if you feel like pulling off your shirt?
Another great place to start is running. This is another place where it comes quite naturally, especially in hot weather. And you can always choose a route that makes you more comfortable running shirtless, socially. You may want to avoid routes initially that take you by a lot of people you know. Again, guys are often concerned that their friends will think it is odd because they haven't been accustomed to seeing them shirtless in the past. After you have been running shirtless for a month or two, if you happen to bump into a friend who seems surprised, now you can just casually say, "Oh, yea, I've been doing this for a while." Or, "I always run shirtless when I run this route."
Another thing to consider is choosing a route where a lot of other people run shirtless. If there is a park or track where there are a lot of people running shirtless, you may be more comfortable running shirtless there, too. You will just fit in. You may want to avoid running in areas where small children play or near store fronts. While there is nothing really wrong with it, it may make you feel awkward. Choosing a route where shirtless runners are expected will make you feel more comfortable. Rural or wooded trails are also a good choice.
Around the house
This one can be a little tricky, especially for younger guys who still live at home with their families, but the privacy of your home can be a great way to get comfortable going shirtless. If you have older brothers who hang around the house shirtless, or your dad does, it should make it pretty easy. If not, you might try starting by going shirtless from the shower to your room, or coming in from yard work or running shirtless. Your room may also be a good place to start going shirtless. But respect your family's standards, if mom doesn't allow guys to eat at her table shirtless, don't push it.
If you live with guys (roommates), it should be easier. You have basically equal say in household matters, and it's pretty normal for guys to go around shirtless in front of other guys, so it shouldn't offend their sensibilities. If they say something, you could even make a joke about it, "What? Is this too much manliness for you to handle?"
If you are the head of your own household, that should also make it easier. You may still want to ease into it, starting with things like coming from the shower or coming in from running or yard work, but you set the standard. Don't be ashamed to be comfortable in your own skin in your own home.
Find shirtless activities
Try finding other activities where guys are already going shirtless. Many of the sports previously mentioned on this blog are good options to try. If other guys participating are already going shirtless, it makes it a lot easier for you to do so as well.
Rock climbing or bouldering is a great choice where you will often find guys going shirtless. If climbing interests you, you could search for climbing gyms in your area and visit each of them to see if there are guys going shirtless there. You can also ask others if there is a place in the area where they go to climb outdoors. Often guys will go shirtless outdoors, even if they don't in the climbing gym. Take a few lessons, get your own shoes and gear, and hit the rocks.
Casual outdoor games of basketball, tennis, or sand volleyball are also good options. Frequently guys will take their shirts off when playing outdoors, and occasionally you may find guys playing basketball in a gymnasium shirtless. If these games interest you, look around for a place where you find other guys playing shirtless and join in. Often you will find this at a park or outdoor recreation facility.
If you are looking for a good all around workout, you might try CrossFit. Almost every CrossFit gym allows guys to train shirtless and the practice is pretty common. CrossFit emphasizes a minimalist approach, focusing on intense workouts for functional fitness, rather than gear and superfluities.
Even the kids often go shirtless at CrossFit (yep, they have a CrossFit Kids program).
Submission Wrestling and MMA
If you are inclined to sports with physical contact and aggression, or interested in learning to defend yourself, you might try submission wrestling, no-gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or MMA classes. While it is very common to train and compete in these sports shirtless, some schools require shirts to be worn in training. Visit the school or ask before you sign up.
Really get into it
Whatever you do, really get into it. Don't just use it for an excuse to hang out shirtless, that's weird and you'll miss out on most of the fun and fitness benefits. It really misses the point.
Going off to college
When you go off to college is a great time to start new habits, to remake yourself in a sense. Nobody has a bunch of preconceived notions about you, so even if you have always been hesitant to shed your shirt in the past, it won't seem odd or out of character for them. Plus, a guy's dorm is a great place where going shirtless is widely accepted as normal. Embrace the opportunity to make a new, more confident you.
Getting in shape
I don't want to imply here that you need to be in great shape and have a six pack to take off your shirt. In fact, I explicitly encourage guys not to worry about their imperfections, to be accepting of their own bodies and comfortable in their own skin. But getting in shape can certainly help improve your confidence and has it's own obvious benefits. In fact, encouraging fitness is one of the key benefits of going shirtless.
There are two paths to shirtless freedom and if we want to get the real benefits of it, we must balance the two of them. One aspect of this is accepting ourselves and our bodies. We don't have to like every aspect of our bodies, but we should be comfortable in our own skin. But while dwelling on our imperfections to the point of causing stress and anxiety would not be good, it is also a mistake to become so comfortable and accepting of ourselves in an unfit state that we no longer care about taking care of our bodies and bettering ourselves. Going shirtless should motivate us to care for our bodies and promote life-long fitness. Part of the shirtless experience is feeling a connection with our own bodies, it should make us aware of our bodies so that we appreciate and care for them.
So if you don't feel comfortable with the way you look shirtless, it may help to try to get in shape first. But don't feel like you have to attain perfection to shed that shirt. It is a journey and going shirtless should help encourage you along the way.
Exercise is the foremost thing you can do to improve your fitness and your physique. But it doesn't have to be complicated and you don't need a big gym with a lot of equipment to do it. Regardless of your goals, I recommend for everyone to do a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training.
Running is one of the simplest things you can do. If you aren't fit enough to do much running, start by walking, then begin jogging sections until you can run a good stretch. If you are already reasonably fit, you can get better results in a shorter time by doing high-intensity intervals, ie- running as hard as you can (110%) for a short space (30sec-1.5min), taking a short rest, and then hitting it as hard as you can again.
For resistance training you can do calisthenics, like push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups or crunches, and leg raises, plyometric jump squats, and other basic exercises that require little or no equipment. You can also lift make shift weights. I have known guys to do squats with a large rock found in the park, etc. If you have access to weights at home or in a gym, pick a weight you can lift eight to twelve times. You should work each muscle group two or three times a week and rest at least 48 hours before working that muscle group again. You could do one to four sets for each muscle group. Especially for beginners, doing just one set gets a lot of the benefit you will get from doing two or three sets. Each additional set provides some additional benefit, but there is a law of diminishing returns, so the additional benefit is never as great as the benefit of the previous set. Of course, if you want to be competitive in any way, additional sets are absolutely mandatory. But for basic fitness, a single set may suffice and makes for a short workout that is easy to fit into your schedule. If you do additional sets, you should rest 2-3min between sets.
Getting involved in a sport really is one of the best ways to get exercise because it makes it fun and easier to stick with when you are doing something you enjoy with other people who encourage you.
Diet can be a complex subject, but the basics are fairly simple. Eat a balanced diet of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, dairy, eggs, and whole grains. Eat more fresh foods and avoid highly processed foods. When it comes to watching your weight, the main principle has been understood for a long time. You must burn more calories than you consume. Everything else it generally either a minor tweak, or a gimmick. You may find that you can get by with generally choosing healthier foods, eating when you are hungry, and getting regular exercise. Many people find that when they do these things, their appetite self-regulates. If you need to count your calories and want to track your progress toward your goals, I recommend myfitnesspal.com.
Enjoy the journey
Exercise should help to improve your confidence and sense of well-being. Remember that you don't have to be perfect. You should feel good not only about who you are, but about who you are becoming. Enjoy the journey.
I hope these simple steps and ideas will help you begin your journey. Remember, it's about comfort, confidence, and becoming a better you!