What is a white sleeveless shirt called?
Some people might not know that it is a synonym for a white tank top or an undershirt. You must have seen a lot of people wearing it a lot of times. But you might not know a unique name that has been given to it, “Wife Beaters.”
How the Wife Beater shirt got its name?
The reality is that there is no one story based on it as there are many people who have their own stories about it. The stories are from the 1800s and 1900s when in the medieval era. Wife beater literally means a husband who beats his wife, and such kind of a story first came in 1855 in the New York Times.
The first use of wife-beater
As mentioned above, its first usage was seen in 1855 when a man named James Hartford Jr. beat his wife to death, and it was also reported in the newspaper. There were a lot of newspapers whose heading was “Wife Beater,” and James was seen wearing an A-style tank top. Because of the nature and seriousness of his crime, it went national and all around the country.
The silent movie story
There is one more story of the same time when Hollywood steeped in the further link between male rage and white tanks. Post World War II, Hollywood started making movies in the 20th century; they had movie shows without the ability to add sound. This is the reason why big movies were silent.
Therefore, they used to differentiate between good and bad people by wearing white and black. For denoting a bad husband who was mean and used to beat their white, they would put him in a sleeveless undershirt.
The Medieval story
Another story related to this wife-beater concept is from a long back, but it has nothing to do with domestic violence. In the medieval era, when knights and lords and queens ruled the European land, when a soldier who had lost his armour was left behind to be killed or beaten was known as a waif.
Sometimes when a knight would lose his clothing in the battle, it would leave only his chainmail undershirt intact. In such a situation, the only protection they were left with was these undershirts; this man was left abandoned with ready to be speared called “waif beater.” A few people state that this modern word wife-beater comes from “waif beater.” (See Why some people prefer movies over books?)
It became famous again in the 1990s
It gained popularity again in 1992 when D&G sent muscle-shirt wearing models down the runway. Then in 2001, an interview in The New York Times of Jesse Shiedlower, then principal editor of Oxford English Dictionary’s American office, said wife-beater started signifying the undershirt around 1997 with the rise of “rap, gay, and gang subcultures.”
Wife beater loses meaning
Wearing a t-shirt or a tank top has never been a problem, but the link between the shirt and wife beater is not good and which is why many people have forgotten about its association with a wife beater.