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Mens vintage tanktops

May 19, 2015

Mens vintage tanktops are glorious things: the 70s versions are unashamedly synthetic and in startling colours and bold designs.

David Bowie would wear mens vintage tanktops in his heyday but they weren’t just for glam rockers: everybody wore them to keep their chests cosy and stop them from catching cold.

Which leads me to the question, now that no-one wears a tank top, waistcoat or even a nice warm vest under their shirts, how come everyone hasn’t got a cold? Or maybe they have. Or maybe it’s global warming.

1940s vintage tanktops for Men

1940s tank top, with indispensable pipe. mens vintage tanktops

1940s tank top, with indispensable pipe.mens vintage tanktops


A lovely Fair Isle tank top. mens vintage tanktops

A lovely Fair Isle tank top.mens vintage tanktops


The other kind of Mens vintage tanktops are the 40s kind, the hand knitted Fair Isle garments that natty gentlemen of the older generation don beneath a suit.


The sort that cardigan-wearers wear – I think David Hockney must have a few, and Gilbert and George look like seasoned wearers of Mens vintage tanktops to me.


You know, the ones that feature in old black and white prints of “Dad asleep on the beach” with a striped windbreaker in the back ground, his hanky tied in four knots on his head, his shirtsleeves daringly rolled up, feet bare, but tank top and of course trousers still on. Mind you, that’s only sensible if they’re at the English beach. It was probably a bit nippy even with the trusty tank top.


They are designed to go under suits without the bulk of a jumper – a sort of warm, working class version of the waistcoat really.

American mens tanktops

It’s a bit confusing because the Americans call what we would call a vest a tank top, or often a wife beater.


This strange name for an item of clothing apparently came about because a man convicted of spousal abuse in 1947, James Hartford, Jr., was shown in photos wearing a rather dirty tank top.


Like Bruce Willis in Die Hard, but Bruce wasn’t a wife beater, he was a hero. I dunno though, I’m sure tank tops were worn by quite a variety of people before Mr Hartford and possible more famous.


Other ideas on the name go back to the 1700s, but whatever, I’m happy to call a vest a vest. Other more charming wearers of the top include George Michael in the 80s and Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft looked pretty good in hers.


The tank top which I’m referring to, the knitted English version, was supposedly so-called because it looks like the top half of a tank suit, or what we would call a swimming costume.

How to wear your Mens vintage tanktops

So, back to Mens vintage tanktops. The modern man can wear them like their granddads would, underneath a well cut suit, or for the 70s ones, we suggest on top of skinny jeans and a shirt.


If you want to look proper dress up, go for flares and a nylon shirt with a very wide collar. And a kipper tie, too. Also, Cuban heeled cowboy boots. In matching colours or completely clashing, it’s up to you.


After all, with all these easy-wash, drip dry fabrics at least you can toss the whole outfit in the washing machine without worrying that your chocolate-brown tie will leak on your grass-green shirt in the wash, or your purple flares affect your collection of multicolored Mens vintage tanktops.


mens vintage tanktops-A 70s bohemian wearing a plain tank top to set off his riotous shirt. photograph by Bruno Benini, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1971

Bruno Benini photos for 1980s AV – Obj No: 2009/43/1-2/72
Photographic print, portrait, black and white, mounted on card, artist Greg Irvine, photograph by Bruno Benini, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1971



David Hockney with his tank top just on view.

James Hartford, Jr, the original wife beater.

Bruce Willis also has a mucky tank top.

George Michael – loves a tank top too.

Angelina Jolie – in the wrong sort of tank top.

Angelina Jolie – in the wrong sort of tank top.