With the weather getting warmer by the day, it’s only natural to be looking for something light to wear, but choosing from the various types of tank tops out there can be quite confusing. What was 100 years ago a novelty item worn by professional swimmers has become socially acceptable outerwear. People love tank tops because they’re comfortable to wear, there’s no chance of ugly underarm sweat stains, and they allow you to show off your figure, your tan, or, indeed, your muscles.
For men, wearing a tank top is acceptable if you’re going to the gym or hanging out with your buddies, but women can choose from a variety of stylish tank tops they can wear basically anywhere.
Well, anywhere except the office, but, who knows, maybe one day it will be perfectly OK to show more skin even there.
Types of Tank Tops
In this article, we will be looking at the various types of tank tops, see what you can pair them with and where you can wear them.
Athletic Tank Tops
One of the most popular types of tank tops, the athletic tank top is a must for people who like going to the gym, running, or taking part in various sports activities. Such a garment needs to be comfortable and a bit stretchy to allow freedom of movement.
As a result, athletic tank tops are firm enough to provide support, but not too tight as to restrict movement. Women’s athletic tank tops often come with a built-in bra for extra support.
Since they’re meant for physical exercise, these tank tops are usually made with cotton fibers, which absorb sweat and allow the skin to breathe.
Backless Tank Tops
Backless tank tops are very chic and sexy as most of the back is exposed. This is something you can wear for both informal outings and more formal social occasions, like an office party, a wedding or a dinner gala.
For a stylish look, you should wear a backless tank top with tight skirts or pants, jeans included, and a pair of high-heels. This type of clothing can be made of any material, but silk and lace are the most elegant.
Since you’re not wearing much on the upper body you can compensate with jewelry, like a long necklace and matching bracelets or bangles, which will create a sophisticated look.
Basic White Tank Tops
This type of tank top is very popular because it goes with everything from shorts and jeans to a nice skirt. White goes with anything, so such a tank top will look just as great on black shorts or a blue jeans skirt.
These tank tops are usually made of cotton, and sometimes the fabric can be ribbed. A basic white tank top gives you a sporty look, so this is something you can only wear for informal occasions, like going to Starbucks with your friends or a walk in the park.
Bungee Strap Tank Tops (Spaghetti Strap)
This is a variation of the basic tank top and its distinctive feature are the very thin, spaghetti-like, straps. Bungee strap tank tops come in various colors, although white, black and red are the most common.
They can be made of cotton, but silk ones are the most elegant. These tank tops go well on a pair of jeans or any kind of skirt, short and tight or long and flowing. Make sure to accessorize a bungee strap tank with a necklace, preferably something with a pendant.
You can also wear this type of tank top under a blouse or a shirt which you can leave unbuttoned. This kind of outfit is perfect for a pleasant summer night.
Camisole Tank Tops
A camisole is usually a bit looser than your basic tank top and has thin straps. A silk camisole with nice lace trim can be worn outside, paired with some tight pants. Also if you have a see-through blouse or it tends to cling to the body too much you can wear a camisole in a single color underneath.
On the other hand, camisoles are very comfortable to wear indoors, especially in hot weather. A camisole tank top made of satin or some soft cotton can be used as a pajama top, and it will be both comfortable and sexy.
Crochet Tank Tops
This is the type of tank top that will always stand out. With crochet tank tops it’s all about the stitching pattern, which can be extremely elaborate. Such tank tops usually come in a solid color to emphasize the pattern.
Also, crochet tank tops can be shorter than regular ones and have tassels as a finish. Crochet tank tops are very feminine and look great on teenagers and young women.
You can wear them with shorts or miniskirts, and you don’t have to worry about the shoes, as they go well with sandals, ballerina shoes, sports shoes, as well as with a pair of pumps. They’re just perfect for a casual outing and look a bit more dressy than a basic white tank top.
Cut-Out Tank Tops
On a particularly hot day, a cut-out tank top is an excellent choice as they’re decent enough to wear outside, although you’re barely covered. A tank top can have cut-outs on the front, above the breasts, on the back, or on the sides.
The cut-outs can have a geometrical shape or you can have a heart-shaped cut-out. If the tank top has a thin rectangular cut-out on both sides, such a garment will allow total airflow and will keep you cool even on a sweltering day, but you might want to wear it with a bra.
