"Will flex for food". What does this phrase mean? I know that the second meaning of flex word is

showing off your valuables in a non-humble way

but it doesn't make sense for me anyway. This phrase is often printed on clothes: enter image description here

Could anyone explain the meaning of this phrase?


2 Answers 2


Judging by other versions of this shirt, it likely refers to both this and the other meaning of flex:

to move or tense (a muscle) by contraction

If you're a bodybuilder, tensing your muscles is a way of showing them off, as it makes them more visible.

The shirt itself is a joking riff on the common phrase "Will (do X) for food" stereotypically used by beggars and panhandlers, suggesting that the owner of the shirt will flex and show off their muscles for money or food.

  • 3
    The key point here: this shirt is a joke, which is why it's so hard for language learners to understand.
    – arp
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 0:38
  • The original X was, "work" before this was an internet meme or cartoon punchline. Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 11:16
  • Is 'joking riff’ a common phrase? What does this mean exactly, please?
    – Bobette
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 6:17
  • @Bobette The answers to this question may be helpful What does “to riff “ mean in this context?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 13:50

As other posters explained, the shirt is a reference to the common practice of holding a sign offering to barter some performance (e.g. singing, dancing, etc.) for food.

What the other answers miss is the irony - there's a self-mocking (yet bragging) element to the humor that the wearer has a low body fat percentage, implying they look like they don't have enough food.

  • There's another level of irony here. Maintaining a good body actually requires a lot of (high quality) food, and probably takes up a big portion of a body builder's budget.
    – Rystraum
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 9:27

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