|Slang City Mail|
|February 24, 2005|
Slang of the
Week: wife-beater (noun)
In the US, a wife-beater is a t-shirt, sometimes called a “muscle shirt” since it allows the wearer to show off his or her muscles. But in some parts of the UK, wife-beater is slang for Stella Artois, the Belgian lager. Coincidence? Probably not. While the word’s history is uncertain, most people associate the fashion with Marlon Brando, who reprised his Broadway role of Stanley Kowalski in the 1951 movie A Streetcar Named Desire.
Not known for his sensitivity towards the ladies, Kowalski didn’t just wear a wife-beater. In the most famous scene from that film, he comes in drunk after a poker game and attacks his pregnant wife. When she runs away to the neighbors’ apartment upstairs, he stands outside shouting her name: “Stella! Stell-ahhhhh!” Of course, there is also the possibility that drinking too much Stella Artois might make men more violent, but probably not more than any other beer.
Since Brando gave the shirt its sex appeal, it has become increasingly fashionable to wear underwear as outerwear and it’s no longer taboo to show your boxers above your jeans. But this casual fashion statement is not appreciated by all. Last year, one West Virginia high school made special laws forbidding students from coming to class in loungewear, including wife-beaters, pajamas, visible underpants and bedroom slippers.
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