After t-shirts emerged from their role as underdog and became top dog in the 50’s, muscle tees and tank tops were the next step to total freedom. Tank tops were the ultimate in comfort and style, about as nude as one could get without being obscene.
Named after the style of shirts worn by men for swimming at the beginning of the century, tank tops featured a scooped neck and the notable absence of sleeves. A version of the tank top had been around since the 1930’s as an undershirt, known as the A-shirt or Guinea tee, but it wasn’t until decades later that the style evolved into outerwear.
During the sexual revolution, women burned their bras and donned the tank top. The revealing style was considered scandalous by the conservatives, but it was a favorite of many men—both to wear and to see worn on a fine female form. When rock stars started showing off their bodies via the tank top, fans followed, and the tank top became a true unisex style. Eventually everyone got used to the new hang loose attitude of the 70’s, and the tank top became even more common than the short-sleeved tee.
The tank fell out of fashion for boys in the early 80’s, but it remained a strong force for girls. The tank top evolved from the scoop-neck style and got a new shape in the 90’s when tube-style tops were paired with spaghetti straps. This new ‘baby’ style tank became one of the hottest fashions of the decade, especially when paired with the retro flavor of decal fronts.
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