A tube top (British: boob tube) is a shoulderless, sleeveless "tube" that wraps the torso. Such a top is generally very tight over the breasts in order to prevent the garment from falling. This is usually achieved with elastic bands at the top and bottom of the garment.
A similar version is one model of the halter top, which is a tube top that uses a single strap that passes round the back of the neck and has both ends attached to the front of the tube.
The garment was invented by American World War II veteran Murray Kleid, owner of S & M Fringing Inc. (named for Sol Makowsky & Murray Kleid). At the time, it was the largest women's accessories manufacturer throughout New York City's garment district.
The first tube top was actually a "mistake", but Mr. Kleid realized this garment's potential. According to sources, "samples" of the tube top were immediately being dispersed to local distributors. Its positive reaction had them on shelves worldwide within a month or two after that. The tube top revolution had begun.
The garment district of Manhattan was possibly the largest of areas in New York City overrun with organized crime. Mr. Kleid had a long history in the garment district, and according to several sources, he used the strength he obtained in the garment district to keep any competition at bay, so for this, S & M Fringing, Inc. (which was located at 50th West 17th Street) was the sole manufacturer of tube tops for many decades.
It reached its highest level of popularity in the late 1970s. It vanished from the scene during the early- and mid-1990s, but later made a major reappearance in the wardrobes of American teenage girls and young American women, especially college-age women, after 2000, and various versions of the style have been popular ever since then.
Third-wave ska band Reel Big Fish released a song entitled "Ban the Tube Top" in which they bemoaned the style.