A Reader’s Take on Wearing Tank Top Undershirt Under T-Shirts

Although it may not be apparent, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes email exchanges that go on each day. Lately, there has been a good amount of activity in the comments section of several articles. One reader shared his take on wearing tank top undershirt under t-shirts.

This is super exciting for me because I really love and encourage reader participation here on the site.

I’m just one guy writing here. With my busy schedule, it’s sometimes hard to find the time to sit down and write articles.

When a reader either writes in or comments with some valuable information, I want everyone to reap the benefits.

The contribution below is from a reader who recently stopped by here. He came across an article I wrote nearly 3 years ago.

It was thoughtful of him to share his feelings about the article in great detail!

Thanks Ken, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment.

Reader’s Comment about Wearing Tank Top Undershirt Under T-Shirts

Dear Tug, this is a reply to the following article on your site:

Is it Okay to Wear a Tank Top Undershirt under a T-Shirt?

tank top undershirt

I recently discovered your website in the course of a ‘bing-beta’ search in a somewhat different context.

With interest, I read J’s inquiry and your answer, as well as Fred’s reply, since this topic concerns me, too. I am sure that much of this has already been said or published before.

However, I still hope that my comments will be useful to many.

I fully agree with your opinions and wish to comment on the various points set forth.

My Experience of Ribbed Tank Tops

Since my childhood, I have always worn a sleeveless ‘tank-style’ or ‘athletic’ cotton rib-knit undershirt under my T-shirt.

This is surely a result of parental influence and probably also a matter of habit.

For one thing, these rib undershirts were very common in our predominantly French Canadian community (and in those of some other nationalities, too) in New England.

They are also quite widespread here in Europe, including Germany.

I have occasionally observed guys with the ‘look’ of a slightly to moderately visible tank-top neckline under their T-shirt here too.

Furthermore, the frequency of this ‘look’ seems to be quite independent of the wearer’s age bracket.

At least the cases I observed was not discriminating among mature adults, young adults, teen-age boys, and children. I presume that there are many more such cases which I simply did not notice.

But I do not know whether this is more or less frequent here than in your area.

In any event, these observations confirm your statement that at least a small ‘bunch of other guys are doing it’, and that ‘you won’t be alone out there’.

As far as the ‘ladies looking at you in this combination’ are concerned, I can vouch for my girlfriend.

She has never objected to the visible outline of rib undershirt under a tight-fitting white T-shirt.

The Kind of T-Shirts I Prefer

Of course, my T-shirts, too, are ‘thin and tight’, as ‘J’ mentioned. After all, they must fit!

I would not be at all comfortable in an oversized T shirt in which I can get ‘lost’. The visible outline of my rib undershirts also never drew any adverse comments from anyone.

I also have a few of those skin-tight “fitted” T-shirts which ‘J’ mentioned, and I have not had any problem with these either.

Is J’s ‘cheap blue T-shirt’, as he calls it, dark blue or light blue?

Obviously, the ‘show-through’ effect is less severe with colored T-shirts than with white ones. I personally prefer to wear white T-shirts and white rib undershirts, since these are free of synthetic dyes.

On particular occasions where I wish to be more ‘dressed up’, I simply wear a dress shirt and suit-coat or blazer over my T-shirt, and then nobody sees my rib undershirt under all of that.

The same applies when I wear a sweater or a flannel shirt over my T-shirt.

Undershirt Preferences Based on Weather

In the summer, when the weather is warm and humid, I often do not wear anything over my T-shirt. However, I still wear a tank-style rib undershirt underneath.

First of all, the undershirt absorbs some of the perspiration before it reaches the T-shirt.

Second, it fits especially well and gives me additional comfort. In this respect, I think it is worth mentioning that I have always worn tank-style undershirts of the rib-knit type, rather than the ‘smooth-knit’ type.

The reason for this choice is that the coarser rib structure provides elasticity and ‘stretchability’ without the need of any synthetic fibers.

Thus, one has the comfort of a pure, natural cotton undershirt that still provides the elasticity which is essential for a good fit.

On the other hand, my T-shirt is always of the ‘smooth-knit’ type, since this ensures a neat appearance and also conceals the coarse rib structure of the undershirt underneath.

