Tanks a Lot

Men’s tank tops aren’t just for the beach anymore.

The tank top has gone from undershirt to stylish staple in men’s wardrobes. Forget the negative “wife-beater” connotations of the past; these days, tank tops have a fresh look, with updates to cut and fabric that are giving the muscle-bearing, torso-hugging garment its moment in the sun. Good thing, too, as the summer months offer plenty of tank-top promotional opportunities.

In the past, sales of sleeveless shirts were sluggish. The open-end cotton tubular-cut tanks had become stale, says Mark Seymour, vice president of sales at Next Level Apparel (asi/73867). “The kind of fabric and body that was out there hadn’t really changed for a long time,” he says. “The cut just felt like a big, old sack.”

Side-seamed fitted styles made with softer fabrics gave the garment a much-needed makeover that appeals to a youthful, body-conscious market — and anyone who prizes comfort over formality. Seymour recalls that his high-school senior son had nary a tank in his closet throughout most of his adolescence. “A year ago,” he says, “all of a sudden, he had all these different tanks.”

Next Level jumped on the retail trend, focusing on the college and youth market, to tap into what Seymour calls a lot of “pent-up demand.” It’s paid off: “Every tank top that we make is really exploding,” Seymour says. And sales spikes aren’t just following the upward trend of the thermometer. Tanks are hot items all year long, he says.

Seymour speculates that the year-round popularity has to do with the booming health movement. CrossFit gyms, in particular, love Next Level’s tank tops. Whenever a location of the popular, high-intensity franchise pops up, the new owners request the tanks, Seymour says.

The tank top is basically the uniform of the athletically minded. But, when you’re peddling logoed tanks, think in broader terms than just gyms themselves. The style also works for all the industries that make up the ever-growing fitness market, from vitamin and supplement stores to companies that sell sporting goods and workout equipment. Also, try targeting the college and youth markets and industries known for their youthful vibe, as well as those outdoor summer events that have so many sponsors promoting their products and services.

Now, go ahead, flex your muscles — and build your sales.