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Example of a T-shirt to be worn as an undershirt and usually not as outerwear

An undershirt in American English (vest in British, South African and Indian English, or singlet in Australia and New Zealand), is an article of underwear worn underneath a dress shirt (or sometimes T-shirt) intended to protect it from body sweat and odors. It can have short sleeves (T-shirt) or be sleeveless (A-shirt). The term most commonly refers to upper-body innerwear worn by males.

An undershirt may be worn to protect the body from stiff or otherwise uncomfortable fabric. It also makes dress shirts less transparent, to reduce the amount of sweat absorbed by the shirt's fabric. It can be worn during winter months as an extra layer of warmth, and reduces wear on the upper layers of clothing.[1][2]


Factory mass-produced undershirts became common in the West in the early 20th century, with innovations turning the union suit into two pieces, for upper and lower body.

Types of undershirts[edit]

  • A sleeveless undershirt, also known as an A-shirt, tank top, or wife beater (slang), has large armholes, a large neck hole, and offers little protection for armpit sweat.
  • A crew neck T-shirt has a high neckline, often requiring fully buttoned shirts to avoid being seen.
  • A V-neck T-shirt has a V-shaped neckline.
  • A long sleeved T-shirt has long sleeves, and may be designed with extra insulation for use in cool weather. This type of shirt is also commonly worn under a work shirt in very hot desert climates to protect against intense sun.


  1. ^ Esquire: the handbook of style : a man's guide to looking good. New York, NY: Hearst Books. 2009-01-01. ISBN 9781588167460. OCLC 217263653.
  2. ^ Centeno, Antonio. "A Man's Guide to Undershirts: History, Styles, and Which to Wear". The Art of Manliness. Retrieved 28 January 2020.