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The humble tank top’s influences and references run as varied as Marlon Brando and Eminem. What started as a basic work-shirt for day laborers and construction workers has now become a common part of every guy’s wardrobe, helping them to keep cool in the hot summer months, and serving as an extra layer of warmth and insulation when winter rolls around.
Named after the “tank suit,” a style of bathing suit worn by men and women in the Twenties for swimming pools (or “swimming tanks”), the tank top has evolved into both a functional and fashionable item of clothing (Note: a tank top is not to be confused with a sleeveless shirt, which has fully covered shoulders versus the strap-style design of a tank).
The best tank tops can serve multiple uses — some are meant for wearing out, while others are best tucked under a shirt. Others can be worn in place of a T-shirt, say, to the beach or when the weather is just too hot for sleeves (even if they are short sleeves).
Worn as an undershirt, a tank top (also referred to as an “A-shirt” or athletic shirt) adds an extra layer between your body and your main shirt or sweater. It provides warmth, while helping to absorb sweat and odors. That common fear of sweating through your shirt? You won’t have that problem if you layer a tank top underneath first.
The best tank tops are also great for working out, helping to keep you and your pits dry by letting more airflow in. On vacation? A tank top is a great lightweight layer for tropical vacations or a day at the beach. Wear it on its own during the day, then throw on a button-down shirt or sweater over top for dinner at night.
1. Fruit of the Loom Men’s A-Shirt
You won’t find anything more comfortable than these tank tops (a.k.a. an “A-shirt”) from Fruit of the Loom. These are a new and improved version of the classic Fruit of the Loom tank your father and grandfathers grew up wearing.
Made from 100% cotton, the tank top fits snug against you, no matter your body shape. It’s light enough to not be seen under your shirt, but substantial enough to act as an extra layer to keep you warm.
Updated features include a slightly longer length, so the undershirt stays tucked into your pants. The Fruit of the Loom tag has been eliminated for less scratching against your neck and back. And the brand says the material wicks away moisture so you can stay cool and dry. A new “flex hem” also prevents the shirt or stitching from unraveling.
This set gets you six tanks per package.
PROS: Ribbed cotton material holds its shape and moves with your body. The tank top also stays tucked in without bulging out or pulling up.
CONS: Best worn under a shirt or sweater rather than on its own.
2. Russell Athletic Men’s Cotton Performance Tank Top
Russell Athletic’s “performance tank” is a great top that you can wear from the gym to errands afterwards without feeling (or looking) like a slob.
Made from a cozy cotton and polyester blend, the tank top features Russell’s “Dri-Power” moisture wicking technology to you cool and dry. What that means: sweat won’t cling to the fabric, which means it won’t cling to you. Odor protection technology helps to keep the material from stinking up. At the end of the day, toss the tank top in the wash. It’s fully machine-washable, and the premium cotton blend stays soft (and holds its shape) even after repeated washings.
Wearing this outdoors? Russell has added a UPF 30+ coating to the material to provide protection from harmful UV rays. There is no annoying tag either, making this more comfortable to wear.
This tank top is available is sizes small to 4XL. It has a tailored fit but is looser at the sides and hips, so it’s best worn untucked.
PROS: Heavy-duty construction means this tank top will last you multiple wears — and multiple workouts.
CONS: Not recommended as an undershirt as the material is thicker and the fit is looser.
3. JC DISTRO Basic Solid Tank Top
We recommend stocking up on this tank top, which can be worn almost anywhere, from a run, to a backyard barbecue, to your next tropical vacation.
The versatile tank is made from a 100% ring-spun cotton jersey material, for a super soft finish that wears in perfectly over time. The 5.5 ounce cotton is slightly weightier than other picks on our list, making this suitable for wearing out and on its own (as opposed to say, hidden as an undershirt).
The tank top is cut for a trim (but not tight) fit, with slightly higher armholes to help accentuate your shoulders and biceps. Thick straps help the tank stay in place.
Ten different colors and multiple sizes available.
PROS: Thick, comfortable, durable tank top for all occasions. Flattering fit.
CONS: Slightly higher armhole may not be comfortable for some.