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A History of Men’s Underwear, in Brief

According to a 1933 issue of the trade journal Men’s Wear, a man’s underwear “should have the grace of Apollo, the romance of Byron, the distinction of Lord Chesterfield, and the ease, coolness, and comfort of Mahatma Gandhi.” An unattainable standard? Maybe. But in the time since modesty—and the loincloth—were born 7,000 years ago, guys’ skivvies have come a long way. Here’s a look back.

The Loincloth

Lioncloth
Some 7,000 years ago, modesty—and the loincloth—were born.
Skivvy trivia: In 1352 B.C., King Tut went to the afterlife supplied with 145 loincloths.

The Braie

Braie
These loose-fitting trousers, tied at the waist and the thigh or mid-calf (depending on length), came into vogue in the Middle Ages.
Skivvy trivia: Braies, also known as breeks or breeches, were typically made of linen.

The Codpiece

Codpiece
The invention of the codpiece, a covering flap with buttons, snaps, or laces to allow for easy access, meant men could do their business without taking off their braies. By the 16th century, the codpiece was also a fashion statement. It was often padded, plumed, or brightly colored.
Skivvy trivia: In Middle English, “cod” means “bag” or “scrotum.”

The Union Suit

Union Suit
Before boxers or briefs, men wore tight-fitting flannel drawers or head-to-toe union suits, with button up fronts and rear flaps, known as “access hatches,” “drop seats,” or “fireman’s flaps.”
Skivvy trivia: Union suits were originally women’s wear, but were later adopted by men.

The Boxer

Boxers
Boxer shorts were initially exactly that—shorts for boxers—though they didn’t gain popularity among non-pugilists until after World War II.
Skivvy trivia: Everlast introduced elastic waistbands in 1925.

The Y-Front

Y-Front
Inspired by bathing suits spotted in the French Riviera, hosiery designer Arthur Kneibler was the first to introduce these legless, snug-fitting undies.
Skivvy trivia: Kneibler’s company sold 30,000 “jockey” shorts in just three months. Kneibler’s later changed its name to Jockey.

The Boxer Brief

Briefs
The 1990s brought the boxer brief hybrid and, eventually, our favorite iteration from MeUndies. These classic and comfy drawers, made from stretchy micromodal fiber, have an airy, commando-like feel.

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