7 reasons to love the tank top
From vintage men’s underwear to ’90s supermodels. We tell you the story of the sleeveless shirt.
The tank top is a controversial piece of clothing. It’s revealing, balances on the thin line between great and gross, and has gained a dubious rep as the garment of choice for the ‘GTL’ (gym-tan-laundry) crowd. But there’s much more to the tank top than pumped up dudes on spring break.
- IT FIRST APPEARED WHEN FASHION ENTERED THE MODERN ERA
The tank top (also known as the A-shirt or sleeveless T-shirt) is a timeless wardrobe staple, dating all the way back to the 1920s. This was the decade when fashion entered the modern era and expelled many of the restrictive trends of bygone times in order for simpler and more comfortable garments to take over.
- FOR 40+ YEARS IT WAS ONLY SOCIALLY ACCEPTED AS UNDERWEAR – FOR MEN
Despite the rise of a more casual style, the tank top made a shy entrance in the world of fashion and was introduced as nothing more extravagant than an undergarment or sportswear piece. The A in A-shirt actually stands for athletic, since it was popular on the track field.
- IT HAS NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH TANKS
At first, the tank top was considered so insignificant that it wasn’t even named properly. In the ’20s, swimming pools were referred to as swimming tanks, and if a woman wanted to take a dip she wore a ‘tank suit’. Since the sleeveless T-shirt had similar straps it was named accordingly.
- MARLON BRANDO INTRODUCED IT TO THE MASSES
After being sported by film stars Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and Warren Beatty in Bonnie & Clyde, the tank top officially came out from under and was incorporated into casualwear for both men and women in the ’60s and ’70s.
- … AND IT EXPLODED WITH THE RISE OF THE MUSCLE SHIRT
When the ’80s arrived, a new subculture emerged. Bodybuilding was as huge as the guys who were into it, and muscle tees were a must-have to emphasise a pair of ripped arms. The cult-like following of Arnold Schwarzenegger spread from Venice Beach to the world and tank tops became their trademark.
- CALVIN KLEIN AND THE SUPERS’ MADE BASICS COOL
Faded denim, chinos, crisp white T-shirts and ribbed tank tops. In the early 1990s, basics became cool when Calvin Klein’s underwear campaigns stopped traffic and Kate Moss’ boyish style inspired women to keep it simple.
- THE RISE AND RISE OF BASICS
Over the past decade forgotten fashion trends have resurfaced time and time again. ’70s florals, ’80s shoulder pads, ’90s tracksuits and even ’00s bucket hats seem to return to the runway every other season. Opting for a perfect denim-sneaker-tank top look, however, is constantly on trend.
Celebrate the tank top and shop our selected favourites in the listing below.
PHOTOGRAPHER Andreas Sjödin
DIRECTOR Andreas Sjödin
STYLING Lisa Lindqwister | Lund Lund
DOP Max Larsson
MODEL Alima Fofana | W360
HAIR Lok Lau | CLM Agency
MAKEUP Anya De Tobon | Link Details