FLANNELS THINKS: AN ODE TO THE WHITE TANK TOP

FLANNELS THINKS: AN ODE TO THE WHITE TANK TOP

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FLANNELS THINKS:

AN ODE TO THE WHITE TANK TOP

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WORDS: MARNI ROSE MCFALL PHOTOGRAPHER: JEREMY FRENCH GRAPHICS: HOLLIE-MAE HOMAN

It’s official: we’re living in a tank-naissance. The humble top became hot topic at the FW23 shows after it was cast as a main character by fashion houses like Bottega Veneta and Prada, who showed white tank tops in their collections. Since then, the piece has become fashion gold dust, achieving legacy-like status, and becoming a defining style of this year – and beyond.

The appeal? In some ways, it’s limitless. Maybe it’s the minimalist styling, playing into our newfound appreciation for the elevated basic and capsule orientated style of dressing. Maybe it’s fashion’s prevailing mood for nostalgia, with the top often exuding ‘90s grunge energy. Or maybe it’s that after two years of turbulence, we’re craving stability, and the most reliable way of achieving that is through our wardrobes.

In the often fickle-fashion world, the tank top has become a pillar of effortless, undeniably chic style. A true sartorial stalwart, for such an understated piece to achieve this kind of status, is no small feat. Call it tankcore, or maybe a tanknaissance – however you see it, right now we’re living in a golden age of tank tops. Jump right in, the vibes are impeccable.

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Now for a brief (we promise, it’ll be brief) history of the garm. It dates back to the 1910s, when the first white tank tops were designed as men’s underwear. Fast forward to the ‘50s and the piece was becoming a fixture in popular culture, read: Marlon Brandon wearing a white tank top in the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire (which would later be reprised by internet boyfriend, Paul Mescal) - an instant symbol of all things sex and style. By the ‘70s, the tank was becoming an everyday piece for men and women, and then came the ‘90s…

It was during fashion’s favourite decade that the tank really came into its own and started to resemble the style we now know and love. Unsurprisingly, it was a certain Miss Kate Moss that started to rapidly popularise the piece. Walking down the Helmut Lang runway in a borrowed-from-my-boyfriend tank, the piece started to achieve status as a hallmark of that off-duty model style that we all know and love (and are still replicating some 30 years later). It became the uniform of A-listers like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, J Lo wore one to the 2000 VMAs and then there’s that scene in Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan cuts holes into Rachel McAdam’s’ white tank top to expose a bright purple bra, and everyone at North Shore High follows suit. See, it’s more than just a top, it’s a lifestyle.

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But last year was the origin of tank top supremacy. And it can be traced back to the branded tank takeover. Bottega Veneta are one of the brands at the helm of tank top fever. At Matthieu Blazy’s hotly anticipated debut collection, the show opened with a stunningly simple look of loose blue jeans and – you guessed it – a white tank top. It was subtle, it was chic, and it was totally unexpected, showing one of the biggest brands in the world taking things back to basics. Though it’s worth noting that the look was crafted completely from leather, in a move of sartorial genius that could only be Bottega.

Then came Prada’s take on the trend. The fashion fortune tellers have a Midas touch when it comes to well, everything in the industry, but their iteration of the white tank top was pretty remarkable. Opening and closing their FW22 show with the piece, seen first on Kaia Gerber and later on Hunter Schafer, it achieved almost instant It status. And while the DNA of the piece may be simple, the execution is far from plain. Prada’s take on the piece features their iconic triangle emblem in a slick, heavy metal bang in the centre of the top. Sure, it was widely meme-ified after its debut on the runway. But – naturally – Prada are having the last laugh, as it’s (still) selling out everywhere.

At both Prada and Bottega Veneta, the tank top was a reset button, a palette cleanser if you will. An indication that there was to be a shift in the collections we were about to see. And when you look at the subsequent rise of the quiet luxury trend, it’s clear: the tank-naissance is ushering in a new era of style.

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And the list goes on. Tank-mania has continued well into the 2024 shows, with everyone from Acne Studios to Dolce & Gabbana sending re-interpretations down the runway. The tank top oscillates between boxy minimalism and skin-flashing, sex-fuelled fashion. Read: effortless, paired back iterations at Chloe by Gabriela Hearst and a fully fledged gliteratti tank take over at Dsquared2. And, it’s symbolic.

Part of the appeal comes down to its endless versatility. It’s subtle but sexy – which is just how the fashion gods intended things to be - and it can take your outfit anywhere. Take the tailored tank for instance, the humble vest works flawlessly underneath a blazer, paired with a suit or worn with a chunky suit skirt. It also (obviously) looks unbelievably good with a pair of blue jeans and a leather jacket. And if you want to add a contemporary twist per the streetwear set? Style with baggy jeans and bulky boxers. The. Possibilities. Are. Endless.

The tank embodies true duality of style. Bella Hadid can wear one with a blazer and radiate clean girl femme energy. Bruce Willis can (and did) wear one in Die Hard and represent hardcore, sweaty masculinity. Kate Moss started a full-on movement when she wore a white tank with jeans in the ‘90s. Iriyna Shayk embodied rule-breaking fashion when she wore a tank top and sweats to the Met Gala after party this year. The tank top represents the true beauty of fashion: it’s for all of us, to do what ever we want with it.

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In 2023, the rise of the tank (which was once referred to by a problematic moniker) signals a shift in the world of fashion and identity. We’re living in a regeneration of sexual identity. Fashion is starting to adopt a genderless approach to fashion and androgyny is becoming the norm. And as far as the fashion world is concerned, the tank top is a powerful symbol of this shift. Speaking to The New York Times, nonbinary musician King Princess said, “I feel so powerful when I wear a tank top because of my own journey with my gender”. They explained that “a tank top with a sports bra underneath makes me feel strong and powerful. It’s me at my truest nonbinary form”.

Tank tops are hugely significant in the queer community. Maybe it’s the tops gender bending properties, the age-old butch aesthetic or the fact that it’s become a uniform for a new generation of club-going queer kids. Maybe it’s the tops ability to position primness next to brazen sexuality. But it allows everyone, on all areas of the spectrum to embody whatever identity they like.

Don’t believe us? Just look at one of the poster girls of the trend, the aforementioned Hunter Schafer. One of Prada’s muses of the moment, as a young trans woman in the industry, Schafer represents a new gen of It girls and signals this change in gender and identity in the fashion industry. Prada choosing her to model their instantly iconic logo tank? It was a big move. See, it really is more than just a top.

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To the naked eye, the white tank top may simply look like a vest, but it’s so much more. It’s a piece of fashion history; it represents over a century of clothing identity; it’s a marker of how the industry creates cult items; it’s an example of what true style really means; and it’s a reflection of the change that’s happening in the fashion world, change that is inarguably, for the better.

Welcome to the era of tank top supremacy. We have a feeling you’ll like it here.

THE WHITE TANK TOP EDIT


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