A Brief History Of Men’s Underwear
The first record of anything resembling underwear dates back to around 7,000 years ago and takes the form of Ancient Egypt’s loincloth: a strip of fabric wound and fastened around its wearer’s delicates. Basically, an adult nappy.
It wasn’t until around the 13th century that more recognizable underwear made an appearance, with slip-on loose undershorts that ended at the calf becoming a social non-negotiable. The Renaissance stepped up underwear’s sex appeal a gear by going tighter and shorter (only knee-length, mind), while the period’s introduction of a urination flap which could be opened at a moment’s notice turned out to be one of mankind’s greatest inventions, ever.
The following centuries witnessed little change (give or take an inch or two at the hem or fabric choice) until the 1930s when briefs appeared, challenging short-style underwear’s monopoly on modesty preservation. For the rest of the 20th-century men drew battle lines between boxers and briefs, with the boxer brief born out of a desire to unite men everywhere – it didn’t work.
There’s another plot twist too. While the best way to package one’s privates was a personal matter through history, the late 1980s and early 1990s put underwear front and center (thanks in no small part to Calvin Klein and Marky Mark) with who you were wearing becoming just as important as what shape of undercrackers that you professed loyalty to.
That brings us to today, a time where the squabble between brief and boxer lovers still rages on and a time where everyone can agree that the letters on your elasticated waistband matter, a lot.