This type of tank top is perfect for casual outings, and it’s not something you can wear for a formal meeting, no matter how hot it is.
Double Layer Tank Tops
Double-layer tank tops are extremely elegant and flattering to any type of body. They’re made with thin and breathable materials, like cotton, silk, satin, or chiffon. The layer closer to the skin is usually longer than the outer one and can go a bit below the waistline.
Double-layer tank tops can have either normal or spaghetti straps. They’re looser than a regular tank top, which makes them suitable for slender women as well as for curvier ones.
This type of tank top can be in a single color, but printed fabrics work just as well. Since it’s something you wear mostly in summer, a floral pattern will look adorable.
Flowing Tank Tops
While basic tank tops are usually body-hugging, a flowing one flares a bit at the waistline. You might prefer such a flowing tank top on a hot day when you don’t want the fabric sticking to the skin. Flowing tank tops can be made of thin cotton, as well as silk or satin, which look a bit more stylish.
This type of garment can be paired with a pair of jeans or a skirt, creating a very cute and comfortable outfit for a casual occasion. Flowing tank tops are very flattering for both thin women, as they add a bit of bulk, and curvier women, as the loose bottom of the garment sort of covers the waistline.
Fringe Tank Tops
Comfortable to wear, highly breathable as well as stylish, fringe tank tops are very popular among young women. These tank tops are just as comfy as the regular ones, but way more dressy and the credit goes to the fringe.
Such a tank top can have fringes only on the back or all around. They’re usually made of thin silky materials and the fringe can be shorter or longer.
Fringe tank tops are loose and flowing which makes them flattering to all types of body shapes. They can be in a single color, with or without a trim, or they can have a fun summery print.
Halter Tank Tops
Halter tops differ from basic ones by the fact that they don’t have straps going over the shoulder. They have a single strap instead that goes around the neck. They can be high-cut as well as low-cut, for a sexier appearance.
As for material, halter tank tops can be made of cotton, but since it’s something you can totally wear for more formal occasions satin, silk or lace look much better.
For instance, a silk halter tank top is great for a night out if paired with tight-fitting pants or jeans, and don’t forget to put on a smashing pair of shoes.
High Neck Crop Tank Tops
Not quite a turtleneck, those aren’t fun to wear in summer, but as close as it could be. This type of tank top stands out for its high neck, which creates an interesting contrast with the bare arms. The neck can be one inch high, two at most.
More than that would be suffocating in warm weather. Unlike turtleneck sweaters, these tank tops are not meant to keep you warm, so they’re usually made of thin breathable materials, like cotton or silk.
On the other hand, a knit tank top can be worn even in cooler weather, under a buttoned sweater or a light coat.
Hooded Tank Tops
That would be the summer version of the by-now traditional hoodie. Hooded tank tops look sporty and they are indeed preferred by young men and women going for a jog or a run in the park. They’re loose and comfortable for physical exercise, while also keeping you a bit protected on a cool day.
Hooded tank tops are usually made of cotton or polyester and they can have various logos printed on the front. Men love this type of tank top as it allows them to show off their sculpted muscles, while the hood gives off a bad boy vibe.
Jersey Tank Tops
A jersey tank top is usually body-hugging and provides more warmth, as this type of fabric is knit, rather than woven, which gives it a unique look. While jersey fabric was originally made of wool, such fibers are not what you want to wear in warm weather.
Jersey tank tops are now made with cotton fibers, synthetic fibers, or a combination of those two. Since they are knit, the fabric is a bit stretchy, which makes them very comfortable to wear.
You can also wear a jersey tank top underneath a sweater or a coat, and be both stylish and protected against the elements.
Loose Tank Tops
Many women prefer loose tank tops over the classical body-hugging ones because they’re more comfortable in warm weather and they do not restrict your movements in any way. They can have thick or thin straps, but what matters is that they don’t cling to the body.
That’s a great plus when you don’t want your top to show sweat stains. At the same time, loose tank tops are very popular as they are very flattering and they’re good at hiding the extra roll of fat around the waist if need be.
