A reader of mine poses a great question about the “stigma” associated to wearing tank tops under dress shirts
Justin’s Confusion about Wearing A-Shirts under Dress Shirts
I’m a younger guy who has been wearing A-shirts (tank top undershirts) under all kinds of dress shirts with and without ties.
Sometimes, I wear lighter colored dress shirts where the A-shirt outline is clearly visible.
Never given much thought about it until I saw an array of opinions on this topic posted on your website.
I feel that I have seen a lot of guys wearing A-shirts with light-colored dress shirts around the office and at other professional functions.
However, now I’m concerned there might be some kind of stigma associated with doing this.
Do you think I need to change undershirt styles or am I ok sticking with A-shirts in a business/business casual environment?
I appreciate your opinion.– Justin
Is It Okay To Wear Tank Tops Under Dress Shirts?
Good to hear from you buddy. Thanks so much for stopping by my site and sending in your question!
Personally, I think the only people that *really* care whether or not you wear an a-shirt instead of a standard undershirt are style “consultants” or similar.
I suppose one could argue that a proper fitting full undershirt could be more appropriate and look better than wearing an a-shirt under a dress shirt or t-shirt, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong if you do prefer to wear one, due to comfort.
So, unless there is something blatantly obnoxious looking about your a-shirt/tank top undershirt, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
Most people won’t give a hoot what kind of undershirt you’re wearing.
For those that do, their opinion probably shouldn’t keep you up at night worrying about it. Remember, it’s only an opinion.
I personally wear ribbed tank tops a lot when it’s warm out, as I don’t sweat very much in my underarm area since I use pretty good performing antiperspirant.
Also, I really could care less if anyone thinks less of me because of that — clearly they have too much time on their hands — and if they judge me and think less of me because of that alone, it’s not the type of person I would want in my life anyway.
All that said, I am curious to know your wearing preference. Is there a particular reason you are not interested in wearing full undershirts — or prefer wearing a-shirts over full undershirts?
Looking forward to continuing the discussion.
Justin’s Response: Full Undershirts Are Warmer To Wear…
Thanks for taking the time to answer!
I am not opposed to full undershirt styles but I just live in a warm climate. So, full undershirts feel a little heavier and more insulating to me than an A-shirt.
Also, and I only know this because I love to print my polo shirts custom, A-shirts seem to work decently under polos (not being visible at the neckline) and occasionally under t-shirts.
I was concerned that wearing an A-shirt, for example, with a white dress shirt and tie may be misguided.
Then again, you can usually see the outline and sleeves of a full undershirt under a white dress shirt…
Anyway, It appears that you are generally supportive of A-shirts under dress shirts.
Considering your familiarity with the subject, I value your opinion.
Thanks again for taking time to respond.
What About Neutral Color (Invisible) Undershirts?
My pleasure buddy.
You know, on the “invisibility” factor, if you switch to a more neutral colored undershirt/a-shirt (heather grey, body toned), the undershirt outlines will not show as much, or at all, through the light-colored dress shirt.
Undershirt Guy Article: How to keep undershirts hidden under light color shirts
Reddit Article: I found the best undershirt (link)
You could always do a little test at home by dyeing some of your white a-shirts a more neutral color using rit dye, which you can get at the super market or drug store.
Though, I suppose if the commander-in-chief of the united states is OK wearing white tank tops under light colored dress shirts, it couldn’t be all that bad, right?
What Do YOU Think?
If the tank top is not blatantly obvious, is wearing a tank top under dress shirts a Style faux pas or personal preference?
32 thoughts on “Tank Tops Under Dress Shirts – Cool or Not Cool?”
Question for those who consistently wear a-shirts under any type of shirt – do you like having your undershirt noticed or spotted by others (regardless of gender)? Also, are you more aware of other men who wear like you?
I’m a relatively young guy (29) and always wear sleeveless undershirts, or ‘vests’ as we call them in the UK! Definitely don’t mind if my vest is visible. In fact I find a sleeveless vest looks a lot better than one with sleeves…
I guess I do sometimes notice it when other lads are wearing a sleeveless vest because they aren’t the most popular. And I always think it looks good!
