An answer to the age-old question: “Boxers or briefs?”
Drawers. Gotchies. Underoos. Banana hammock. Budgie smugglers. Skivvies. Men’s underwear goes by a lot of names.
Despite the Bible’s assertion that Adam hid his shame with an all-natural pair of leaf-briefs, however, underpants have not always been a thing.
It wasn’t until about 7000BC that the first underpants appeared, in the form of a cloth looped between the thighs. It would be thousands of years before mankind would see anything even remotely resembling the boxers and briefs of today — and some of the early iterations were straight-up comical.
Here’s a brief look at the history of men’s underwear throughout the ages:
3000BCE – The loincloth
Ah, the loincloth. If you’ve ever seen a caveman movie, you are already familiar. The first known underwear dates back roughly 7000 years, to when cavemen used leather to cover their naughty bits.
It wasn’t until about 3000BCE that the Egyptians made these underpants more attractive. Hand-crafted from woven materials, the Egyptian loin cloth was wrapped around the waist several times and decorated with ties, belts, and other little trinkets.
1300 CE – Codpieces
Codpieces were sort of the medieval version of the button fly: Guys got sick of having to untie their braies (sort of like linen shorts that tied at the waist) every time they needed to pee, so someone came up with an easier solution. A codpiece would typically open at the front using either buttons or snaps, so men could use the loo without taking down their trousers.
Sometime in the 16th century, codpieces took on a more decorative function as Henry VIII began to (ahem) pad his crotch. Way to mislead the people, Henry.
1600CE – Britches
Eventually, braies and codpieces evolved into simple trousers with a button flap, commonly known as britches or breeches. They came in various lengths and styles and would remain the standard form of underwear until the industrial revolution.
It wasn’t until 1750, and the invention of the cotton gin, that things really started to change. For the first time in human history people could mass-produce cotton goods, making scratchy wool underpants a thing of the past.
1886CE – The Union Suit
Flash forward to 1886 when some genius of a man started the original onesie trend. The union suit was a one-piece, full-body undergarment that had a buttoned flap covering the rear (affectionately known as the “access hatch”). They were warm, they were cozy, and you didn’t have to take your underwear off to poo. Win/win!
1925CE – Boxershorts
Finally! Something we can all actually recognize as underwear.
In 1925, Jacob Golomb, founder of Everlast boxing outfitters, realized that the leather-belted flannel tights men had been wearing were less than ideal for athletes. He replaced the belt with an elastic waist and — voila! — boxer shorts were born.
It should be noted, however, that boxers were not an immediate hit. Most men didn’t like the feeling of their junk dangling all loosey-goosey, so they stuck with the more old-fashioned breeches. It wasn’t until after WWII that boxer shorts really took off.
1934CE – Briefs
Less than 10 years later, the first briefs, popularly known as jockeys, were created. This new underwear differed from boxers in that they were snug and they had no legs.
They were an IMMEDIATE hit. Within three months, Coopers Inc. sold over 30,000 pairs. In 1971, the brand changed its name to Jockey (because of the high level of support offered by their skivvies) and they’re still pumping out legless underwear like nobody’s business today.
1992CE – Boxer briefs
Finally, the question, “Boxers or briefs?” can be put to rest.
Designed by John Varvatos for Calvin Klein, boxer briefs offer the best of both worlds. They have been called “one of the greatest apparel revolutions of the century.” With the length of a traditional boxer short and the support of a brief, they offer something for everyone.
The best thing about boxer briefs, of course, is that they helped launch the career of Mark “Marky Mark” Whalberg. Where would we be as a society without those sweet rhymes?