Now that the hot and humid weather has arrived for the summer men all over China are cooling themselves down using the Chinese Shirt Roll.
Known as bang ye (or “exposing grandfathers”), regardless of age, the rolled up t-shirt is a common sight amongst all social classes and in any location. The only common factor seems to be the lack of six-packs – it’s almost exclusively men with a little more to show that let it all hang out.
Popular throughout much of Asia, locally the style is called the Beijing bikini. The t-shirt is rolled up and tucked under the armpits, then periodically the excess material can pulled down to flap and create a bit of breeze. Not a great look, but it’s so popular it must work.
In extreme weather one or both trousers legs can be rolled up to just below the knee, often exposing sandals and black socks.
From conversations with friends it seems that men are ashamed to take their shirt fully off, but will happily expose their worst flabby bits.
As far back as 2002 and particularly in the run up to the 2008 Olympics the government (and fashion commentators) did try to discourage men from exposing their bellies in public. Looking out the window into the gardens below it seems nobody took any notice. Some of the younger generation see it as embarrassing, and try to convince their fathers to stop, but are fighting losing battle when it’s 40°C outside.
As habits go, there are a lot worse in China, so it doesn’t really register any more. The Beijing Bikini is a tradition I’m happy to skip, but I get some strange looks when wearing trainers or even sandals without socks, so it seems fashion faux pas goes both ways.
Photos cropped from a set by ‘InternetKing‘ because I’ve been inside enjoying the air-conditioning, rather than outside photographing sweaty men.