The bias against men wearing tank tops: It’s the pits

A few years ago a friend gave me a ticket to watch a Brewers baseball game from the Lawyers-Only level at Miller Park, which meant I’d get a peek at how the other half lives.

But I made a horrible mistake. I wore a tank top, and as I entered a bar in the top-secret Fancy Schmantzy Smarty Pantsy Pavilion, a menacing mench who was a head taller and a shoulder wider than me blocked out the sun, pointed to a sign, and said, “No tank tops.”

I looked around. It was ninety degrees outside, so there were tank tops galore. Every one of them worn by a woman.

Just one more reason to want to get inside.

But it occurred to me that what Behemoth B. Bigboy was actually saying was, “No dudes with tank tops allowed.” Aggravating, since Miller Park was built with public money. Every time I buy a new tank top, the millionaires who run the team get another half-penny of my hard-earned pay. I freakin’ own that park. Don’t I have rights?

What was the problem anyway? Armpit hair? If so, why didn’t they just ban the scragglies on everyone?

I am not the only victim of this insidious form of discrimination. “After waiting in line to get in, we were told there was a dress code,” Neverreturn says in a review of a club on the Las Vegas strip. “Men could not wear tank tops. Not sure why, because (the place was) a dump, complete with chicken wire on the walls.”

Is it societal? It was hot the last time my writers group met, and every woman had bare shoulders, while every man had cotton at least down to his elbows. And when I participated in a romance writing panel a few weeks ago, the room contained exactly one man and two sleeves.

A article says that tank tops might be “a great option for the beach, but many women want that tank to stay seaside.” A client named Alicia says the “often-bushy display of armpit hair on a stranger (is) extremely unappealing — not a turn-on in the least.” Alicia also lists in her profile that, “I am allergic to cats, most tattoos and tank tops.”

Men don’t quibble. In a highly intelligent and nuanced thread from a Michigan State University sports board, “If you’re over the age of twenty-five,” one Phil McCrackin declared, “you should not be wearing a tank top/cut off shirt in public. The only exception being a pool/beach/gym scenario.”

His nemesis, The Assman, countered with “I wear tank tops to Meijer and shit. I don’t care if you don’t like it, I sweat easy and ninety-five degree weather doesn’t help. So F off!!!!”

McCrackin no doubt thought he’d settled things with, “The pussification of America started when people stopped giving a shit what they looked in public. My grandfather would’ve kicked my ass if I ever tried to wear a tank top in a restaurant around him.” Then Jahlil Suggs added, “I don’t see the problem if your arms are huge and brolic like mine. Gotta show off the gunz for the bitches.”

Puerile and inane, yes—but nonetheless similar to the sentiment expressed by Alicia in that article: “I think many men tend to wear (tank tops) to show off their biceps and feel manly.”

Oh, yeah…Alicia’s forty-eight, and it doesn’t say how she feels about guys under twenty-five in tanks. Or romance novel cover model Jed Hill’s absolute shirtlessness on Jaci Burton’s The Perfect Play.

I’ve been working out with weights since I was fifteen, but I do not wear tank tops to impress women. I wear them around the house, when I’m riding my bike and to the ball park when it’s hot. The weather, I mean. And, no, I really don’t care how I look at the ball park. Not when the whole show features men who un-self-consciously scratch their genitals in front of forty thousand people.

Okay, so I don’t wear them anywhere else because, you know, the hair thing. Kind of icky.

Ladies, I’ve got no problems with being able to see your shoulders and arms anywhere I go, which should surprise no one. In the article 5 Outfits Guys Secretly Hope You’ll Wear, Redbook contributor Aaron Traistor says that guys think tanks on women are “pleasantly low-maintenance…simple, comfortable and very sexy.”

To which I say, “Hell, yeah. As long as your pits are shaved.”

11 thoughts on “The bias against men wearing tank tops: It’s the pits”

  1. I've never really thought about it, but now that you mention it, what IS up with this anti-tank-top bias? I would agree that seeing a dude's scraggly armpit hair hanging out is not my idea of a good time, but what if the guy has shaved, much like his female counterparts? What if he, indeed, is giving us free tickets to the gun show? I couldn't complain. But, as with shorts, I think there's a limit. You can't wear a shirt you have made into a tank top by cutting off the sleeves, the same way you can't wear jean shorts you made by cutting off the legs of a pair of jeans. Keep it classy, and maybe the male tank top will take off! (P.S. Aren't these usually called "wife-beaters"?)

  2. To people who can't stand a man wearing a tank top- I LIVE IN TEXAS AND ITS FREAKING HOT. We don't wear tank tops to show off, ITS FREAKING HOT

  3. In China no one cares what you wear in public. You can get away with some of the most outrageous sense of fashion. Tank top is comfortable in the summer, and if the right size is chosen, it doesn't look bad.

  4. Dave, you and I are gona be GOOD FRIENDS! I'm glad that i'm not the only man who realizes that men are SORELY lacking in fashion freedom, and it seems that for some reason or the other, the male body is somehow "obscene" and needs be covered up under layers and layers of clothing in order to be socially acceptable. I mean, not only do we have GQ and their ultra-prudish "style rules" to blame for this; the fact is that the bar in question seems to be painting ALL men with the same brush (assuming that ALL men are unkempt slobs who don't work out and shave their pits). It's like the Fundamentalist Muslims, really; just because of a few irresponsible drunkards, ban alcohol completely. (the analogy i make is, just because of a few unkempt unshaved slobs, ban tank tops on men COMPLETELY)
    Also, at a black tie event, nobody can argue that women have far more leeway as to how much skin they can choose to display, and far more choice of sartorial expression than men do. As for men? Well, they're socially obliged to be relegated to the "black background of no aesthetic importance", socially obliged to don their Western burqa of matching black suits and ties, regardless of whether they like it or not. Men simply don't HAVE dressy options with which they can showcase their bodies in a formal setting, e.g. dressy sleeveless tops, togas, heels, hose, etc.The problem is partly men; they're too afraid to be bold and stand out through their dressing, so they just play safe n go along with it, but for the man with a more "flamboyant" taste in clothes, e.g. 9enjoys flaunting his beauty openly the way women do when they wear strapless gowns), this can be very repressive indeed. But because most men are just frightened conformists under the guise of machismo (think, i don't see men's fashion being "liberated" any time soon. I just paid Rm50 (25USD) just to get my Zara knitwear top altered to create a DRESSY sleeveless top, so i don't have to wear my wifebeaters after 7.

    To the fashion media: Don't blame men for wearing wifebeaters when they don't HAVE any other alternative!That's like blaming women in the 1920s for wearing MEN's trousers when they didn't even MAKE trousers for women then

  5. I think they are totally acceptable.. Of course some personal grooming of the pits and back make it more pleasant for others to look at. I am all for being comfortable and cool in the summertime, but I use care to be groomed so as not to offend others.

    I actually have several women's tanks that I wear and enjoy. Most people can't tell the difference and they are so much more attractive that the crap they sell for men.

  6. I sat at a bar here in NJ wearing a sleeveless shirt, the arm holes tight around my armpits. I looked more groomed the all the other patrons andI was handed a lime green Jameson t-shirt to weart. I was a little surprised since the establishment was a local working class watering hole. Since I was not alone I complied. A few mins later a very large gal came in wearing a tank-top sat 3 seats down from me in my silly shirt and was kindly served a drink. I guess women bring in men, that's why this sleeveless dress code doesn't apply to the ladies.

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