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Why are those t-shirts called Wife Beaters?

 
 
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 05:48 am
The term is in common usage in middle America, at least among the common folk. I think you'd be hard pressed to find any self-respecting commoner who didn't know the term.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 05:54 am
@wayne,
Knowing the term and using it commonly is not the same thing. I long lived in "middle America" and never heard it, and that despite the fact that in my younger, slimmer days, that's all i wore above the waist in my free time, weather permitting.
Ragman
 
  2  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:01 am
@Setanta,
How does your wearing such an item of clothing either prove or disprove this? It makes no sense to me.

Speaking of beating, at this point as regards this subject, the horse has beaten into glue for me.
0 Replies
 
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:03 am
@Setanta,
Obviously we've had different experiences with the term.
I too clad myself almost exclusively in a wife beater, in my younger, tanner, weightlifting days. Never heard anyone refer to it as an A-shirt.
There is a distinct difference between a wife beater and a tank top.

By what term did you then refer to your choice of upper body wear?
izzythepush
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:07 am
@Ragman,
Some people over here associate Stella Artois with violence, claiming there is something in it that makes people more likely to beat their wives. It is nonsense, the ingredient is alcohol, people are no more violent drinking Stella than any other beer. The myth persists though, so much that Stella has launched a huge advertising campaign to dispel the myth.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:13 am
@wayne,
Undershirt . . . here, let's introduce some sense into the conversation. Ragman spoke of De Niro and Brando wearing the shirts in motion pictures. What possible bearing could that have on how commonly the term is used? I don't recall Stella saying: "Kowalski, you're wearing a wife beater again." You have said that in "middle America" the term is in common use. How is your allegation any more reliable, being anecdotal evidence, than my allegation, which is also anecdotal information? In fact, i never heard of the term until i saw this thread, and that includes among weight lifters in the days when i indulged in that form of exercise. I wore the shirts so commonly when i lived in Columbus, Ohio, that people commented on it, and i never once heard the shirts referred to as wife beaters.
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:14 am
@izzythepush,
I doubt that wearing a sleeveless t-shirt causes someone to be violent - any more than does the drinking of beer.
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:19 am
@Setanta,
Honestly, I'm trying not to make this more tedious. This is about seeing a common trend and seeing who and what niche accepted the fashion trend and thus referred to the term.

For example, allow me the freedom to make another parallel: what affect did John Travolta wearing the infamous white leisure suit in Saturday Night Fever have on popular acceptance and eraising the awareness of such weekend attire? Furthermore, how did JFK NOT wearing a hat in public have on popular culture? Overnight the hat disappeared.

Are you going to deny the affect that popular movies have as an affect on mass trends of stlye and fashion?

Correct, I'll save you the trouble...this didn't make it become a wife-beater.
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:29 am
@Setanta,
I don't think those particular motion pictures contain any evidence of the use of the term, thus I agree, they have no bearing on the discussion.
And I don't think that either of our experiences carry any more weight than the other.
I am surprised that you were not familiar with the term. There are a couple of possibilities I can propose,
1) There is, perhaps a 10 or 15 year difference in our ages. It is quite possible that the terminology was not in vogue during your formative years.
2) The common use of terms differs between classes.

In this case I'm discarding 2, as your previous posts have led me to believe you are not at all unfamiliar with the president of Mexico ( Manuel Labor)


Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:31 am
@Ragman,
Ragman wrote:
Correct, I'll save you the trouble...this didn't make it become a wife-beater.


Which was exactly my point.

On a related note, in Carbonale, Illinois, a major employer was the Lucky Glove factory. Then Jackie Kennedy began appearing at formal events without the long "evening" gloves. That was Lucky Glove's stock in trade. They went out of business in a few months, after they had filled the orders for which they had already been paid.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:36 am
@wayne,
As everyone knows, Manual Labor, the Mexican boarder, lives upstairs. I don't think age or "class" has anything to do with it. In fact, as far as "class" goes, apart from isolated areas such as parts of Boston and Philadelphia, i don't believe that class consciousness lives in the United States. People will certainly get snotty over money, but different argots and styles of dress indicative of class, are, in my experience, largely unknown.
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:43 am
@Setanta,
OMG.. you think class-counsciousness is only apparent in those two towns? Have you never been or seen c ulture and class consciousness of LA (Hollywood...East LA)? Even the humorous reference to Manuel Labor being a Mexican indicates class consciousness.

It must be -- I'm missing something or misinterpreting you. or the other conclusion is that you're more out of touch than I am.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:45 am
@Ragman,
I was only using them as examples. There are little pockets like that all over; however, i would say that by and large, economic mobility is far more important than any self-percieved participation in a class.
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:47 am
@Setanta,
sorry..you're losing me. What about economic mobility and the relationship to class consciousness. All this seems vague and futrther off topic. USA culture and in specific older urban areas are all about class consciousness.

The pockets you speak of have pants attached to them.
0 Replies
 
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:54 am
@Setanta,
Now class consciousness in the United States is a far more interesting subject.

Firstly, though, I can't voice agreement that age (generational) differences have no bearing on common terminology. There are many terms, used commonly, 200 years ago that are unfamiliar today. A span of 15 years may not contain the volume and extremes of difference but there is most certainly the ever present change.

On the aside, I have noticed, over a period of years, an increase in 30 something, small business operators who wear Eddie Bauer and similar name brand clothing. Perhaps it is simply snobbery, but it appears as a developing class.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 06:59 am
@wayne,
The reason i said that i don't think age has any bearing was that i was specifically addressing the issue of the term "wife beater" for a sleeveless undershirt--i wasn't making a global statement about culture, taste, etc., and you had no reason to assume so. At the beginning of the thread, i posted what i had found when i went out looking for the origin of the term. The most plausible explanation i saw was that a man had beaten his wife to death in Detroit in 1947, and his photo (taken at the time of his arrest) was splashed all across newspaper front pages for months, showing him wearing a sleeveless undershirt. According to that version of the derivation, the man soon was simply referred to as "the wife beater" and then the name was transferred to the shirt.

Now, 1947 is sufficiently remote in the past (64 years) that i don't think age has any bearing on the matter.
Builder
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 07:06 am
Wife beating is clearly not related to what type of clothing a man prefers.

Was merely pointing out an Australian fact. Lots of people here wear the blue

version as outer wear.

This habit in no way reflects a predeliction to domestic violence.
0 Replies
 
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 07:15 am
@Setanta,
I didn't assume anything about culture, taste etc. I've strictly stuck to terminology, the class issue was a tangent.
Your possible origin of the term is quite plausible indeed, I thought we were arguing whether the term's usage was common or not. In which case generational differences have great bearing on the issue.
The date of origin has little bearing on the generation in which terminology becomes vogue.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 08:10 am
@wayne,
wayne wrote:
. . . I thought we were arguing whether the term's usage was common or not. In which case generational differences have great bearing on the issue.


I can't agree with that. If the term became vogue with "the younger generation" in 1947, then 64 years later, the age of those who use the term no longer has any bearing.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Sep, 2011 08:11 am
Ragman wrote:
If a few people don't feel the term 'wife-beater' is a common term or see the mass pervasiveness of it...is now a moot point. What this thread demonstrates is that some people see as common practice or trend, others don't.

So..?


Gasp ! ! !

Heresy ! ! !
 

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