Just as ‘J’ mentioned, I also find it easier to wear a rib undershirt under my T-shirt. It is more comfortable than wearing various articles of more ‘bulky’ clothing over my T-shirt.

That is, since I always wear my undershirt as an additional layer under my T-shirt, the combination is compact and self-contained.

Provided that the weather is warm, the bulky external, ‘easily removable’ garments are not necessary, and I can thus keep warm without over-dressing, as you pointed out.

In this context, I remember a comment made by the woman who operates an agency for the mail-order house from which I have often ordered clothing, including rib undershirts and T-shirts.

She claims that a sleeveless rib undershirt works almost like ‘half a sweater’ under a T-shirt.

I have no way of checking her information but she knows a lot about clothing.

My Take on J’s Argument

Of course, I do not know whether ‘J’ lives in a region with a warm, moderate, or cold climate. This is decisive for the content of this paragraph.

I can well understand J’s arguments against wearing a sleeved undershirt under a T-shirt because of the inevitable difficulty with the inner sleeves.

I also doubt whether a muscle shirt would be any better, since I can imagine that fabric would tend to ‘bunch up’ under the T-shirt and cause discomfort, especially in the critical shoulder and armpit zones.

Thus, the naturally elastic rib-knit cotton athletic undershirt with its excellent fit and unsurpassed comfort is the only solution for me, despite the possible visibility of the neckline under my T-shirt.

There is a further feature of tank undershirts which I wish to point out, namely heat compensation.

A sleeveless tank-style undershirt covers the back, the chest, and especially the critical area which surrounds the kidneys. These are precisely the zones which require more protection against cold.

At least I myself am especially sensitive to cold in these areas.

On the other hand, the tank undershirt does not cover those regions which are abundantly supplied with heat and moisture by blood vessels and sweat glands and therefore do not require so much protection, namely the armpit areas, which, in addition, are covered and protected by the arms.

Thus, the tank-style rib undershirt under my T-shirt provides a certain degree of thermal compensation between the more exposed and the more protected region, regardless of whatever else I might happen to be wearing over the T-shirt.

The latter comments are based partially on my own personal experience gained over the years.

Is Wearing Tank Tops under T-shirts Anti-Fashion?

Finally, there is absolutely nothing ‘low-class’ or ‘ghetto’ or ‘weird’ about wearing rib undershirts of this kind. Furthermore, the often-used term ‘wife-beater’ is totally undeserved and unjustified.

This expression may be the result of what one often saw in some motion pictures and on television in the past, especially in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s. Since that time, however, the image of the rib undershirt has been gradually improving.

For instance, many popular ‘action heroes’ have been seen wearing such undershirts in the movies (1980’s?).

If one looks at pictures of movie stars, singers, athletes, and other celebrities, one finds that many of them wear tank-top (under)shirts at least occasionally.

On the other hand, I fully understand and respect the feelings of those who take offense at the sight of a guy wearing only a rib undershirt in public and who regard this as bad taste.

After all, an undershirt is exactly what the word implies, that is, an undershirt. You wear it under an outer shirt – at least under a T-shirt.

Let’s be frank: If worn alone, a coarse rib-knit athletic undershirt is not exactly what one would call ‘aesthetically pleasing’ or ‘appealing’ or ‘elegant’, especially if it is not quite clean or if it looks somewhat worn or tattered, as is sometimes the case, unfortunately.

For these reasons, and out of respect for others, I always wear a T-shirt over my rib undershirt, regardless of what else I may be wearing, and this keeps the undershirt well concealed (except possibly for the outline).

Apart from these few exceptions, though, I think that this is very much a matter of taste. People should feel free to wear the clothes in which they are most comfortable and at ease.

My Recommendations

Might I take the opportunity to make a suggestion in this context (just in case that you are not aware of this matter already)?

I recently read that all (!) textile products are treated with various chemical agents for achieving certain desired properties. This also includes most of the so-called ‘eco’ or ‘bio’ or ‘green’ textiles.

Unfortunately, articles of clothing which come into close contact with our skin, such as T-shirts and rib undershirts, are no exception to this rule.

Some of these substances may be hazardous to our health. Before wearing the garments for the first time, therefore, it is advisable to wash them. It removes most of these chemicals, as well as excess dyestuffs.

Note: White clothing gets chemical treatment, too!

