The Dolce&Gabbana Tank Top: An Italian Classic

Simplicity can be powerful enough to be stylish, and the tank top has become an iconic garment in fashion, a brand for the Italian man.


July 2023

0 min read

Through the combination of Sicilian style, a source of inspiration for the brand, and neorealism in cinema, the tank top has transformed into an emblem of masculinity, expressing strength and authenticity. It was in 1990 when Dolce&Gabbana made this garment an essential element in Italian fashion and a symbol of style that continuously renews itself over time.


“What man should we create? We took all the experience, those ten years of experience that we had on women, and we threw it on men. If the symbol for women was the brassiere, for men it had to be the tank top.”


-Stefano Gabbana



Domenico Dolce, in the podcast “Molto Italiano” [Spotify link], recounts the origin of this inspiration: “A simple, modest garment, if you will. However, it was the symbol of the man from the South.” Every piece, in the brand’s history, is a representation of an ideal of beauty, and the undershirt represented pure masculinity. The tank top has played a significant role in revolutionizing the representation of the male body on the silver screen. Luchino Visconti’s groundbreaking film, “Ossessione” (Obsession, 1943), serves as a prime example of how the tank top became a homoerotic object, capturing the sensual desires of viewers. Massimo Girotti was the protagonist, and he wore the simple tank top, highlighting his masculine form and creating a muscular sensuality in his tank top. Filmed in 1942, during the later years of the fascist regime, the movie defied censorship and paved the way for the male body to be celebrated as an object of desire, both in Italian and global cinema.

Marlon Brando’s portrayal of characters in several movies is legendary, but his fashion choices have become iconic. One of his most remarkable style moments was when he adopted the Italian white tank top. It became a stylish staple with his breakthrough role as Stanley Kowalski in the 1951 film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Brando’s character Stanley Kowalski exuded an aura of rugged masculinity and a working-class vibe, giving the tank top a sexier appeal. He wore the white tank top paired with high-waisted trousers, creating a distinctive Italian-American look that resonated with audiences. Brando’s fashion choices had a significant impact on popular culture. Once considered an undergarment, the white tank top slowly became a symbol of masculine confidence and effortless coolness. It became a staple of casual attire, reflecting Brando’s rebellious and nonchalant attitude.

The power of the tank top

Through the fusion of Sicilian style and Italian cinema, the undershirt has transformed into a timeless emblem of fashion. It represents a harmonious blend of old and new, tradition and innovation. The designers themselves speak of their attraction to contrasts, such as black and white, luxury and street, sacred and profane, creativity and tailoring.


The designers embrace themes from various lifestyles because fashion is fashion, regardless of its origin. Dolce&Gabbana’s use of the undershirt in their collections not only showcases their tailoring prowess but also signifies a deep connection with Italian culture. Once a symbol of revolution in cinema, this garment now encapsulates the essence and identity of the brand.

Back to the 90s

The “Re-Edition” SS23 Fashion Show showcased Dolce&Gabbana’s timeless designs from their archives, presenting a re-edited collection that embraces the concept of modernity derived from a past that still exudes identity and individuality. Among the revived pieces was the iconic men’s tank top, adorned with the Re-Edition label that indicates the year of its original creation. By bringing back the most iconic pieces from the 1990’s, the brand continues to stay true to its Italian roots and DNA.