Sun's Out, Guns Out: A Tribute to our Favorite 1980s Tank Tops

With warm weather right around the corner, it's almost tank top season!  For some, that means doing a few more bicep curls.  For us, it means poring through the film archives--from teen comedies, to action flicks--for some style inspiration.  Buckle up, dear reader, and come along for the ride, as we explore some of the greatest tank tops of the 1980s!  

Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

 jack burton wearing a fu manchu tank top and talking to two men

"May the wings of liberty never lose a feather." --Jack Burton
"May your wings never be oppressed by sleeves." --Found Item Clothing

This tank, seen on Kurt Russell throughout Big Trouble in Little China, features a dynamic rendition of flowing robes, dragons, and Taoist symbols.  With a tank this cool, you could get into some big trouble (or some big fun).   Get one here and see if any hijinks ensue!

Mr. T, everywhere, all the time

mr. t wearing a black tank top and many gold necklaces, and a leather beltmr. t wearing a red tank top, a stack of gold necklaces, and a leather belt

I pity the fool who doesn't accessorize!!!  Mr. T built his iconic look upon the blank canvas of a tank top--be it red, black, snakeskin, or leopard print.  And upon that canvas, he painted a masterpiece of accessories of epic proportion--chin-high gold chains, earrings, bracelets, and fistfuls of rings.  He wisely balanced out the top-heaviness with a grounding chunky belt.  Who could argue with that?  (We wouldn't dare!)

Alex Owens in Flashdance (1983)

alex owens sits at a fancy restaurant table wearing a halter top tuxedo shirt with bowtie and cuffs

Did you know that a tuxedo shirt can become a tank top?  Well, it can!  For a welder-by-day, dancer-by-night (Jennifer Beals), anything is possible, and dreams can come true in Pittsburgh!  She melts metal together, and takes shirts apart, and she's never answered to any man or any sleeve.  Oh, to be free of sleeves...what a feeling!  (The cuffs can stay).

Ogre and Stan in Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

two men are in a weight room, one wears a red letter jacket with the sleeves cut off, one wears a white tank top

Sometimes, tank tops can be used for evil, and not good.  This happens when they fall into the hands (and bare arms) of BULLIES.  Pictured here is a duo of truly terrible tanks:  dimwitted Ogre (Donald Gibb) fashioned a tank top out of a letterman's jacket, and tyrannical Stan (Ted McGinley) sports the logo of his college football team, the Adams Atoms.  Unfortunately for the nerds, all these sleeve-free fashions allow the bullies to pump a lot of iron and get even more aggro!!!

Nigel Tufnel in Spinal Tap (1984)

two men stand in a room full of guitars, one wears a t-shirt with a green skeleton on it, and the other a baseball cap, and khaki shirt

"This is my exact inner structure, done in a tee shirt.  Exactly medically accurate."  --Nigel Tufnel

This biological tank, worn by Christopher Guest himself, features ribs, spine, and sacrum rendered in a glowing green.  It is so accurate, it could be used in a medical school to instruct students.  However, this tee isn't really about science, it's about rock-n-roll!!  If you want to crank your own life to 11, grab a Skeleton tee for yourself here.  (You'll have to remove the sleeves yourself to tank-top-ify it!)  

Snake Plissken in Escape from New York (1981)

snake plissken has one fist raised, and wears an eyepatch and a black tank top with silver zippers on each shoulder

Kurt Russell makes our top tanks list again, as soldier-turned-criminal Snake Plissken.  This tank is truly legendary--it has hardware.  Nobody really knows why this tank top needs two hefty metal zippers (and frankly, we're too scared to ask!)  What we do know is that it's totally badass.  If you need to Escape from New York, or at least Jersey City, consider investing in one for yourself here.

Polly and Rhet in Teen Witch (1989)

two teenagers face off on a suburban street, one is wearing a white tank and one a blue tank with a button up shirt over it

two teenage boys stand on a suburban street looking tough

two teenage girls stand on a suburban street, one has a bicycle

"Supersonic, idiotic, disconnected, not respected
Who would ever really wanna go and top that?"  --Polly

In this rap battle for the ages, two tank tops face off to determine once and for all, who really can top that.  With her magically bestowed vocal stylings, Polly (Mandy Ingber) and her sensible polo tank clearly trounce Rhet (Noah Blake), despite how funky he is. Some folks say it was the amulet's powers that gave Polly the gift of flow, others say the magic's in the tank!  

Well, there you have it folks.  We've laughed, we've cried, we've seen it all.  And by "all," we mean a lot of bare arms.  

Back to blog