Got this email from a new reader a couple of days ago with great ideas for my site. I hope to incorporate some of them in the coming months. To illustrate one of his ideas, he included an article about his fondness of “wife beater” tank top undershirts:
I came across your blog, and I think it’s terrific.
I hope you don’t mind a couple of suggestions.
The first thought is to provide your reader with some demographics or market research on undershirts. I’ve searched the web, and I can’t find any.
Maybe a survey of your readership would be a way to get at it.
Standard stuff: what styles worn, why, purchase behavior, etc.
Secondly, dedicate a few blogs to something in the form of “why I wear what I wear”.
It’s not much good to make a suggestion without giving something in the way of a sample. So I attach a piece I wrote (just for you!) on my favorite undershirt style.
Maybe other readers can contribute a “Why I Wear a T-Shirt,” or “Why I Wear a Muscle Shirt.”
Great job…keep the blogs coming.
“C” in Cali
His full write up is below, a great contribution to the site. If you’d like to share why you wear a specific type of undershirt, feel free to send it my way!
I did want to mention that I do have a poll (link at the top of the page) that asks guys what their favorite undershirt brands are.
So far, out of 77 votes, the top three are 2xist, Hanes, and Calvin Klein.
Also, following his feedback above, I decided to add another poll and ask everyone about their favorite style of undershirt.
Make sure you vote!
Why I Wear: A Wife Beater
Written By: “C” in Cali
The simple tank top undershirt has been much maligned.
Starting with its name, you will also find the tank top as a wife-beater, a guinea-T, or a redneck uniform. As if that isn’t enough to discourage us from wearing a tank top, few of us would take our fashion cues from the television show “Cops” where wife-beaters outnumber the whole lot of T-shirts, V-shirts, and muscle shirts.
Even our esteemed blogger Tug admits that he rarely wears tank tops, and his fashion tips are well-worth taking.
Enough with the wife-beater put downs! It’s time, and it’s easy, to make a case for this abused undershirt because it has considerable merit.
Let’s start with its design.
The tank top undershirt is simple with just enough material to cover what an undershirt is supposed to cover, including bulging nipples, by being suspended with two proportioned straps over the shoulders.
The neckline typically plunges in a distinctive U-shaped form. The back portion is positioned higher than the front accentuating back muscles and affording more body warmth and coverage. It is typically made of ribbed cotton or a cotton-micro-fiber blend, and it mainly comes in standard white, though some colors, more suitable to the gym or the beach, are available.
In general, it is priced modestly and almost universally available. It also goes by the favorable moniker of an athletic shirt.
But, unless you’re British and know it as a vest, or a marathon runner who calls it a singlet, the tank top is pretty much stuck with being known as a wife-beater.
The wife-beater has lots of competition: the T-Shirt that conveys a safe and unobtrusive look, the V-neck shirt that can, depending upon your point of view, look like your dad’s undershirt or, thanks to its neckline, a hybrid of a wife-beater and a T-shirt, or the muscle shirt that keeps the T look but eliminates short sleeves to accentuate muscle tone.
A recent style competitor is the square necked A-shirt that doesn’t seem to know quite what it wants to be when it grows up.
Its look of a child’s bib may make it obsolete; at least, let’s hope so.
So, why do I, a white collar professional, wear a wife-beater?
Fit and Shape.
For the properly proportioned male, the wife-beater fits like a comfortable shoe.
With the right fit, it’s snug to the upper torso and covers the important areas without crowding and tightening up in the underarm area like a T-shirt. Its shape means that it doesn’t do much to absorb perspiration, but it also doesn’t create sweat because of its sleeveless design.
The wife-beater can’t incorporate yellow stains from either sweat or deodorant, a constant problem with the T.
The shape of the wife-beater is perfectly proportional and accentuates the right body lines unlike the T-shirt that serves as a breastplate removing any body angles.
The wife-beater versus T-shirt debate is like another one in the world of underwear between briefs and boxers.
Wearing one over another is a matter of personal style and comfort. Wife-beaters “give” more as you move about.
T-shirts are a lot like ties: they may look good, but they are constraining.
Not so with wife-beaters. The form of the shirt allows for ease of movement. Wife-beaters have always been the uniform of the gym because they adjust well to a standing, seated or contorted body position.
The shoulder straps and lack of sleeves give lots of freedom to the upper arms and neck.
The wife-beater excels at versatility.
The classic tank top can embellish almost any outfit. Some men seem to go “commando” when they wear “uniform” white cotton shirts to avoid show and tell wife beater shoulder straps. I’ll take that look instead of protruding chest molds, errant hairs, or nipple bulges.
It’s just a cleaner slate, and with good cotton shirts or stripes, there’s very little or no show-through.
With a V-neck sweater, the tank top complements a casual look without drawing attention away from the sweater, like a T-shirt does, but provides just enough contrast in color and layering. In the case of a golf shirt or jersey open at the collar, the tank eliminates the belt-and-suspenders (and arguably nerdy) look of two competing shirts.
With a heavy stock fashion T-shirt, the tank top provides extra warmth and a layer of comfort that can avoid the scratchiness of wool or other fibers built into a designer T-shirt—but please no white tank top under a white T-shirt.
