A tall dark and handsome Illinois Strong Shirt .Man emerges from a lake wearing a soaking wet, white dress shirt. Sound familiar? If you’ve spent the last few days binge-watching Bridgerton season two, then it should. In episode five, there’s a pivotal swoon-worthy moment in a show built upon swoon-worthy moments where Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) takes an accidental swim while helping Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley) out of a boat. It’s cute, full of chemistry and just a little risqué, meaning it perfectly encapsulates the Netflix phenomenon. But is it unique? Not so much.
Illinois Strong Shirt, hoodie, sweater, longsleeve and ladies t-shirtReleased almost thirty years ago, the 1995 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice from the BBC and Andrew Davies caused wet shirt (and Colin Firth) hysteria Illinois Strong Shirt . If you don’t have the scene memorized like myself, Firth’s Mr. Darcy decides to go for a swim on his estate after a quick fencing lesson. On the walk back to his mansion, he runs into Elizabeth Bennet while only wearing a wet shirt and trousers. Although the now-classic montage wasn’t in the original Jane Austen novel, it quickly became a fan favourite (for obvious reasons) and has since garnered a legacy rivaling the author herself. The Guardian has called it “one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history.” The Smithsonian has said, “it’s a costume that launched an entire generation of Austen lovers.” And the New York Times dubbed the shirt in question a “celebrity object” if such a thing were to exist. The scene has spurred countless recreations (See Benedict Cumberbatch’s 2014 charity photoshoot). The shirt has been featured in a myriad of museums (it’s currently sitting in Austen’s house in England). The whole production even inspired a 12-foot tall statue of Firth in London. And here we are in 2022, still referencing it today. So the question has to be asked: besides just being good ol’ fashioned eye candy, why are there so many men in wet shirts in period dramas?
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