My Fiancé Says Wifebeaters Are Wrong. Is She Right?

Taken out of context, that heading could be pretty misleading. We’re talking about ribbed tank tops folks (aka “wife beaters”), and whether or not they are appropriate to wear under a proper shirt and tie.

Here’s a note from a reader who was having a debate about this very topic with his fiancé:

Tug, great site.

I live in New Orleans and I sweat a lot. I usually wear scrubs paired with a t-shirt and change into a new t-shirt when the original one gets soaked (I sweat as a response to heat and stressful concentration which is a good description of what my work entails.)

My question is not about work wear but what to wear when I wear a proper shirt and tie.

My fiance tells me that a wife beater is never appropriate. She is a lawyer and here in New Orleans, lawyers dress up and are very traditional.

My approach so far has been to avoid her lawyer friends as much as possible but over the lifetime of our marriage this may not always be an option.

Do I need to buy t-shirt like undershirts or can I hold out with my wife beaters. I never wore an undershirt before I moved south.

After a soaked shirt or two (it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!)

I gave in and bought a wife beater from brooks brothers. I hated the bra-strap sensation of the shirts but quickly grew accustomed to them.

They work great and I haven’t had problems with sweaty pits. If I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t change.

I also hate to admit that my fiance is right and I am wrong, so no pressure, but who is right?

Should You Wear Wife Beaters?

Hey M,

Thanks for stopping by my site and sending in your question! Sorry for the delayed response, but I was away for the holiday.

I hate to say it (that your fiancé is right), but in general I wouldn’t recommend wearing a ribbed tank top / wife beater with a button up shirt and tie.

It’s kinda a tough one because our dear president can sport that look pretty well.

President Barack Obama Wearing a Ribbed Tank Top Undershirt

But for the most part, it’s considered a fashion no-no to wear tank top undershirts under button up shirts, especially light colored ones. [more below in comments section]

If ribbed tank tops do keep you cooler, then I suppose wearing one under a darker colored dress shirt and tie wouldn’t be a problem.

Or, if you can track down some heather grey ribbed tanks, you might find that they do not show through as much under light-colored dress shirts.

Of course, there are many thinner/lighter undershirts options currently available that you may not have tried, and it’s very possible those undershirts will keep you as cool as your tank tops do.

There are some super-thin (but expensive) ones from zimmerli, but there is also a large variety of thinner products from companies like jockey, ck, emporio armani, tommy john, ribbedtee, etc.

There are also undershirts and undershirt products that help manage sweat through too that you might not be aware of.

Products like Kleinerts, Sweatshield Undershirts, Silverback Apparel, etc.

If you search my site for those product names, “excessive sweating”, or hyperhidrosis, you’ll find a lot of great reading material to go through.

Hope the above information helps you find an undershirt you love.

If you need other info, let me know or email me back and let me know what you decide to try and how you like it!

15 thoughts on “My Fiancé Says Wifebeaters Are Wrong. Is She Right?”

  1. I wear ribbed white sleeveless undershirts all year round.

    I grew up with them and I like their fit and feel.

    I never listen to negative comments about these shirts. I wear what I want to wear.

    I only wish they were not called wifebeaters. When I grew up, they were called undershirts.

  2. Love this site.. who’d of thought there was a site dedicated to the pursuit of quality T’s for men. Here’s my dilemma. The Walmart George Line released a version of their standard T’s a few years ago with a 5% spandex mixed with their 95% cotton. I really like the feel of these T-shirts and how they stretch except there is one major problem.. The collar or rib around the neck is so poorly made, that within 5-8 washes, it has completely lost it’s shape. The rest of the shirt is holds up like a tank. but the neck band is A) too thin to begin with and it has absoluitely no staying power after 5 washes.

    Where can I find a T-Shirt with 5% spandex that also has a super tough well made thick neck ring or band that will withstand normal washings for at least 40-50 washes. Does such a T-shirt exist ?

    Please help.

    DB, Canada

  3. I’m in the habit of wearing both A-shirts (wifebeaters) and traditional under-T’s, but under different circumstances. My A-shirts are always white and tight, crews can be white and/or gray or black (depending on the color of the collared shirt it is paired with) and always form fitting (not loose). I started wearing undershirts in high school as well because I sweat easily and would have shotgun blasts of sweat on my chest and back that were unsightly. Under shirts helped immensely! A-shirts always go under my T-shirts and occasionally during the summer time under my button down/dress shirts, however if the shirt is white it is considered a fashion faux-pa to do so, but if you have the body and swagger to pull it off, why not? But a white A-shirt under a blue or other colored dress shirt that does not show through is totally acceptable! Some Women depending on their social class and upbringing have told me that they consider “wifebeaters” the mark of a low or working class man, others have told me they think it’s “hot” or “hunky” (assuming you are in decent shape and not a fat slob anyway). I think the rule is here that A-shirts are meant to be worn UNDER other shirts and not AS a shirt. LOL.

