For years, men who bared their torsos in public were said to be bare-chested or shirtless, but recently I keep seeing more and more topless men; not in my part of the world, unfortunately, but in British papers, tabloids and none.
Topless Aidan Turner in the BBC1 drama Poldark has won best TV moment for the second year running, as Radio Times readers show their taste for steamy scenes.
It is a light-hearted tagline, no doubt inspired by its female equivalent, topless woman. Conversely, I don't recall women who wear no clothings above their waists ever being called bare-chested, or bare-breasted, but only topless.
In fact, many online dictionaries imply that topless refers exclusively to women
- (of a woman or a woman's item of clothing) having or leaving the breasts uncovered.
- featuring entertainers, waitresses, etc., who are nude above the waist or hips:
- of a woman : wearing no clothing on the upper body
Although Cambridge Dictionaries appears to have kept abreast with the times, and notes
- used to describe someone, usually a woman, wearing nothing on the upper part of the body, or something connected with this way of dressing:
Etymonline's entry for topless is brief
of women, "bare-breasted," 1966, from top (n.1) + -less. Earlier it was used of men's bathing suits (1937) and women's (1964).
But we are also told that the earliest recorded instance of topless is from the 1580s, a rhetorical term used to describe mountains or towers whose summits were so high they could not be seen by the naked eye.
From Christopher Marlowe's, Doctor Faustus, written between 1590 and 1604, we have the famous lines about Helen of Troy
Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
- Who coined the expression topless man/men, and when did it appear for the first time in print?