By now, the TV viewers of Earth must have seen thousands of pro athletes walk through stadium hallways in their pre-game suits or in-game uniforms. I'm just not sure if we've ever seen one walk the well lit hall toward the field, pull his shorts down to his thighs and coolly adjust his psychedelic underwear.
Now we have, and I looked up and noticed it while in a gym, and I pretty much LOL'ed, which as we all know seldom actually means out loud. The mind-bogglingly famous Neymar, 22, appeared to show his underwear not in spite of the cameras but because of them. Either way, it's Brazil's World Cup, and that's a Brazilian right there.
Halftime waned Monday in Brazil vs. Cameroon, and as Neymar walked alone toward the field past various officials wearing their credentials and their clothes, he went about his adjustment. Carefully, he raised his yellow shirttail to hold it under his chin, as if he did not mind in the least if the entire world gazed at his navel -- because, of course, he did not mind in the least if the entire world gazed at his navel.
Or his abs.
That maneuver allowed him to apply both hands to this urgent matter, which he apparently could not have completed in the locker room. He could yank down his shorts a bit and adjust the waistline on his underwear, with its green-yellow-blue Brazilian-flag pattern, all while walking through the hallway gaggle and the red camera lights. Oddly, after he made the adjustment, it really did not seem as if the adjustment had been all that urgent.
It did show a considerable level of an attribute that sounds best in French: bien dans sa peau, which means comfort in one's own skin. Many humans spend long lifetimes trying to attain a measure of it, and this lad has it down -- all the way down to his underwear -- at 22.
This is despite the fact that, while he's chiseled, he's not muscular. While he has the six-pack, without which many guys cannot continue normal respiration, he also qualifies as sort of scrawny. He's sort of scrawny, but with the carriage and charisma of someone far more imposing, and to anyone who spent his teen years suffering in scrawniness, wearing sweaters unnecessarily into April -- hi -- that's just impossibly cool.
The Brazilian blogger Rodrigo Mattos reported that FIFA is investigating Neymar's underwear because of potential sponsor concerns, and really, that investigation must be so much more fun than investigating a biting incident. In Brazil, Neymar has a whole bale of underwear ads for the label Lupo -- founded 93 years ago by the Italian-Brazilian immigrant Henrique Lupo -- including one recent commercial which some saw as homophobic, but I found merely funny. In that one, Neymar models in a store for three female visitors, but he sneaks out in his underwear when a bruising-looking male enters and inquires about the Neymar underwear.
David Beckham looked plenty comfortable in his underwear on billboards, but a star from Brazil's culture somehow just looks a notch more unbothered. If you've ever been to a beach in Brazil, you know there's bien dans sa peau all over the place. "Because Brazil's tropical climate encourages so much of public life to be lived out of doors, the human body is also on display much more than it would be in a temperate climate," wrote Larry Rohter, The New York Times' Brazil expert, in his excellent book Brazil On The Rise.
Healthily, that ethic seems to extend to all types. "One of the things first-time visitors often notice is how even corpulent people, especially women, expose vast expanses of flesh to the public gaze," Rohter also writes. "This is in part because ideals of physical beauty are not the same as in America: Brazilian men say they like women with a body 'like a guitar,' with lots of curves and plenty of flesh on the bone, especially on the rear end rather than the chest." Many Brazilians "have learned to be comfortable in their own bodies, take pleasure from their own corporality, and seek relief from the heat by literally 'letting it all hang out.'"
Rohter notes that three of the biggest Brazilian staples -- the beach, Carnival and soccer -- all place "the human body front and center," as all three "both reflect and shape the values that help make the country vibrant, colorful and exciting."
Enter Neymar, 22, atop the world, employed in one of its greatest cities (Barcelona) and currently soaring above the pressure to play brilliantly for Brazil, in Brazil's World Cup. He has a world-class smile, with a trace of mischief in it and ample cause to deploy it. Blithely he fixes his underwear on the way to the second half, an impossibly cool figure in an unusually cool country, a global star with a singular blueprint. There's nobody quite like him.