  4. First of all I have never heard of an A shirt accused of domestic violence. For goodness sake it is a clothes item. Gangs also wear khakis, Chuck Converse sneakers, goatees and many other things but that never stops anyone from wearing them. The mafia wore suits but that never stopped anyone from wearing them. A shirts are extremely comfortable, masculine and very attractive. I’m not going to let a group of criminals stop me from wearing them. We should use commonsense. Besides, gang members don’t wear A shirts as an undershirt.

  5. It used to be, that sleeveless undershirts were worn all the time. Then World War II hit. . . . and the crew neck tee became popular; it was required for Navy uniforms, and its colored drab version became standard for other branch in working uniforms with open neck shirt options. . . servicemen liked the tee and started wearing it all the time, and by the late 40s and early 50s, some were wearing it without a shirt over it. . .

    But, in the post war years, even though men embraced the tee in cooler weather, a-shirts were the choice for summer shirts and seasons. . . but younger men, in the 1970s, began to disdain undershirts in general, especially when it became stylish to open a shirt halfway to the naval and wear a medallion or heavy chain. . .

    No one wore t-shirts when I was growing up, except parents, teachers and coaches over 40. . . . then they came back in, about the same time as boxers did. . . . EVERYONE in college had a crew neck on under a collared shirt YEAR ROUND—chest hair on display was a NO-NO. (This was about 1992). I kept the crew neck habit for a few years after college, then started dressing seasonally. . . I wear an a-shirt for summer and a crew neck or v-neck for winter, and I like mine to fit like undershirts did traditionally—close to the body. . . . as a compromise, when I want to cover my chest and neckline but its warm, I wear sleeveless crews (muscle) shirts; try to find thin ones now that Life is not readily available from Jockey. . . . .

    The low-brow status of the A-shirt came from the mid 90s stereotypes of Gang bangers of ALL races wearing them, but I believe American History X stereotypes Latinos as wearing them with Hairnets. . . as do CSI and other cop shows. . .

    My girlfriend’s opinion? She thinks wearing undershirts are unnecessary, especially in the summer. . . I got in the habit on Reserve and then mobilization, and I think they actually (even a tank) keep you a little less sticky in the summer. . .

    • thanks for info ksathlete! agreed. on the hotter days, i have found myself wearing my tank tops some of the time.

      as for your girlfriend thinking that wearing undershirts is unnecessary, well, i guess we should ask her this — is wearing underwear or bra unnecessary? or even better, is having 50 pair of shoes necessary?

      i suppose that is too logical a counter-argument, but the point is — in either case one could argue it’s not absolutely necessary or required, but we prefer it the way we do it.

      if you’re letting her have her 50 pairs of shoes, then she should be ok with you wearing your undershirts *smile*

  6. Wow! Great comments on this post!
    I’m also not a fan of the A-shirt. I too grew-up with my father dressing in shirt & tie with an A-undershirt for work. However, the A-shirt never made sense to me. Some of these have been pointed out already… 1) You can see the A-shirt underneath light colored dress shirts. 2) The A-shirt doesn’t offer underarm protection. 3) In cold weather, the A-shirt doesn’t provide enough coverage to be a base layer (depending on the brand). 4) I also have fallen prey to the ‘wifebeater’ stereotype.

    The only advantage I see for the A-shirt is one of my brothers has big shoulders and arms. Therefore, most undershirts are too tight around the shoulder or lattismus or bicep. Therefore, he would wear t-shirts as undershirts but they were too loose and bunch-up around his waist. The A-shirt seemed to solve this problem. Although he still would like the underarm protection.

    On a side note:
    I recently purchased some Ribbedtee shirts with their web checkin promotion. And I must say, these shirts are great! They are slim fit without being snug compared to other shirts with 4-9% elastene/lycra/spandex. I don’t think I would wear these as t-shirts because the ‘ribbed’ construction is clearly visible and could portray, I’m cheap by wearing an undershirt as a t-shirt. FYI, Their micromodal shirt doesn’t have as much ‘ribbed’ construction but still a great shirt!
    The only negative is they don’t offer shipping options, only priority shipping. Some people, like myself, don’t need my undershirts in a couple of days compared to a week and not pay as much.

    Keep the comments coming!

    • great stuff gil. thanks for thoughts about a-shirts and feedback about ribbedtee.

      yeah, shipping prices are usually a tough pill to swallow – at least there’s no sales tax, no gas/time expense, and most of the time online retailers offer free shipping with a certain minimum order value.

      keep the input coming. i love it!!!

