Tank Tops

What is a tank top?

A tank top is a type of sleeveless shirt.  But not all sleeveless shirts are tank tops.  A tank top consists of a sleeveless shirt with low neck and different shoulder strap widths.  It is named after tank suits, one-piece bathing costumes of the 1920s worn in tanks or swimming pools.  The upper garment is worn commonly by both men and women.

Tank tops go by several different names.  One of which is a muscle shirt because the shirts expose the arms.  The term works well if the wearer actually has big muscles.  If they don’t it still has the same name, but the person looks a bit silly with their skinny little T-rex arms.

Tank Top Muscle Shirt

A sleeveless shirt is a shirt manufactured without sleeves (no kidding) or shirt that has had its sleeves cut off after the manufacturing process was complete.  Sleeveless shirts are worn by either sex, depending on the style.  They are often used as undershirts in business, casual environments or during athletics.   Short sleeve shirts are often worn by athletes in sports such as basketball, track and field, biathlons, cycling, and triathlons.

In the United States and Canada, a tank top is also on occasion referred to as an athletic shirt or “A-shirt”.   The term "A-shirt" is short for "athletic shirt" because it is often worn in sports, such as basketball and track-and-field events.  In our opinion, a tank top should simply be called a “tank top”.  An “athletic” shirt can have too many different meanings.  After all, isn’t a baseball shirt an athletic top.  But it has sleeves.

In addition to athletic usage, tank top shirts have traditionally been used as undershirts, especially with suits and dress shirts. They are sometimes worn alone without a dress shirt or top shirt during very warm and or humid weather, mainly in North America where the climate is warmer and more humid in the summer.   Tank tops are often worn alone under very casual settings, as lounge wear, and or while completing yard work or other chores around the home.

Women's White Tank Top

The construction of a tank top is rather simplistic.  The neck and armholes are often reinforced for durability.  One usually has large armholes and neck hole.  The neckline can potentially reach down as far as the bottom of the chest (but does not need to go that low). The shirts are also sometimes made long to make tucking into a pair of jeans/shorts easier (shirt length is long, I do not mean they have long sleeves.  As discussed, they have no sleeves).  In almost all cases, they are buttonless, collarless, and pocketless.  An tank top is worn often as an undershirt and is designed for a tight fit and is often made of ribbed cotton.  It can also be constructed differently and with different fiber content.

Bad names for tank tops include pejorative nicknames such as, wife-beater (sometimes just beater) and guinea tee or dago tee ("guinea" and "dago" being ethnic slurs for people of Italian ethnicity).  These terms are for historical reference and we strongly suggest that they not be used in modern times.

A sleeveless T-shirt such as a tank top is also called a muscle shirt.  As already stated, it is the same design as a T-shirt, but without sleeves. They are primarily worn by men, since some sleeveless T-shirts have large open sleeve holes that would expose the female chest under certain circumstances.  However, many women do wear them and look fantastic while doing so.

Women's Tank Top

They are often worn during athletic activities or as casual wear during warmer weather. They are colloquially known as shooter shirts in the southern United States. They were quite popular in the 1980s and were stereotypically associated with surfers and bodybuilders (hence the name "muscle" shirt) who often bore the logo of their gyms on these shirts. Muscle shirts/shooter shirts without logos are now more commonly worn as casual wear.

Tank tops come in solid colors such as white, black, blue, red, etc., and they also come with printed designs.

Tank Top Assortment

Learn about shirts and the different types of shirts on the market.

Ladies Tank Top

Learn about different t-shirt styles in our fashion terminology section.

You may also be interested in learning about athletic fashion.  Tank tops are often referenced as athletic shirts.

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