If you wish, please feel free to let me know your opinion on any of the above comments. If you consider it appropriate, you can also post them, either completely or in part, on your site. (Perhaps ‘J’ would be interested.)

Follow-up comments would interest me, too.

Best regards, Ken


Featured Photo Courtesy of: Distinguished Urban Society’s and Image Granted, Wearing White Tank Tops Under a Plain White Tee.

13 thoughts on “A Reader’s Take on Wearing Tank Top Undershirt Under T-Shirts”

  1. This topic of wearing an undershirt under a T-shirt is not much of a big deal for me. I know I have done it myself, although I haven’t done it in years.

    I wear short sleeved shirts in the summer with a pocket to hold certain items and T-shirts don’t have pockets.(Well, some do, dressier ones) but I like my short sleeve shirts with a left pocket.

    I see guys with undershirts showing under their T’s and it doesn’t bother me at all.

    Wear what you like I say and don’t worry so much about what others might think.

    They may not be thinking anything at all.

  2. Hi, for that matter I sometimes think about wearing it as a fashion statement, irregular scoop necked t-shirt, sometimes loose one, and a visible tank top strap, not white though.

    I know a bit unusual, but I like to express myself visually the way I feel sometimes, without stupid taboos or conventional constraint.

    It’s not a fetish, so I make sure the rest of the outfit (ok “ensemble”^_^) matches and is coherent.

  3. I always wear a ribbed sleeveless undershirt under any type of shirt all year round.

    I don’t like the term “wifebeater” though. Someone told me once that I wear wifebeaters and I had never heard of it.

    He explained the origins of the term and I was surprised.

    When I grew up, the shirts were simply called undershirts as distinguished from T-shirts.

    I also wear what I want and I could care less how popular or unpopular these shirts could be and I don’t care whether they are or are not seen through my shirt.

  4. Dear tug,

    I had mentioned that I always wear a T-shirt over my ribbed tank undershirt. Essentially, I wear my T-shirt instead of a dress shirt or sport shirt. One reason for this should be obvious: It is not necessary to iron a T-shirt, and this saves work! After washing and drying, the T-shirt is simply folded and put away. Since my T-shirt is my outer shirt, I simply wear a ribbed tank undershirt underneath for additional warmth. I am sure that this situation applies to others, too. Especially with kids, teen-agers and students, the wash-and-wear feature of T-shirts (and rib undershirts) saves Mom a great deal of ironing work, and this may be one reason why many mothers put their kids in T-shirts…

    As far as dress shirts are concerned, it may not be such a good idea to wear only a tank undershirt underneath, because of the visible neckline, although that has never bothered me or any of my relatives or friends. On the other hand, however, if one wears a (white) T-shirt under a (white) dress shirt, the ends of the short T-shirt sleeves under the long sleeves of the dress shirt are often visible, too. I have no idea of whether this alternative is “better” or “worse” than seeing the neckline of a tank undershirt underneath. I personally do not think that there is much difference between the two cases, but this is a question on which people will have to decide for themselves.

    Might I slip in another word edgewise about comfort and convenience? On the basis of my own personal experience, I recommend wearing seamless flat-knit T-shirts as well as seamless rib-knit tank undershirts. I find that seamless shirts provide a better fit. Seams tend to be stiffer, sometimes also bulky, and can therefore interfere with the elastic behavior of the adjacent fabric. Moreover, seamless T-shirts and undershirts are easier to lay flat and fold for compact storage on cabinet or closet shelves as well as in dresser drawers.

    Best regards, ken

    • i’m a little conflicted here too kenneth.

      most stlye people would not recommend wearing a tank top under dress attire, however, our President does this and i think he looks perfectly acceptable.

      for me personally, i’d likely chose what type of undershirt (crew, v-neck, tank top) to wear under dress attire based on many factors, such as:
      1. color / transparency of my outer shirt
      2. whether or not i was wearing a tie (which i rarely do)
      3. what the climate was going to be like at my destination
      4. how sensitive i was about getting body oils or sweat on my outer shirt
      5. how comfortable i wanted to be overall

      if i were really concerned about my undershirt (crew, v-neck, or tank) showing through a light colored outer shirt, i would likely go for a heather grey, or just grey-colored undershirts. there are also body-color undershirts available, but grey work perfectly fine for me.

