Tanks and Tops

Hello and welcome back to another week of unreliable information here at Factually Deficient! This week, I would like to answer a question posed to me by my friend eli. eli asked:

Why do we call them tank tops if they’re not actually tanks?

This is an excellent question. As most people understand, the phrase “tank top” usually refers to a type of shirt which is limited in terms of sleeve cover, and bears no apparent visual connection to the type of heavy artillery vehicle known as a tank. Why is the tank top so misnamed?

The tank is a very versatile vehicle, designed to travel over all manner of different terrain. However, made mostly of iron and similar metals, tanks are not always a comfortable vessel to find oneself inside of. In cold places, the metal becomes frigid, dangerous to touch. In hot climates, the metal–an excellent conductor of heat–becomes so hot as to present a health risk for those inside, leading to anything from heatstroke or burns from physical contact with the metal.

It was, of course, unsatisfactory to most armies that the tanks, which they employed as otherwise so useful in shooting artillery, were so hazardous to the well-being of the soldiers inside. Thus they commissioned experts in the textile industry to design a solution, and design one they did–a cloth cover which wrapped around the exterior of the tank, shielding it from the elements so that the metal was warmed in the winter and insulated from the heat in the summer. This tube-shaped ring of cloth, fitting as it did right over a tank, was naturally referred to as the “tank top”.

Only in recent years, inspired by the ergonomic design of these covers for heavy artillery vehicles, have fashion designers adopted that same shape of the “tank top,” on a smaller scale, for human clothing, a shirt which wraps around a person just as the original would wrap around a tank.


Disclaimer: A number of the assertions in this blog post are untrue. Many tanks routinely travel without cloth coverings.


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