The Evolution of the Muscle Tank Over Time


Is it just us, or are Muscle Tanks one of your go-to tops for warm days, workout days, and the like? We can’t get enough of them. Even though they might be most popular in the summer months, we totally believe they are a year-long kind of top.

But did you know that the Muscle Tank actually has quite a bit of history behind it? We mean, history even dating back to the Roaring 20s. There’s so much to share; we’ll take it back to just before the 20s and walk you through its evolution over time.

The Jazz Age and Fashion Rebellion

Before the Roaring 20s, it wasn’t common for anyone to wear clothing that showed their bare arms in public. In the Victorian and Edwardian Eras, It was more typical to find people wearing dresses that included either long sleeves or half sleeves.

However, some dresses did have sleeves made with sheer fabric that you could see through. Other than that, arms were not out on full display.

How the Olympics Changed Fashion

When the Olympics started to allow more than one gender to participate in the worldwide competition in 1912, certain genders were criticized for their “immodesty.” This was specifically the case with the swimming events.

There was a set of expectations for what was appropriate for other genders to wear, and the uniform for swimming events seemed to cause unrest in society. The uniforms they wore were like the tank tops you see people wear today. They even wore an additional piece for 20s modesty standards that included bottoms, much like shorts, that would extend down far enough to hide the top half of their thighs.

Back then, they called this a tank suit because swimmers swam in “swim tanks,” or as we now refer to them, “swimming pools.” These tank suits were similar to muscle tanks in that they were without sleeves so that swimmers could have the full range of motion they needed to succeed in their events.


Flappers Break Free

But fashion started to take a turn during the Roaring 20s when culture seemed to almost flip on its head. When it comes to breaking down barriers and old rules, fashion is always first in line.

In the 20s, a group called the flappers raised their glasses (during Prohibition nonetheless) to casting off their sleeves, hiking up their dresses, and dancing the night away. Flappers would change the face of fashion forever.

Tank Tops In Movies

After the Jazz Age, tank tops started to make appearances in American movies. Though, they were usually a sign that the character wearing them was a villain. Though the roots of the association of tank tops with abusive people are debatable, tank tops would be called wife beaters for decades after.

Throughout the decades, that association began to change as other more likable characters were shown wearing tank tops, too. Some of the most iconic movies during the latter half of the 20th century had their main characters wearing them: Ren McCormack in Footloose, Nicholas Cage in Con Air, and Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Those are just a few iconic examples.

Everyday Apparel

It wasn’t until around the 1970s that tank tops, and soon the muscle tank, were being worn regularly. Many people initially wore them as an undershirt, but more wore them for athletic purposes.

People started opting for Muscle Tanks because they were the better option for keeping them cooler while working out or playing sports. The lack of sleeves, like on the Sleeveless French Terry Hoodie, allows air to directly reach more of the body and cool it down better than other tee shirts could.

But tank tops wouldn’t stop there. Eventually, these tanks entered the repertoire of regular apparel you could wear like any other top. This was thanks to mainstream media like movies removing the stigma surrounding these garments. Even famous musicians wore them in their music videos, further associating them with pop culture.

It also helped that people saw their favorite celebrities wearing tank tops. So with the acceptance of tank tops by Hollywood and the strict modesty culture dying down, people everywhere were starting to wear them out and about.

Bundeswehr Tank Top

During the 80s, tank tops did anything but fade into the past as a trend of the 70s. In fact, tank tops only became trendier. There was one specific kind of tank top that became pretty popular — it was called a Bundeswehr Tank Top.

The Bundeswehr Tank Top originated from Germany when their army happened to have a surplus of clothing. It was sent to the U.S. and ended up becoming a staple piece for fashionistas all over the country. You could find them in clothing stores and souvenir shops all over.

90s Fashion and Today

There was a turn for simple fashion that still heavily influences looks and trends today. Summer months were full of people sporting a simple tank top with a pair of jeans. You could also see more variety in tank tops, with that including muscle tanks.

People started wearing them everywhere: the gym, the pool, the beach, the park, etc. Some people love them for the freer option to keep them cool when it’s hot, but others love them for taking the perfect gym mirror selfie.

After a long, hard arm day at the gym, who wouldn’t want to show off the lean muscles they’ve been working on? We totally get it; we’d do the same thing. And we love getting to see the different ways people wear them out.

Now that they’re a standard top to wear for any occasion, we have seen every outfit combination with them. You see people tucking them into high-waist jeans or just on top of low-rise and mid-rise jeans. Then change up the tone of the outfit with shoes. Sneakers or sandals for a casual outfit and booties or wedges when they want to dress up.

There’s also variety in muscle tanks alone. You have some muscle tanks that have sides that are more open than others. The opening you reach your arm through extends further down the torso and even down to the waist. Then you have muscle tanks that are cropped.


With all of the options you have, we want to help you narrow it down to one that we’re sure you’re going to love for its fit and feel. At TomboyX we are proud of our comfortable, high-quality apparel like this Muscle Tank, which allows you to be tough while being soft.

Using 95% TENCEL Modal and 5% spandex, it’s comfortable as can be and worth every single penny. Like some of the tanks we mentioned earlier, this Muscle Tank has oversized openings for your arms so that you can be comfy working out, lounging, and everything in between.

At TomboyX, we’re tested and approved, literally: We have sizes available to fit everyone from sizes XS to 4X. Before releasing our collections, we make sure that every body type will fit our collections.

No matter how you style your Muscle Tank (rocking it solo, letting your colorful bra peep out, or pairing it with a cozy pair of joggers), you can count on this trend growing even stronger.


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