      • Response:
        Dear tug:
        I have also examined that picture of President Obama. However, someone has taken the liberty of drawing in a thick dashed curve where the neckline of a tank undershirt should be, thus completely concealing the outline, if present. As a result, I cannot tell whether or not he is really wearing such an undershirt. Perhaps you could publish a picture of him without the dashed curve. That way one could judge for oneself. In any event, I also think that the President looks perfectly acceptable, regardless of whether he wears a tank undershirt or not, and of course he too has the right to decide for himself.
        Incidentally, here in Germany during the 1960’s and -70’s, some guys in all age brackets still wore grey cotton rib-knit tank undershirts under their outer shirts, perhaps because they were less visible than white undershirts. Later on (in the 1970’s and -80’s or so), beige, khaki, and light blue tank undershirts (both rib-knit and flat-knit) appeared on the market. Some younger guys even began wearing patterned tank undershirts in various colors, despite the fact that these were often much more obvious, especially under dress shirts. This apparently did not bother them at all, though. Fortunately, however, the more ‘traditional’ white cotton rib-knit tank undershirts (my preference because they are free of synthetic dyes) are still available, too.
        Sincerely, ken

  5. Just got started with a-shirts as undershirts…. I used to get staining under my arms when I used anti-per-spirant.

    A friend said to stop using the products with aluminum in them as that caused some of the discoloration. I began using deodorant, and I still sweat, but not as much. I wash my shirts more. I wore t-shirts as undershirts, but found that they would get drenched under my arms due to the extra material in there.

    So here I am, now wearing a-shirts. Luckily my physique is good, and I have great guns. So it not only feels good wearing tight ribbed shirts, it seems to lessen the sweating, too. Under t-shirts, it feels damn sexy, but it also keeps me from sticking to my shirts, by forming a middle layer. I sleep in my a-shirts now, too, which is a lot better than my t-shirts, which would always bunch up in my sleep. Again, since my arms are free, I don’t sweat as much in bed.

    My wife likes it, too, but she doesn’t think much of me having the top of an a-shirt show with an extra button undone on a regular shirt or polo shirt. Again, I think it’s very manly-looking, and a bit of tell-tale of what my undergarments are isn’t a bad think, is it? Maybe this subject bleeds into another string.

    Anyway, I guess we should wear what we like, what makes us feel confident, and not worry so much about the “rules”….

    • love it! thanks for sharing rob!

      now that it’s getting warmer out, i too find myself wearing my fitted ribbed tank tops a bit more often.

      appreciate you taking the time to stop by and comment.

  6. Ken makes some excellent points, especially that people should feel free to wear what they are most comfortable and at ease in.

    Like Ken and Nick, I always wear ribbed knit A-shirts. Although I never wear crewneck t-shirts or muscle shirts as undershirts, I will wear a t-shirt while doing yardwork. When doing this, I always have an A-shirt on underneath.

    • hey thomas! thanks for stopping by and posting your thoughts.

      i was wearing a black tank yesterday and really enjoyed the moderate slimming/smoothing effects the slightly heavier ribbed fabric provided.

  7. I always wear a ribbed A-shirt / tank top undershirt – always – as a base – never without one on. Sometimes, when I want a crew neck showing under my shirt (dress or polo), I will wear a muscle undershirt on top of my ribbed A-shirt / tank top undershirt and under the outer shirt. I never wear undershirts with sleeves. That’s why it’s either an A-shirt or an A-shirt plus muscle shirt as my undershirt(s).

    I also wear a ribbed A-shirt / tank top undershirt:
    – under a T-shirt, if the T-shirt is my outer shirt
    – around the house
    – at the gym
    – at the beach
    – to sleep in

    I recently discovered a crew neck muscle shirt that meets the need described above (when I want a crew neck showing under my shirt, but no sleeves). It is a Fruit of the Loom muscle shirt – sold at Wal-Mart – on individual hangers – all cotton, smooth (jersey) fabric – in all the desirable colors (white, gray heather, black, navy blue) – intended for athletic wear and therefore slightly heavier fabric – but works well over my A-shirt undershirt and under a dress or polo shirt.

    A-shirts rock! I think it’s really cool to see an A-shirt (outline, fabric, or both) under a guy’s shirt.


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