Monday, November 1, 2010

Men's Underwear - The Revealing History

What men wear under their clothes has a history all its own:
  • During the Middle Ages in Europe the loincloth was slowly replaced by undergarments that were similar to trousers. The legs of these garments were short, and the garment was tied about the waist by laces.
  • This underwear of the Middle Ages many times had a flap in the front to allow men to be able to answer nature's call. This flap was called a codpiece. These flaps were padded, probably initially for comfort. But paintings of the time show how the padding of codpieces became much more than a matter of comfort.
  • The start of the industrial age in the late 18th century made cotton fabrics widely available. Mass manufacturing of underwear was one result, and people began to buy underwear instead of having to make it themselves.
  • The jockstrap, or athletic supporter was introduced in 1874. It offered extra support and comfort to bicycle riders of the rough cobblestone streets of Boston.
  • The union suit was standard underwear for men in the late 19th century. Also called long johns, they provided coverage front wrist to ankle, and had a drop flap in the back (for obvious reasons).
  • The early 20th century saw the underwear manufacturing business boom. On of the companies that came from this boom was Hanes, and it quickly established itself as a top manufacturer of union suits.
  • U.S. soldiers in World War One were issued shorts that buttoned in the front as underwear. This design grew in popularity so much that it began to replace the union suit as standard underwear.
  • The first briefs came on the market in 1935. They were dubbed jockey because they gave the same kind of support the jockstrap did. The new style sold over 30,000 pair within 3 months. The buttoned underwear of WWI also gave way to the button less boxer shorts, named for their similarity to the shorts worn by boxers.
  • Underwear made from rayon, dacron and nylon was introduced in the late 1940's. The 1950's saw the introduction of underwear made from colored and patterned materials.
  • Boxer briefs were introduced in the 1990's that gave the support of briefs and retain the length of boxers. These were touted as something new, but were actually very similar to the type worn by soldiers in WWI.
What does the future hold for men's underwear? From form-fitting and hidden, to ultra baggy and exposed, what men wear under their clothes undergoes changes in trends and fashion as much as what they outwardly wear.

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