Poll: Does The Term “Wife Beater Tank-Top” Offend You?

A couple weeks ago we did a post on this awesome, but expensive tank-top/garter combo from Kiki De Montparnasse — because the tank was the kind with the ribbing, I used what I thought was the most common term for the tank itself. A wife beater. Last night, I got an email from a reader which read:

There is absolutely no reason for a website for ladies to be using “wife beater” as fun slang! Ladies in the know also call them boy beaters — I don’t appreciate that either but take note of the language you use and accept. It influences our culture!

The term “wife beater” has become pretty ubiquitous as a way of describing this particular style of tank. If you’re describing to a friend a tank top with ribbing (like those made by J. Crew or Hanes), calling it a “wife beater” pretty much ensures that the friend will know exactly what you’re talking about. While the term can obviously be viewed as offensive to women, in the way the reader described, Intern Annika also told me that some people feel like it has racial undertones. So I did some research.

  • The correct term for this type of ribbed tank-top is A-line.
  • The term “wife beater” refers to the type of tank top men who beat their wives supposedly wear, but there are also some racial overtones, aimed specifically at Italian-Americans. A-line tanks have also been called Dago T’s or Guinea T’s, both of which are slang terms that demean Italian-Americans.
  • Most major brands won’t refer to a ribbed tank-top as a wife beater, but American Apparel does. Then again, they also have made some other questionable marketing decisions.
  • At the end of the day, I get why the term wife beater being used to describe a piece of clothing is offensive to some. That’s why I’m curious how you feel about the term — are you offended?