Wife-beaters look cool when atop shorts at the gym, sweats/PJ bottoms at home, or walking shorts when lying in a hammock.
They look great when walking on the beach. You will also be comfortable sleeping in a wife-beater.
So just what does a tank top say about us?
I like to think that a wife-beater makes us look a little daring, individualistic, hip in a good way, and unconventional.
Like a day’s stubble, a leather wristband, or a California shell necklace, it makes for a tasteful “bad boy” look when you and everyone else knows you’re not bad at all.
If wife-beater as a description of a tank top still nags at you, put your mind at rest. The tank top is also known as an athletic shirt, and who among us doesn’t strive to look athletic?
18 thoughts on “Reader Contribution: Why I Wear A Wife-Beater (Undershirt)”
11 years late but maybe someone will read this.
i frequently wear coveralls on my motorcycle. when im getting hot i want to zip down the front and i dont want my chest uncovered and the wifebeater takes care of that without covering my arms and armpits.
but the primary virtue is that regular t or any shirt with sleeves bunch up when taking the suit off and make it really hard to get out of the sleeves
heya jack — good to hear from you and thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts about tank top undershirts!
btw, there are fitted undershirts available that have fitted sleeves, so they won’t bunch up like traditional loose/baggy undershirts will (:
regardless, if ribbed tank tops (aka wife-beater) work for you, that’s great to hear!
I like to wear Wife Beaters and wear them all the time, especially under Spring and Summer shirts.
Unfortunately I have a gut and don’t prefer to have my belly button or nipples show! I also wear T-Shirts, both V-Neck and Regular, dependent on the shirt for the same reason.
I spend a lot of money on outer shirts! I mostly buy Hanes A Shirts but are NOT happy with the thickness and wear for the price? It looks like the shirts Vin Diesel wears are very thick!
Any idea where or what brand are thicker? Loved Nauticas but cannot find anymore! Thanks!
hey john, you can check out the ribbed tank tops from ribbedtee. they are made from micromodal & supima cotton, and are thicker than value-priced tank tops like hanes or fruit of the loom.
Ever since I was 12, I always hated wearing sleeveless, especially wifebeaters due to the ugly armpit hair it exposes. I just can’t get past the idea that only criminals, losers, the poor, and overly lax individuals wear those dreaded things in public. It’s sweaty, disgusting, easily stained, cheap, not professional in business, and highly intimidating. Just being close to someone (especially if I don’t know them) wearing that feels like receiving a death threat of “I don’t give a damn what you think about my outfit, and if you complain about it to me I’ll beat the crap out of you and leave you for dead”.
thanks for sharing your thoughts sheldon!
“The tank top undershirt is simple with just enough material to cover what an undershirt is supposed to cover”
Pulease!!!! The #1 reason I wear an undershirt is to protect my expensive outershirts from armpit stains. A wife beater fails at this single most important task making it utterly useless
I’m sorry your sweat pours most prominently from your armpits, but some of us have relatively arid pits, with the most tropical regions on our bellies and backs. That makes it an error of application on your part (you should just stick to Ts then, no drama there), not an error of design inherent to the shirt.
These are great reasons why guys wear wifebeaters. I always wear them,never white T-shirts.
I always wear a wife beater under whatever shirt I’m wearing be it any dress shirt, polo, a sweatshirt or a t shirt ; I feel naked without it
I am in good enough shape to probably wear a wife beater alone by itself. Most certainly under a dress shirt.. but to me, it’s akin to seeing a man in a thong at the beach.
nicccceee article, I hear so many people telling me that its stupid to wear a beater but I knew it was just something that hasnt been givin a good name
Here’s a pic of president obama showing outlines of his ribbed tank (wifebeater) undershirt.
Pic of Pres Obama
Based on the following Observer.com article, it’s an American Apparel tank:
Obama in the Tank! New York Rethinks the Wifebeater
Thanks for your note Ed. I too have seen a proliferation of guys wearing “wifebeater” tank tops lately and you just might be right about the Obama effect. While I absolutely love the fit and comfort of these ribbed tank wonders, because they don’t provide protection in the underarm area, I can’t really wear them on a regular basis. Layering undershirts is an interesting idea, but I agree that it’s not all that practical in the warmer months or climates.
I really liked the article as well. I follow undershirt styles closely, and it seems quite clear the “wifebeater” here in Washington DC is enjoying a ratcheting up of popularity this spring relative to prior years. The Obama effect perhaps? Has anyone else noticed this, or is it just my imagination? More guys of more demographic groups are wearing them. One look I’ve seen on twenty and thirty-something biz guys is a white dress shirt with a crew neck tee under it, and a wifebeater undershirt beneath that, which you can make out from the contour lines. I find the look a nice one on a spring day in the 50s and 60s like we’re having now.. Would be a tad eccentic when summer arrives.
Anyway, keep up the good work. I just discovered your Blog, Undershirt Guy. I’d love to write again soon.
Great article! My favorite undershirt is the “wifebeater”, too!
Great article by “C” in Cali! As a white collar professional who is an avid wearer of the a-shirt (wife-beater) he expresses the same reasons for wearing them that I do. Thank you for posting this article. It is wonderful to know that there are others who appreciate this much maligned article of clothing as much as I do.