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Tank Top vs Sleeveless Shirt

Tank tops and sleeveless shirts are my favorite summer clothing items. They're quite adaptable and cool. But which is superior to the other?

A collsge photo of a woman wearing tank top and a man wearong sleeveless shirt.

Tank tops can be a tricky style option for people who aren’t physical fitness models. This is because there are a lot of things that you need to figure out before you get to wear one publicly. For instance, it might not be a good idea to wear one that could referred to as a “skank tank.”

Apart from that, you might need to shave your back first and tame your chest hair before you put one on. It’s also important to figure out the appropriate situations to wear a tank top. 

In the summer months, tank tops and sleeveless shirts are my favorite types of clothes. They are quite versatile and cool. But which one is better than the other?

What is a Tank Top?

Two different color tank tops.

A tank top is a sleeveless shirt worn by both women and men. They are usually made using cotton fabric or polyester blends. Tank tops are popular for their comfort and durability. They are perfect for sports, but they can also be used as casual wear. 

Originally, tank tops were meant to be used as swimwear for women. They emerged in the 1920s, and men only started wearing them around the 1930s. By the 70s, both genders had started wearing tank tops as a trendy alternative to regular t-shirts. Their casual, laidback persona blended perfectly with the 70s affinity for flared jeans and bell-bottom pants.

It didn’t take time for the tank top to become a wardrobe staple for both women and men. People loved them because they were easy to wear and care for. They also became a fashion statement for those looking to show off their well-chiseled bodies.

What is a Sleeveless Shirt?

A man wearing different colors of sleeveless shirt.

The sleeveless shirt, also known as a vest or wife-beater, is basically a t-shirt without sleeves. The shirt can be manufactured without sleeves, or you can remove the sleeves from a regular t-shirt. Sleeveless shirts can be worn as warm weather casual or sportswear. Their armholes provide ventilation, and they are usually made using thin fabric for comfort. 

How are they Different?

Although they might be a bit similar in appearance, there are several differences between tank tops and sleeveless shirts. Sleeveless shirts are lightweight, delicate pieces of clothing, while tank tops are robust and ideal for sportswear. Let’s take a closer look at some of the differences between these two types of clothing.


Tank tops and sleeveless shirts are made using different materials. Because of their robust nature, tank tops are made using opaque fabrics like polycotton. This makes them significantly stronger and more durable than sleeveless shirts.

Sleeveless shirts are basically t-shirts with no sleeves. The majority of these shirts are made out of cotton. The options range from combed cotton, slub cotton, and organic cotton to Pima cotton. You will also find some that are made using polyester, rayon, and lycra.

Designed for comfort rather than robustness, sleeveless shirts have a softer feel. They can also be used as undershirts, so the fabrics used help to create a feeling of luxurious underwear.

Design Features

Two girls in a photoshoot smiling to the camera wearing tank tops with light background.

When it comes to design features, tank tops are more or less the same as sleeveless shirts. Both items have straps that are part of the bodice. This means the armholes are basically cut out of the bodice. There are more than ten different types of tank tops, and each has its own design. 

Tank tops and sleeveless shirts are both sleeveless and collarless. Both items are designed to be worn on the upper half of the body. There are a lot of variations when it comes to style since there are many types of tank tops and sleeveless shirts.

Both clothing items can be worn by either gender. However, sleeveless shirts have minimal bust support. On the other hand, tank tops hold close to the body and accentuate the curves. They have considerable bust support since their straps are an integral part of the design and aren’t adjustable.


A half length portrait of a woman in a stripes sleeveless shirt.

Tank tops and sleeveless shirts generally have similar uses. Tank tops can be worn on their own, and they are also a popular choice for people who work out. However, unlike sleeveless shirts, they can not be used as undershirts. Wearing them as part of any formal wear only works for women.

It’s easier for women to hide them under a suit jacket. Similarly, sleeveless shirts work well as an undershirt for men, which is why most men use them as a layering item.

Cost Differences

When it comes to cost, it can be difficult to distinguish between tank tops and sleeveless shirts. Both items are priced based on the material used and the design of the particular item. You can find a sleeveless shirt made of silk that will be way more expensive than a polycotton tank top. On the other hand, silk sleeveless shirts will be more expensive than cotton ones. 


A woman stretching before doing workout.

Just like price, durability also depends on the type of material used to make a clothing item. This makes it difficult to decide which is more durable, the tank top or the sleeveless shirt. However, in general, tank tops are made to be more robust since they can also be used as sportswear.

We can therefore assume that tank tops are made to last. Even the material choices for tank tops are chosen partly for durability.

Benefits of Each

Tank tops and sleeveless shirts have similar benefits. They are quite breathable, which is why people love wearing them during their workouts. Wearing a tank top while you work out will allow your skin to inhale. That way, you won’t end up overheating, which can get in the way of your workouts.

Apart from that, wearing tank tops and sleeveless shirts during hot weather is the ideal approach to enable your skin and pores to breathe.

A Brief History of Tank Tops and Sleeveless Shirts

Tank tops emerged in the 20s when they were used as swimming gear for women. During those times, swimming pools were referred to as swimming tanks. This is what resulted in swimming costumes being named tank suits.

Around the 30s and 40s, tank tops also gained the name wife beater. Most men in the movies who would wear tank tops were playing roles of villains and abusive husbands.


Tank tops are one of those wardrobe items that are simply non-negotiable. They are a fashion staple and are quite versatile. You can consider tank tops a black canvas. If you have the body to rock them, you can even use them for your casual wear. With hundreds of options out there, you can definitely find a tank top that suits your taste.