I’m working on a story where I have to describe my grandfather.
He was the type of man who wore a lot of those tank top looking undershirts, the ribbed ones that are very 1950s working husband. He was that guy. But how do you describe these shirts?
They are typically called “wife beaters.” I type the word and I immediately delete it. Wife beater. Where did this word come from and why do people associate this with an article of clothing worn by men?
The New York Times offers some context.
Many cite Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in the movie “A Streetcar Named Desire” as inspiration for the term. He wears a sleeveless shirt and rages, yells, rapes his sister-in-law and hits his wife, Stella. (In Britain, the Belgian beer Stella Artois is sometimes called a “wife beater,” not the shirt.)
There is an urban legend that a man who killed his wife originated the term but this is unsubstantiated. Either way, it is a bad name.
So what do you call the shirt? It needs to be renamed. It is technically called an “a-shirt.” Do you call it that? I sometimes call it that.
Is there a better name for this shirt? What can we rename it as? A few ideas.
• A Under Shirt
• Athletic Shirt
• Under Tank
• Ribbed Top
• The Problematic Undershirt
• Hidden Tank Top
• Flirty Shirty
• You Kiss Your Mother With That Mouth
• Greasy Baby
• Looks Like A Swimsuit
• Marlon Brando Gay Rumor
• Grandpa Maybe Hated Women
Rename the shirt. Do not make it racist and do not make it misogynist.