Fashion T Shirt Designs

Why Is A Tank Top Called A Wife Beater?

It is as strange as it sounds. Why is a tank top called a wife-beater, and how a piece of clothing gets such a violent name on earth. When I came across this weird information, it partially disturbed me, and then I also felt curious to know what this is all about?

So, here I am going to share my understanding of a sequence of events and how they happened. 

To begin with, let’s explore what a tank top is? What is its form or design etc.?

What Is A Tank Top?

  1. A tank top is a t-shirt without sleeves. 
  2. It is a collarless piece of garment that is worn as upper by both genders. 
  3. Men also wear it as an undershirt at times. 
  4. It comes in both loose and tight-fitting.
  5. People wear a tank top in the category of casual wear.
  6. The common names for a tank top are sleeveless shirt, wife beater or A-shirt etc.
Man Wearing Black Tank Top
Man Wearing Black Tank Top

Suggested Read: Smart Casual Wear Fashion 

So, we know exactly how a tank top looks like in detail theoretically and by visuals.

Let’s get to the main question now, why is a tank top called a wife beater? When did people start calling tank tops wife beaters?

When Did People Start Calling Tank Tops Wife Beaters?

Before, I give you a context to the term “wife-beater” and its history of how a tank top gets its violent name. I would like to say that this term is politically incorrect because of the use of elements of sensation from violent incidents.

Let’s get to the historical trail of sequence that associates a garment with a human violating act.

From Medieval Times to 1990: 

The idea behind all of the stories from medieval times till 1990 is more or less the same. The act of beating up and the issue of domestic violence initiated by men. The problem lies where this shirt becomes the symbol of association with the drunken, aggressive lower-class men who either beat their wife or look like they do. The name of the shirt stereotype the people but doesn’t condemn the action as a point of discussion.

Media Stereotyping 

In the early 20th century, the Hollywood industry was establishing itself. This was the era of silent films where the character establishment was happening through costume stereotyping.

The actors wearing collar shirts are the good guys, and the man in the singlet is a bad guy. Similarly, a businessman is always a hero character and a saviour who wears suits, and the con-man is essentially a poor person and a wife-beater who wears an awful sleeveless shirt. This would become one of the reasons influencing to give the name of a wife-beater tank top.

Related: Discover All About Wife Beater Singlet

Man Shouting at Woman while Wearing Tank Top
Man Shouting at Woman while Wearing Tank Top

Also Read: Polo Shirt: What You Need To Know About It

The real Incident

1947, a man named James Hartford Junior was arrested for beating her wife to death. This hideous story was published with the photos of Hartford wearing a Tank top after the arrest in Detroit. Soon after, it hit the national print media with the “Wife beater” in the headlines where this term was coined.

Why Wife Beater (Tank Top) In Fashion

There is another popular culture reference created by the media, which mainstream wife-beater term. This time around, it also establishes it as fashion. By the ’80s and ’90s, the hero image started changing from high-class suit men into struggling middle-class, self-esteemed men who stand by their principles. We see John McClane (played by Bruce Willis) wearing tank tops in the Die-hard series of films; this sets the wife-beater tank tops as a trending piece of clothing for both men and women fashion trends.

Bruce Wills Wearing Tank Top in a Movie
Bruce Wills Wearing Tank Top in a Movie


The tank top named as a wife-beater originated from the image of a brutal man wearing a sleeveless undershirt who looks like he would beat his wife. The media and film industry also contribute to this stereotype image projection. The real-life also gives reference to authenticate that, and eventually, it came back to the silver screen with a hero character wearing it. No matter what journey this wife-beater tank top took, it is today’s fashion priority and a go-to style shirt for both girls and guys alike.

Image Source: Shutter Stock

Also Read:

Like & Follow us on Social Media