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Athletic undershirts

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by mikey, May 12, 2003.

  1. mikey

    mikey Member

    Apr 30, 2003
    A couple of weeks ago, I posted this reply on the "Undershirt" topic title in this forum.  I did so to defend those who wear athletic undershirts/A-shirts/tank undershirts/wifebeaters from what I saw were some demeaning attacks.  I was disappointed to receive no meaningful responses and was hoping that I would receive some by posting it as its own topic...

    Had to jump in to defend wearing wifebeaters.  Although they are technically referred to as A-shirts, far more people know them by their more colorful name.

    I wear them virtually all the time.  I used to wear standard t-shirt undershirts, but switched for a variety of reasons.  Wifebeaters still function as undershirts, keeping you warmer in cold weather and soaking up (at least some) perspiration in the summer.  Also, they tend to be thinner and, thus, more lightweight than a standard T.  Further, because they are somewhat scooped at the neck, they do not show (or at least as much) with an unbuttoned shirt.  In short, they're a good compromise between wearing no undershirt (which shows sweat, hair, and skin) and a t (which can be uncomfortable and is obvious under an unbuttoned shirt)

    Yeah, I know others in this post think they are "tacky," "blue collar" and "gross."  But why?  Isn't that just a stupid stereotype?  For those that characterize them this way, have you tried to wear 'em to see whether they provide at least some of the benefits of wearing an undershirt, without some of the undesireable side effects?

    Or am I just way out in left field here?
  2. Renault78law

    Renault78law Well-Known Member

    Jan 29, 2003
    Los Angeles
    I generally don't like wearing regular undershirts because it's just too hot. So I agree with you, beaters seem to be the best compromise bw comfort and functionality.
    I pretty much wear a beater everyday as well. However, I realize that they only have a limited application - meaning that I know they don't look too sophisticated under a thin dress shirt. Thus, even though sometimes I make a conscience decision to choose function over form, I know that I'm not being exactly stylish.
    It reminds me of the "What would you like stopped?" thread: I'm definitely guilty of some of those fashion faux pas, but it doesn't mean I'll necessarily stop. I'll just know that I'm not being Mr. Style as I'm doing it, and that's ok with me...
  3. hermes

    hermes Well-Known Member

    Jan 27, 2003
    they have a function and can be appropriate so i see nothing wrong with them - if you're walking around in nothing but with a pair of jeans, then there's a problem, but under a shirt they can be fine

    sometimes function takes precedent
  4. AskAndyAboutClothes

    AskAndyAboutClothes Well-Known Member

    Mar 5, 2003
    Manhattan Beach & Palm Desert, CA

    The wearing of a tank or athletic shirt* is definitely a matter of choice.   In making that choice are some considerations.

    It may well be that TV and movies have depicted a certain ethnic crime element sitting on the stoops of NYC or Jersey wearing a tank top.  They have used that image and "educated" the public to respond in a certain way.

    Renault78law makes reference to the fact that he knows what reactions there will be to that image, takes that into consideration, and wears an A-shirt if he wants too, but he's fully aware of the image.  So if the media has influenced the public and the general consensus of an A-shirt is not one of sophistication, or even "tacky," "blue collar" and "gross", keep that in mind as a method of projecting the image you want to project.

    If you like fuchsia suits, but realize that most serious businessmen do not wear that color.  It's your choice - wear the fuchsia suit to your job interview or not.  What result do you want to achieve?  Is a fuchsia suit the right means to your end goal?

    *Tank tops or A-shirts have a U shaped neckline with wide shoulder straps. The tank top name came from swim wear (early indoor swimming pools were called tanks.)  The "A" stands for "athletic".  

    Removing the arms from a T-shirt for the tank style left the arms more free for athletics. They are not practical for keeping your underarms dry and to protect your shirt since there are no underarms in an A-shirt.  It's certainly appropriate for workouts at the gym.  

    A T-shirt absorbs moisture, protects your shirt from perspiration stains, and prevents your skin and body hair from showing through a dress shirt.  It also keeps you warmer in winter, cooler in summer and generally just feels good against your skin.

    A 1980 US Army study reports that a T-shirt worn under a shirt on hot days keeps you cooler.  The cotton absorbs perspiration, which then evaporates which physicists call a cooling process.

    If you don't like the look of the T-shirt showing at the neck of a shirt worn without a tie then there is the V-neck style.

  5. scottmag

    scottmag Well-Known Member

    Mar 12, 2003
    I'm with Andy on this subject. One of the primary functions of an undershirt is to absorb perspiration and keep it from your expensive/stylish outer shirt. You sweat the most from your underarms so an A-shirt is useless for this function. I see no point in wearing one and don't buy these arguments about comfort. There are v-neck T-shirts which do not show under an unbuttoned shirt. And if you find yourself too warm there are many different fabrics for wicking perspiration from your skin better than cotton.

  6. mikey

    mikey Member

    Apr 30, 2003
    Interesting replies, so far.

    I appreciate Andy's take on the matter. He is certainly correct that merely because someone likes fuschsia suits, he should not necessarily wear one to a job interview. But undershirts are different, or at least they should be.

    First, you start with the premise that undershirts are, perhaps, the most optional of men's clothing. There are some truly intelligent and well-dressed men that always wear them, some that sometimes wear them, and some that never wear them. No other article of clothing that seems so necessary to some is so unnecessary to others.

    Also, since they are, by definition, undershirts, why should I be made to feel bad for wearing a type of my choosing. Yes, you might see one through my dress shirt or more casual shirt, but why would someone lump me with the "wifebeaters" you see in Cops unless it is torn, stained, and being worn by someone in the back seat of a patrol car. If I'm appropriately dressed, why put me down?