Muscle Tank Tops
If it’s about muscle, you can bet this type of tank top is preferred by gym-going young men who wouldn’t waste any occasion to show off their biceps and triceps they’ve worked so hard for.
Such tank tops are usually low-cut, well as low-cut as it’s acceptable for men precisely to allow them to showcase their upper body.
Such tank tops are good for a gym session, as well as after an hour or two of heavy training. Muscle tank tops are usually made of breathable highly absorbent cotton and they’ll often be branded with a sports company logo.
One-shoulder tank tops
One-shoulder tank tops are extremely sexy which is why they are very popular among young women. Instead of the classical two straps, such a tank top has only one strap, leaving the other shoulder bare.
One-shoulder tank tops are usually tight-fitting and you might want to wear one with a strapless bra. Also, these tank tops can be shorter than regular ones, leaving the midriff exposed. Obviously, you need to be quite fit to wear such a revealing outfit.
These tank tops can be in a solid color, but colorful prints go just as well. You should wear such a top with a pair of tight jeans or shorts.
Printed Tank Tops
Printed tank tops are a huge favorite among women as they are more colorful and they tend to be more unique. At least, as compared to a basic white tank top. At the same time, a funky print gives a tank top a more formal appearance so it can be worn on many occasions and look dressy enough.
Just as with regular tank tops, printed ones go well with tight pants or skirts. If you’re wearing a printed tank top the skirt should be in a single matching color.
For a casual outing, you can go with bright and vibrant colors, but if you’re going to a more formal meeting stick with pastel colors.
Racerback Tank Tops
If you feel a basic tank top is not comfortable enough for your workout sessions, perhaps you should try a racerback one. This type of tank top has a T-shaped strap on the back and this allows you more freedom of movement.
Racerback tank tops are also sexier as you can show more skin, which is great when you have a nice tan. Otherwise, racerback tank tops don’t differ much from your regular gym tank top.
They’re usually made of cotton and can come in various colors, with maybe a logo printed on the front.
Ribbed-Knit Tank Tops
This type of tank top qualifies as a luxury among tank tops. A ribbed-knit tank top looks elegant and can be worn even for more formal occasions, as they don’t have the sporty feel of a basic cotton tank top.
Ribbed-knit tank tops can have either normal straps or wide ones that cover the shoulders completely. Such a model looks more like a sleeveless sweater than a simple tank top.
Some ribbed-knit tank tops are made from cotton, but you’ll also find very classy ones made with viscose or other synthetic fibers. Ribbed-knit tank tops are usually tight-fitting and they go just as well with skinny jeans or a flowing skirt.
Scoop-neck tank tops
What sets these tank tops apart is the more daring neckline. A scoop-neck top goes low enough to reveal just a bit of cleavage so they’re great when you’re aiming for a casual youthful look. If you want to look particularly sexy you can choose a short tank top that also leaves your belly button exposed.
Such a tank top is perfect for teenagers or young women and will look lovely with a pair of shorts or a miniskirt.
Sheer or Mesh Tank Tops
A sheer tank top is your go-to garment when you want to display your assets, and this goes for both men and women. There is a significant difference though.
Ladies can totally wear a mesh tank at a social outing, like a party or a night at the restaurant, whereas men should only put on a sheer tank top when they’re going to the gym.
Even if you want to impress a woman with your fabulous abs, you’d better not wear a sheer tank top to a date. On the other hand, a woman will look smashing in a mesh tank top, preferably with a fancy bra underneath.
Slouchy Tank Tops
Not as figure-hugging as a basic white tank top, but not as flowing as a loose one. Slouchy tank tops fall somewhere in the middle and they’re acceptable wear even for more formal occasions. It all depends on the material.
Cotton is a bit too basic, but silk or lace slouchy tank top is stylish enough for a cocktail party. To make it classy, you should pair it with tight pants and high heels. The overall impression is one of effortless elegance.
Snap-Front Tank Tops
Snap-front tank tops are very trendy, at least among young women, as they look dressier than regular tank tops while being just as comfortable to wear. It’s the snap button closure on the front that makes all the difference.
If the weather is hot, that’s the perfect excuse to leave the top buttons open for a very sexy look. If it’s a short tank top that leaves your midriff section bare, even better. Snap-front tank tops can be made of cotton or synthetic fibers and they’re just perfect for a casual outing.
