Keen catwalk watchers will have seen it blip across their radar for a few years now: the men’s interpretation of sheer fashion. The wit of one our Twitter followers summed up our guide to women’s sheer as ‘how to be naked nicely.’ Spot on. Few men are going to go there, however; and with good reason. As anyone looking to avoid social leprosy knows, a men’s top that offers even the slightest glimpse of what lies beneath looks good only when there’s an excellently defined chest layered below. And excellently defined chests aren’t all that common. They don’t grow naturally and there is no WonderBra Pec Edition™ to help gents out. Woe is us.

So, with warmer weather here, what’s a guy to do if he doesn’t have said Wonders Pecs (or simply has a matured sartorial sense)? Turn to the summer layering magic of open weave knits and sheers. Layered. Layered. Layered. That’s the mantra to make the oft scoffed-at men’s sheer happen for spring 2013.

Sheer clothing for men

Or don’t. There’s a reason this trend has never really happened: the core idea appeals (summer layering that doesn’t make me overheat, give me some of that!), but in practice you can walk around looking like a bit of a wanker. That’s crass, I know, but is there a better way to sum up this kind of look up?

sheer for men
How not to do sheer for men: Dries Van Noten S/S ’13

On paper, the above look would probably read like a great knit. Strong colour, interesting length. But, in practice, styled exactly as it was on Dries Van Noten’s catwalk – well, I hardly need to spell it out, suffice to say you shouldn’t spend your summer styled to look underdeveloped. Sure our side-slicked model friend isn’t exactly packing the chest definition of Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1980, but the odds are he has a better physique than most people you know (source: any study into the obesity epidemic). So, unless you’ve perfected the bench press and cable fly origins of Wonder Pecs(™), styling an open weave knit precisely as Dries did isn’t going to be amongst your life’s highlights.

And to be honest, even if you have perfected Wonder Pecs(™), highlighting them through this trend is unlikely to win you any friends. Emporio Armani does a fine job of showing you precisely what I mean.

sheer for men
Extreme sheer for men at Emporio Armani S/S ’13

To all those people who write in to opine the fact that men’s fashion doesn’t change, that it’s not forwards enough for your liking, I challenge you to wear the above look precisely as it is. Good luck, but may I first recommend medical insurance? No? Any eye test perhaps?

That Emporio Armani look is one that admittedly suffers through its use of stripes. But what then of strong colours?

sheer for men
Bright layered sheers at Ferragamo S/S ’13

This look comes down to personal taste. It ticks all the boxes: it’s layered, Wonder Pecs(™) are optional, and, with such a minimal thread count, it’s basically the opposite of a sweater. But it’s also got something of a Back To The Future air about it. Not the first, retro outing, but the “this is how we imagine the future will be after the 1980s but you’ll never actually own a HoverBoard” sequel. Think Doc Brown in a yellow trench with a clear (and completely unnecessary) tie and you’ll get my drift. Remove the orange pants and it’s probably less of an obvious look but, as is, you’d almost have to be braver to don this look than the unlayered open weave above. Paul Smith steps in here to show you just how it might look in far subtler hues;

sheer clothing for men
Lightweight knit at Paul Smith men’s, S/S ’13

Hence for most of us, subtlety is going to win. We men seldom take major risks when it comes to our style. The pros and cons of that are up for debate, but facts are facts.

So, whether they’re sheer or open knits, what’s the go-to-style men’s option for summer layering with a hint of sheer this season? Unsurprisingly the one that suits your tastes and is layered.

For me it something like this look from Emporio Armani. It’s summer smart – I like the warmth of summer, but spare me from the 40+ Celsius / 100+ Fahrenheit days – and it wins on the subtlety front courtesy of both colour and weave. It also says traveller and, from nautical looks to desert ones, ‘travel’ is a permanent element of my summer wardrobe.

sheer clothing for men
Subtle sheers at Emporio Armani S/S ’13

For you it might be something different, such as the unlayered simplicity of Viktor & Rolf’s open weave knit (below). But however you approach what’s being dubbed as “men’s sheer” this summer, think of it as akin to sex. Practice it safely, or you mightn’t get to practice it at all.

sheer clothing for men
Open weave knit at Viktor & Rolf S/S ’13

For more men’s spring 2013 fashion trends and how to wear them, follow that link.

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