    That said, athletic undershirts would seem a good compromise. Not as functional as a t-shirt, but not as bulky either. As Andy points out, the reference to "A" does mean "athletic." Obviously, the freedom necessary for athletics could be more comfortable even under a dress shirt. I know I find that it is. Also, as long as you purchase brands that are not cut too deep under the arms, they do, in fact, soak up almost as much sweat as t-shirt undershirts.

    As for those that doubt their comfort and function, I again question why? Anyone willing to try 'em and report back?
  7. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Moscow, Idaho
    Bad boys, bad boys
    Whatcha gonna do?
    Whatcha gonna do
    when they come fo' you?
    Bad boys, bad boys

    Apparently, petty crime and domestic assault makes you sweat, thus the preponderance of shirtless arrestees sitting handcuffed on the curb in COPS. My personal, and not particularly scientific, observation is that there are just as many or more completely shirtless arrestees as there are wife beater-wearers. This observation might be interpreted as suggesting that the criminal element is a random sample of the general population with regard to their views on A-shirts, and that there is no correlation between the predisposition to wife-beating and the wearing of wifebeaters.

    Of course, the above analysis does not take into account demographic factors such as the adoption of the "wifebeater" as a fashion statement by gangbangers, or age, both of which seem relevant.

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

    Personal practice: I never wear undershirts. I'll wear t-shirts under my shirts if I'm wearing a shirt casually as a shell (often), or nothing underneath at all otherwise (infrequently). It's just too hot in L.A. to wear so many layers.
  8. Bradford

    Bradford Well-Known Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    OK -
    Had to jump in to this. I was wearing a wifebeater yesterday. I did it because I needed to wear a shirt and tie in the morning and then wanted to take my tie off, but not have my undershirt showing. As I may have said before, I just don't like the feel of a dress shirt against my bare skin. I tend to like my shirts starched and the starchy feel against my skin is just irritating.
    I realize that I could get some v-neck undershirts, but here is my prejudice. I think v-neck undershirts look like something worn by old men. I don't why, I just have images of rumpled old guys sitting on their front porches in v-neck undershirts. Just my opinion.

  9. mikey

    mikey Member

    Apr 30, 2003
    I have to agree with Bradford regarding v-neck undershirts. V-necks do seem like they're predominately worn by old men. I really don't see these as an option for anybody trying to appear at all stylish.

    Another plus pointed out by Bradford: the ability to wear wifebeaters and not to have them showing at the neck is another plus.

    Again, any doubters willing to step up by trying 'em and reporting back?
  10. General Koskov

    General Koskov Well-Known Member

    Mar 24, 2004
    I feel that in the hot summer when you are going to sweat several litres anyway, you might as well wear an undershirt, or have some sort of extra cotton under the arms of a well-fitted shirt (probably not a common idea, just popped into my head). But in the winter, there's really no point unless you are wearing outdoor winter clothes over the undershirt.

    But why would anyone wear anything but a t-shirt as an undershirt? Without arms (however short they may be), the predominant amount of sweat from your armpits will go right to your shirt...or will it? Perhaps I am wrong as I've never tried the tank-top type of undershirt (which is because I thought it wouldn't absorb sweat...circular argument).

    T-shirts are also good under shirt-jackets (or tunics, or whatever you want to call them).
  11. Andrew

    Andrew Well-Known Member

    Feb 1, 2004
    Why would it matter if predominantly old people wore v-neck undershirts, it's not like anyone is going to see the undershirt. If they work as well as an undershirt but also allow for people not to see the collar of the shirt, then why not just wear it.
  12. dah328

    dah328 Well-Known Member

    Dec 6, 2003
    I perspire at the drop of a hat, so wearing an undershirt is a necessity for me.  I've tried wifebeaters, but they do not protect against underarm perspiration anywhere near as well as a full crew or v-neck t-shirt.  However, if the wifebeater works for you, great.  Don't feel like you need anyone else's endorsement to wear it.

    Now if anyone's had any good sucess with wicking undershirts, I'd be interested in hearing about that.  My Nike Dri-Fit shirts are great for running, but the ones I've seen are all too bulky to wear as undershirts.  Under Armour's products wick just as well, if not better than Nike, but I find their sizing to be strange.  I can barely squeeze into a size M heatgear shirt (and I'm not sure I like the skin-tight thing for work wear) but the size S loosegear shirt is way too big for me.

  13. justbrowsing

    justbrowsing Active Member

    Apr 29, 2004
    I would be interested in hearing about wicking undershirts as well. My question is really where does the perspiration go? It seems to me that it would just be wicked away right into your dress shirt, defeating the purpose of wearing an undershirt.

    BTW, I highly recommend Certain Dri. My pits have barely shed a drop since I started using it. Unfortunately, with the heat of summer coming, there is still the rest of the body sweat to deal with.
  14. The_Foxx

    The_Foxx Well-Known Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Northern VA, USA
    I just don't get the wifebeater type of undershirt....what the hell is it supposed to do, anyway? Absorb the sweat in the small of the back, while protecting the stomach region of my dress shirts?? Without the underarm-section of cloth, I can't see what the point is.

    As far as undershirts, nothing will ever fit or feel like a hanro or zimmerli undershirt; not bulky or baggy, very fitted and fit to the body, super-mercerized cotton. Wish they weren't so damned expensive, though.
  15. A Harris

    A Harris Well-Known Member

    Jan 6, 2003
    I don't think the stereotype applies if you are wearing a wifebeater under another shirt. The problem is when you are wearing JUST the wifebeater. If you have a shirt over it, nobody is going to know you have it on anyway.
  16. Brian SD

    Brian SD Well-Known Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    I wear V-Neck undershirts, no skin showing at the chest, and still absorbs all perspiration.

    I don't think V-Necks are old-manish at all. I really like V-Necks, and I'm still a kid.

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