Square-Neck Tank Tops
A square-neck tank top is a step above the regular tank top, in terms of style. Let’s get this straight, tank tops are cool and comfortable, but you run the risk of looking under-dressed on certain occasions.
The square-neck gives class to a basic tank top, although there isn’t really much to it. Where a simple round-neck tank top might seem too casual, the square-neck one makes you look smart-dressed.
As for colors, white is OK as it goes with everything, but to look more stylish you should choose a pastel color or even a printed fabric.
Thick Strap Tank Tops
Most types of tank tops have thick straps, at least 1 inch wide. That makes sense for a tank top you might use at the gym, playing tennis, or engaging in any other type of sport.
The thick straps are more resistant than spaghetti straps, not to mention that very thin straps tend to slip off the shoulder and this is not something you want to deal with when you’re exercising. Thick straps are meant to be comfy, while thin ones are more on the sexy side.
Tight Tank Tops
A tank top is usually body-hugging, but tight ones are even more so. They’re meant to showcase your breasts and if it’s a short tank your toned abdomen. If you work out regularly, you will of course want to show off a bit and you have every right to do so, after so many hours of intensive workouts.
Tight tank tops are ideal for warm days, but you can also wear one paired with a loose shirt in a matching color, preferably tied at the bottom. This kind of outfit looks great on shorts or a miniskirt.
Twist Front/Back Tank Tops
A tank top with a twist! Quite literally, this type of tank top has a bit of twisted fabric, either on the front or on the back. The whole point of it is to make it look more stylish. It’s basically just a loose tank top, but that little twisted part turns a very basic wardrobe piece into something classy.
Twisted tank tops are made of a thin fabric, with either natural or synthetic fibers, preferably a bit shiny for a more stylish look.
They come in many different colors, but even a white one will look way better than a simple workout top.
Paired with shorts, such a tank top looks very casual, but if you wear one with a tight skirt you’ll be perfectly dressed for a more formal outing.
V-neck Tank Tops
Comfortable and sexy, V-neck tank tops are great for both casual and formal occasions. This type of neck pattern goes well with either thin or thick straps.
A figure-hugging V-neck tank top is perfect for the outdoorsy woman, but a loose tank top with a plunging neckline is something you can wear for a date or a night out, and look quite stylish.
Plain cotton is quite suitable for this type of tank top, but for a more sophisticated look, you should go for one with a bit of trim or at least a nice print.
What’s the difference between a tank top and a shirt?
A shirt, or a T-shirt for that matter, has sleeves that can be short or long, meanwhile, a tank top is a sleeveless garment. While T-shirts are also very comfortable to wear, tank tops are even better as they don’t restrict your movements in any way.
Originally, both T-shirts and tank tops were considered underwear, but in the last decades they have become totally acceptable as outerwear, and they can be quite stylish.
Should tank tops be tight or loose?
Tank tops can be either tight or loose, it all depends on what or when are you planning to wear them. A tight tank top is more suitable for going to the gym or any other sporting activity as they offer a bit of support and don’t hinder your movements in any way.
On the other hand, a loose tank top is more elegant and you can wear it on various occasions.
Should tank tops be hung or folded?
That depends on the fabric and the intended use. The tank tops you wear at the gym can be folded and kept in a drawer so they won’t take up much space. On the other hand, you don’t want any creases on a sexy tank top, so you should always hang them.
To save space you can put several tank tops with thin straps on the same hanger. Showing too much cleavage or your bare arms is generally frowned upon in an office setting.
You could try wearing a ribbed-knit tank top, which is more covering, but only with a business jacket over it, which sort of defeats the purpose as you’ll probably be too hot.
Tank Tops FAQ
Can tank tops be business casual?
Unfortunately, no. Even if it’s sweltering outside, you cannot wear a sleeveless piece of clothing at the office, unless, of course, you’re lucky to work in a place where there’s absolutely no dress code.
Where to buy tank tops?
Tank tops are pretty easy to buy as you don’t have to worry much if they’ll fit or not, as they don’t have sleeves and they’re usually made of light and stretchy materials.
If you know your size you can totally order something you like online. On the other hand, going to the shops is so much fun and you never know what you might find!