I agree. There’s a certain maturity and masculinity that comes with a sleeveless undershirt (In my opinion, great minds will differ). I will wear a sleeved undershirt as needs may dictate, but I always feel my best in a sleeveless one. Visibility is rarely a concern. As an aside, I didn’t think vests were popular at all in the UK these days. Has this changed recently?
You’re totally right, Tom! There’s something about wearing a sleeveless vest that feels so good.
To be fair there aren’t many of my mates who wear vests but a couple of them do. I’ve noticed more lads than before wearing them, though. So maybe they’re coming back into fashion!
I have worn an a-shirt, in combination with boxer shorts and garters for my socks, since high school.
I have always appreciated the more traditional look from early movies, even if it was shown in a comedic light.
My college roommate called me the old man because of the whole look, but I didn’t care. One girlfriend informed me that she had an uncle who wore them and didn’t mind that I did.
It is all about personal preference.
Once you get past worrying what others think you, it will make choosing undergarments easier.
+1 — never worry about what anyone else thinks. do you (:
I stopped worrying what other people think nearly 40 years ago. People are going to think what they want regardless.
I don’t have the energy to worry about what people think of me. I like a-shirts or tank tops or whatever you want to call them.
There are a few reasons.
The practical reason is I never liked the way a regular t-shirt would bunch up under my arms. Wearing a sleeveless undershirt solved that issue. Another, esthetic reason is I found a-shirts to be a more mature, adult look.
Now that is strictly an opinion, of course.
I never liked the look of a white t-shirt glaring at the top of a polo shirt. It always seemed to be taking away from the polo itself.
To contradict myself in a way, I always liked seeing the outline of an a-shirt under any type of shirt worn over it.
Undergarments are an odd topic but they are a part of everyone’s daily life.
Why we choose what we choose is a personal thing. To each his own, as the saying goes.
The “traditional look” as you call it is one I enjoy as well. Not only the look, but I also find it comfortable and functional. I haven’t worried about fashion (in underwear) or others opinions on the subject for a long time. That said, Tug is a great source of information on the subject.
Thanks, Tom for responding. What else do you add to your “traditional” attire? Since high school I have also worn baggy boxer shorts and garters for my socks. My first roommate in college called me the old man because of that traditional underwear.
I started wearing a-shirts and boxers when I started my first job out of college. Business suits were required and it seemed natural fit.
I wore over-the-calf socks until patterned socks became popular and over-the-calf really wasn’t available much.
That’s when I discovered they still made sock garters. No one called me “old man” since only my wife saw me in my underwear. Though it’s fair to say that I am approaching actual “old man ” status.
I have tried and occasionally wear many of the variations available out there – crew necks, v-necks, briefs, boxer briefs and even long underwear as the need arises, but I always default back to a-shirts and boxers.
For whatever reasons, It’s just what I’m most comfortable and confident in. Good to hear from someone else who feels the same.
Hi. I rarely wear crew neck t-shirts, and I have never worn v-neck undershirts. I tried various types of underwear, but boxers were the least confining and most comfortable. I not blessed to have a wife, but the woman I dated in college knew I wore garters because a friend of mine told her, and she also felt them through my pant’s leg when we were sitting side by side. Anyway, thank you for responding to my post to continue this interesting topic.
Anytime. We “traditional” guys have to support each other. Nice talking with you.
I’m over 50, but have thought of myself as older since high school. As far as sticking together, I like that idea. It is difficult to find someone willing to discuss the unusual topic of undergarments, let alone find someone who shares similar habits in attire. Hope to keep the lines of communication open regarding this. Thanks.
I’d be happy to correspond with you. I’d give you my e-mail, but I don’t want to broadcast it to everybody. Do you know if personal messages can be sent through this site? I suppose we could ask Tug.
I’ll share my Gmail account. It is different from the one attached to this site.
I replied with my Gmail, but the post was not approved. I do not know how we can correspond if we cannot share our email addresses.
I’ve worked both seasonal gigs and professional stations, and worn A-shirts beneath my work attire in both situations. Sometimes only the outline of the undershirt shows through (seasonal gig with a black company polo shirt, where sometimes the Louisiana heat/humidity just needed a couple undone buttons), and sometimes the undershirt itself is visible (white or otherwise light-material Oxford shirt).
