Some of this has probably been discussed in the "done with Hanes" thread. I apologize if I am being lazy.
Also, to be clear right out of the gate, when I refer to an "A" shirt or tank top, I am referring to a sleeveless undershirt, referred to in some quarters, but not on B&B, as a "beater" or even a "wife beater." (B&B institutionally considers those terms highly inappropriate, and I think rightfully so. I am frankly amazed that at the frequency with which they so up on the internet.) The Brits seem to refer to these as "vests."
I suppose a "muscle shirt" has evolved to mean something like an A shirt with wide straps or a sleeveless tee shirt, but I am not 100% sure. Also, although this would make sense to me too wear as an "undershirt" it may be that it seems to be relegated to use strictly as a shirt worn on its own.
First, do we think wearing an undershirt of any kind under a dress shirt is "high class" or "low class." I was very surprised to see the suggestion elsewhere on the web that to wear an undershirt was seen by some as "lower class," as a way of penny-pinching, I guess, in order to keep a dress shirt clean for multiple wearings. And that it was especially déclassé to let any part of an undershirt show, but in particular to let the neck of a crew-necked undershirt show when the top button of a dress shirt was unbuttoned. But some also seemed to say that letting the outline of a tee shirt or perhaps especially an A shirt show through the fabric of a dress shirt was déclassé. What do folks here think? My thinking had been that in a business context, especially where one is expected to and is wearing a tie that an undershirt was traditionally de riguer. That what was déclassé to allow to show through one's shirt was chest hair and nipples, not that one takes one's suit coat off casually in any event. That to have someone think that one was not wearing an undershirt would be the equivalent of having someone think one was not wearing boxers or briefs. That skin contact was simply not the role of a fine dress shirt. Cary Grant in "It Happened One Night" took off his shirt exposing a bare chest. But this was seen as a radical thing, that to me applied only to a casually worn shirt, not business attire, although it has been a long time since I saw the movie. It is said that undershirt sales dipped 60% almost immediately after that movie was released.
Second, are A shirts properly business undershirts? If the straps of an A shirt show through say a white business shirt, is that déclassé? I hate to admit that my knowledge is limited and I may be biased, but I would say that traditionally an A shirt is every bit as proper as a tee shirt. This may be because A shirts pre-date tee shirts, I do not know. Part of why I say this is that one of my mentors, who if alive would be well over 100 now, was always dressed impeccably (as far as I could tell, and I would beat real money on it) in a suit and tie for work, and he always wore an A shirt. Now it may or may not have evolved that A shirts came to look a bit old-fashioned, but my guess is that they have never, ever become inappropriate business attire.
Now some would say that they wear tee shirts under dress shirts at least in part so that sweat around the arm pits will be absorbed and not soak through the outer dress shirt. This is a legit point and a tee shirt helps for sure. I just do not think that makes a tee shirt rather than an A shirt required.
Third, some argue that the v-necked tee is now more appropriate than the crew-neck tee because when a business shirt is worn open, the neck of the undershirt should not show. I could go old school here and say that "a business shirt should always be worn with a tie, so this problem is impossibility" <g> but I won't. I think the traditional rule, looking to traditional preppy dress as to broadcloth/Oxford cloth shirts, is that there is nothing whatever wrong with the crew-neck of an undershirt showing. Some would argue that having that show is much more proper than having a big tuft of chest hair showing, which would never be proper in a business context. I think anything works--whether v-neck, crew-neck, or A shirt. In a business context one should still, at least traditionally, be wearing an undershirt of some sort in order to be considered fully dressed.
All of this said, for years I never wore any kind of undershirt with a dress shirt and tie, because I hated the feeling of bulk and confinement of a tee shirt and thought that A shirts were both very old-fashioned and perhaps a bit lower class. I really hated the idea of the "straps" on an A shirt showing through the dress shirt. I tended to wear Oxford rather than broad cloth shirt and in blue rather than in white to provide some opacity. However, I came to think--"realize" may be the better word, but makes it seem more embarrassing!--that I was just too darkly hairy to be wearing a dress shirt without some kind of under shirt. I still dislike the bulk and confinement of a tee shirt, so most often wear an A shirt, but I admit that I wear a tee shirt in dressier circumstances for fear that the straps of an A shirt tend to show and will make me look out of place one way or the other.
So what thoughts do folks have? Can others on-line be correct that not wearing an undershirt under a dress shirt is actually the proper thing?
Are A shirts out? Are crew-necked undershirts out and only v-necks acceptable? If the latter is so, must one trim one's chest hair in the modern age to wear business attire? (I do not think the latter is going to be popular around here!) Deep v-neck shirts look a little affected to me!
Also, I have been trying to get the straps on A shirts to be less visible under my dress shirts. Some say that heather gray undershirts disguise the lines where they meet the skin better than white ones do. Does anyone find this to be true? Seems to me it is still easy to see lines of an A shirt under a white shirt, anyway. Anyone have any experiences or thoughts to share?
[I think I know something about traditional rules of "men's dress," but as I time goes by, I become less sure. BTW, I am not saying that one has to follow these traditional rules. I certainly do not consistently follow any set of such rules.