  7. Hi Tug,

    When I read your response to M, I must admit that I was rather disappointed. So, I was very pleased to see your reply to Richard. I work for a global financial services company and wear a suit and tie everyday. My choice of undershirt to wear with my dress shirts (and casual ones too) is the A-shirt. I began wearing them while in high school and have been wearing them to the workplace for over 25 years. No one has ever made a negative comment about me wearing them.

    You were exactly right when you said to wear what you feel good in. When wearing an A-shirt, I feel very confident and comfortable. In fact, I do not wear any other style of undershirt. Fortunately, I do not sweat much, so underarm sweat stains are not a concern.

    I encourage M to continue wearing A-shirts if that he is most comfortable in. Somehow I just don’t think his fiance’s lawyer friends are going to be that concerned about what type of undershirt he wears.

    • Hey Tug….

      Thanks much for the reply. Great insight. It looks as though you get a lot of hits on this cite. Who ever thought that mens undershirts could be such a contra . Anyway……I don’t get why Ashirts ever got the perception of being lower class. I know the stigma of cops……but there are plenty of men that beat there wives in T shirts.

      Would be great for others to weigh in on this topic.

      Take care!

  8. Hi Tug,

    I was pretty surprised by your reply. Ashirt’s have been around for ever. If you look at the survey you have they are the number 1 preferred undershirt. I don’t really understand how Ashirts could not be considered professional. I have worn them for years. I do not sweat a lot. They are the most comfortable. I also wear traditional V necks as well. Why are so many people hung up on the lines an Ashirt has? Personally, I think Ashirts are a lot more masculine. You also still see the lines of a traditional T shirt. I wish I could find more forums on A shirts specifically.

    This is a fantastic cite.

    Take care.

    • hey richard! thanks for posting your thoughts!

      let me tell you a little secret that nobody knows – i’m really a closet a-shirt/tank top fan. in fact, i grew up wearing the ribbed cotton wonders. when i was a kid, my dad wore the “wifebeater” all the time, and he was a big shot muckity-muck exec at a fortune 100 company and he had to wear a shirt and tie every day too! yes, he wore the sleeveless wonders under his shirt and tie and it was perfectly acceptable to do so!

      you gotta love a-shirts cause they fit and feel so freakin good! in fact, i actually wore ribbed tank tops for most of my adult life. that is – until i realized that i was starting to stain my outer shirts in the underarm area. sometimes it was just a little sweat that got on my shirt and sometimes my antiperspirant, but i didn’t like the fact that i was starting to damage $80 – $100 shirts. so, to avoid the stains, i decided to start wearing full undershirts. because i didn’t know any better, i thought my only options were pretty much the ill fitting hanes or fruit of the loom undershirts.

      truth-be-told, because those two companies were so dominant at the retailers at the time (and still are), i really didn’t think there was much else to choose from – so that’s what i wore. for good or for bad. fast forward to a few years ago and i decided to start looking for a better undershirt. i started buying as many as i could and trying each out. i figured why not channel all the information i was gathering into a medium like a blog, because if i was looking for something better, maybe others would be too??

      which pretty much brings us up to today. here i sit responding to your comment about whether or not a-shirts/tanks tops/wifebeaters are “professional” and if they should be worn under dress shirts. they sure were back in 70’s when i was growing up, so why not now?

      maybe it’s because there’s a bunch of self-proclaimed fashion “guru” blow-hards out there that say it’s not professional. or maybe those same douche-bags need to feel better about themselves, so they form an opinion based on nothing and then preach it to be gospel truth. or quite possibly they just can’t form their own damn opinion, so they side with others of their same kind.

      who the hell really knows. i sure as hell can’t call myself a fashion expert. i don’t currently work in an office, but when i did, i sure as hell didn’t wear a tie. i sit around most days wearing cargo shorts, flip flops and t-shirts waiting to make my millions (i wear my undershirts when i go out in the evening and dress more appropriately or when i have to go to a meeting during the day).

      when i responded to the reader’s question, i took a cue from the common current perception of how wearing an a-shirt under a shirt and tie isn’t ideal and offered up some alternative suggestions for the reader to consider. do note, i didn’t tell him not to wear them – i just suggested it wasn’t considered as “fashionable” to do so.

      that said, i’m a big believer in personal preference. if your undershirt is clean and crisp, fits properly, and your clothes fit you nicely too, then i say f*ck all the know-it-alls and wear a tank under your shirt and tie. if you feel good, that’s all that really matters – everyone else can go pound sand.

      the great news is that there are so many more undershirt options out there today then there was just a few years ago. and quite frankly, some full undershirts fit and feel equally as wonderful as the glorious beater.

      so, if you’re happy with the tanks, stay with them my friend. i still pull out mine from time to time, but i have to say i’ve found pure awesomeness in some full undershirts too.

      so richard, thanks for getting me thinking. i really appreciate it!

      if you ever want to contribute articles about tank tops to the site here or volunteer to become one of my tank top experts, i would gladly welcome the help.


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