I once had a meeting with the office manager in one of those “pro” jobs, and not only did he have on an A-shirt beneath his thin lime-green Oxford, not only during the course of the conversation had he removed the Oxford he was wearing to replace it with a freshly pressed shirt from his office closet–revealing a landscape of swarthy, rampant, Slavic-Spanish chest-hair (his name: Lorenzo Slivocek, but born in the US), his white ribbed athletic undershirt and the waistband of the white Jockey underpants he tucked it into–I suspect briefs–his own boss walked in.
The manager’s manager was wearing an A-shirt under his own white Oxford (!). He told Lorenzo, who was tucking in the tails of his fresh shirt, “Lunch group’s here. I need it to be transparent for them, Lorry.” He didn’t seem to know what kind of joke he’d made.
great story bernard (: pretty funny too!
Just yesterday found myself discussing this undergarment topic with a coworker in the restroom. I was retucking my Oxford overshirt–I still had half a shift to manage–and this coworker was just clocking in.
We both wear A-shirts, but I at least keep the next-to-top button closed and he does not. Now, is the deliberate reveal of the A-shirt’s neck-hem beneath that button pretentious, or a sign of relaxed bonhomie? The outline is plainly visible anyhow, but is there a distinction in the overt versus the simply noticeable? How much of his attire is posturing, and how much of mine is just…there?
Also to come up later in after-work dive-bar small-talk: he exclusively wears A-shirts but uses briefs, boxers and (I’d managed to get him drunk enough to admit), bikinis, depending on the pants. After a bit of ribbing: he wears boxer shorts for lounging at home, briefs for going to work or working out, and bikinis when he knows he’s getting lucky. He’s always worn A-shirts, he says it’s what his father and brothers and himself have always worn.
Just got me to thinking: which undergarment was rote, which rebelled-against, and which appropriated? How do these patterns arrange themselves? If simply through patriarchal tradition, how does a man eventually give a strange garment a trial-run? If free-rein, how are favourites established? How is it two men can agree on undershirts but not on underpants?
hello bernard, thanks so much for stopping by my site and posting your thoughts/questions!
as one who wears an a-shirt/tank top from time-to-time in the summer and generally leaves the top two buttons undone on my outershirt, i can say that i am nor posturing or being overly relaxed.
it just is. if a little of the collar line of my under shirt shows, i am not concerned about it in the least bit, especially because i am a more informal dresser.
no bikini underwear for me, it’s primarily boxer briefs for daily-wear, and looser boxers for night-time wear. i need not worry about getting lucky, as i have been married for quite some time and need not try to over-impress my wife — she’s a sure thing (most of the time).
as to whether or not our wearing behavior are rote (i had to look that word up), i believe most of men’s acts are habitual in nature. after all, when we find something we like, don’t we stick with it for as long as we can?
it is logical to assume that some of our habits are formed early by parental influence, and these behaviors are not or will not be changed until we find a need or a larger influence to do so.
underpants mind you is a completely different subject.
while we men widely vary in overall physique, our top half undershirt solutions can be more universal in nature due to the coverage area. at it’s most fundamental level, the distinction we men make is generally if we are a v-neck, crew neck, or tank top wearer. we can dive deep into this particular rabbit hole, but let’s leave this for another discussion.
underpants though seem to be much less forgiving from a fit point of view, depending on your shape from the mid section down. do you have a large stomach, love handles, a large butt, or a large front package, thick thighs, or thin ones? how we groom and clean our lower parts also plays a role in style pick & color selection, as does a bit of stylistic preference.
these factors all play an incredibly important roll in how we fit and feel in our underpants. what works for one, will not necessarily work for another.
of course, this is just my humble singular opinion (:
For me it was matter of trying the styles I found interesting and finally settling on what was most comfortable. I’ll admit some habit has formed but I continue to try new things here and there. The nice thing about underwear styles is that you can change without drawing a lot of attention. As to a relationship between undershirt and underpants choice, I don’t see one unless you’re going for a theme.
