This bad-boy style staple has been around for nearly a century. Initially, it was associated with domestic violence and classism which led to its nomenclature. But it has traversed a long road to evolving into an ironic piece whose reference could be found in everything ranging from pop culture cameos to queer disco. This is why the wife-beater has transformed into an intersectional symbol of masculinity and your wardrobe can’t give it a miss.
What is a wife-beater?
A wife-beater is a fitted tank top that comes in monochromatic hues and has a ribbed texture. Its form-fitting nature leaves very less to the imagination.
The wife-beater was invented by sock company Cooper’s Inc. in 1935. It was initially purposed as an undergarment to prevent sweat from damaging men’s dress shirts. But middle-class men couldn’t afford to wear dress shirts every day and A-shirts came to fill in the void rather than going completely shirtless. However, A-shirt received the horrific title when a Detroit man was arrested for beating his wife and newspapers splashed his photo wearing a blood-stained A-shirt. This gruesome incident stuck to the garment itself which commonly came to be known as Wife-Beater. The garment made its foray into pop culture with Marlon Brando’s A Streetcar Named Desire where the actor’s character was portrayed as a blue-collar man abusing his wife. This act entwined the connection between A-shirts and violence for perpetuity.
Portrayal in pop culture
This body-hugging piece was rocked by 70s sex symbols like Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury on various stage performances. The 80s testosterone-fueled action flicks like Die Hard showcased the protagonists in wife-beaters flaunting their chiseled biceps to perfection. Come the 90s and the wife-beater entered the exploding rap scene as legendary musicians like Tupac wore them on repeat mode.
How to wear a wife-beater?
The best way to rock a wife-beater is to wear it under a flannel, shirt, or jacket. In this way, everyone will get to understand the love you nurture for wife-beaters without coming off as underdressed. The utter simplicity of wife-beaters opens up outfit choices be it your favorite leather jacket or a white summer shirt for that bad boyish vibe. To amp up your bad boy game, you can style a necklace with your outfit. Read on to know the different ways you can wear a wife-beater with panache:
- A wife-beater can be worn under a full sleeves shirt and paired with your favorite set of sneakers and pants.
- If you are trying to nail the street style during the summer months, then you can wear a wife-beater under a shirt and trousers combo.
- You can even wear shorts with your favorite wife-beater and complete your look with a denim jacket. This outfit is perfect for going to the beach and other casual spots during the summer season.
- Get summer ready by pairing a short-sleeved shirt in tropical prints over your wife-beater.
- If you prefer solid patterns over prints then you can wear your wife-beater under a plain short-sleeved shirt.
- Men who don’t mind being a bit daring with their fashion choices can channel cool vibes by wearing their wife-beater underneath a semi-formal suit. This outfit has been rocked to perfection by countless fashion influencers to date.
- Fall months with a mild cold call for styling the wife-beater underneath a leather jacket for that ultimate rockstar vibe. Once the mercury drops further, you can swap your fancy leather jacket for a heavy-duty trench coat.
- Get a size bigger than what you regularly wear as the ribbed tanks tend to shrink when you wash them in warm or hot water.
- Always make it a point to try them on before buying the wife-beaters. Keep them on for a few minutes as the ribbed fabric is usually pretty flexible. Thus, something which might not fit well initially can conform to your shape with time.
- Accessories and jewelry will become your best friend if you wear ribbed tanks as outerwear. You can wear a necklace, watch, wristband or hat to make the whole look more put together.
- If your ribbed tank is getting discolored around the armpits, then chances are high that you are applying an excessive amount of antiperspirant. You just need a few swipes and your ribbed tanks will thank you for this.
- You can accentuate your entire look by getting ribbed tanks in solid shades like black, grey, and white. This makes them compatible with an array of color combinations that can make your outfit pop. You can wear a white tank with white patterned shirts or a black tank with green shorts and a red hat.
- The layering game can be nailed to perfection with the versatile wife-beaters. You can wear it under a zip-up hoodie, an open button-down shirt, or a jeans jacket. Since the tank works both with and without the additional layer they are especially helpful during fall or spring months when it’s too warm for a coat but too cold to go without a sweater.
The revealing A-shirt disrupts the heteronormative boundaries of menswear which is more rule-bound compared to womenswear. Before donning a wife-beater, you need to understand that this style flaunts your physique and if you aren’t very comfortable with your body, then it’s better to skip this style. Alternatively, it can be your reason to get back in shape as you are bound to bask in more compliments wherever you go.