Parental influence was not a big thing for me either. I just go with what I like.
yeah, this is me too now.
i may be influenced to try something if i hear good things about it, but personal preference will be the ultimate winner.
for example, i am a huge advocate of super lightweight undershirts, so even if people are raving about some other “popular” undershirt, if it’s not lightweight enough, i won’t be getting on board of that gravy train (:
actually, i exclusively worn ribbed tank tops / a-shirts when growing up (my dad wore them too). but then as i got older i wanted full coverage to protect my outer shirts from stains and sweat.
that was the catalyst to me beginning my undershirt quest, and eventually what inspired me to start this site many moons ago.
funny how things work out.
I would add one other influence to my previous post and that is peer influence. Where and when I grew up, few of my peers wore undershirts, so I didn’t either. It was when I started working in an office that I started trying them. Like most of my peers, I wore crew-neck t-shirts for a while until I found my own style. Since then, I really don’t care what my peers wear though I admire their taste when it is similar to mine.
This sounds like a very interesting conversation and you raise some intriguing questions. Like your co-worker, I wear A-shirts exclusively but alternate between briefs and boxers. Also, because I wear a tie my shirt is buttoned all the way up but with casual shirts or polos only the top button is left undone. That is something that I do without giving it much thought.
My father has always worn crew neck t-shirts but I made a conscience decision many years ago in high school to wear A-shirts. It is just personal preference and A-shirts always appealed to me. They provide everything that I need in an undershirt and are extremely comfortable and not restrictive like t-shirts.
As for underpants, Tug makes a great point that fit and shape play a much greater factor when choosing what works best for you.
A buddy of mine was recently kicked out of his apartment by his contentious girlfriend, and given all options he asked to crash with me.
We spent the following two weeks in close quarters–I saw him wear a battery of underpants, boxers, briefs, bikinis, and at some point we got into the undershirt question.
He wears a-shirts only rarely, and it was a specific occasion where we were both dressing up (a party) that he asked to borrow an undershirt since all of his were wadded up in a corner.
All I had clean were white athletic undershirts, and he said, “I know you aren’t a cowboy, but thanks anyway.” I countered that he wasn’t either, being an army brat born in Germany.
He said, “I find what’s useful and take it.” He went on to describe why boxer shorts were “not functional,” and how bikini briefs, like a-shirts, were “easily slandered but not critically treated.”
He grinned like the performer he is, and wore my athletic undershirt, but that resonated with me.
The visible a-shirt is easily skewered, but wearing it can be just automatic, skewerings included.
very insightful! thanks for sharing bernard (:
i don’t care what anyone says, i like my ribbed tank tops just fine.
I switched from tshirts to a shirts a couple years ago. As an experiment. I now wear them under suits, dress shirts, and sometimes even in sweaters in the winter time. I just find them more comfortable than regular tshirts. I’ve never been a v neck fan but now I like being able I wear an open shirt without anything showing. I think they also keep me cooler in the summer than a heavy cotton tshirt and with enough deodorant sweat is not an issue. One suggestion, Im at a point in my life now where I have dress shirts made. The material is thicker, so except for white, nothing really shows through. Lots of professional men wear a shirts, it’s not a big deal.
I, and many people, always wear an A-shirt under a dress shirt, sometimes under PJs and T-shirts. I live where the climate is always hot so perspiration always bothers me. But is too muggy to wear a T-shirt under a dress shirt. There’s no problems wearing it.
Your advice to Justin is excellent. I wear a suit and tie to work every day and always wear an A-shirt. They are visible underneath all of my dress shirts but it has never concerned me. Fortunately, I have advanced well in my career so I don’t think there is a stigma associated with wearing A-shirts. Regardless of the type of shirt I am wearing, I always wear an A-shirt underneath. Good luck to Justin!
good stuff thomas & thanks for the validation of my recommendation!
appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts and experience wearing a-shirts under dress shirts.
Hi Justin and Tug,
I’m a middle-aged guy who wears a-shirts frequently under dress shirts and casual shirts and I almost never worry about how visible or not the outline is.
Personally, I like the look and my advice is wear whatever you like so long as it appropriate to the situation.
An undershirt (as an undershirt) is never inappropriate.
One caveat – If the look of your undershirt overwhelms the look you’re going for, you might want to rethink it. Otherwise, enjoy fellow a-shirt guy!
great advice tom!