The Ancient Origins
The earliest evidence of men’s fashion innerwear dates back to around 5,000 BC, when men in ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, and China wore leather or linen loincloths to cover their genitals and protect them from the harsh environment1. These loincloths were simple and practical, but also served as a symbol of social status and religious affiliation. For example, Egyptian pharaohs were buried with their leather loincloths, while Greek athletes competed naked except for a leather strap around their waist1.
The Medieval Transition
In the Middle Ages, men’s fashion innerwear became more complex and varied, as different regions and cultures developed their own styles and preferences. One of the most common types of men’s fashion innerwear in Europe was the braies, which were loose-fitting trousers that extended from the waist to the mid-calf and were worn under the outer garments1. The braies were made of linen or wool and were fastened with a belt or a drawstring. However, the braies were not very convenient for urination or ventilation, which led to the invention of the codpiece in the 15th century1.
The codpiece was a flap or pouch that was attached to the front of the braies and could be opened or closed with buttons or ties1. The codpiece not only provided easy access and airflow, but also became a fashion statement and a display of masculinity. The codpiece was often padded, decorated, or exaggerated in size and shape to attract attention and impress others. Some of the most famous wearers of the codpiece were King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France, who competed with each other in the size and splendor of their codpieces1.
The Modern Revolution
The modern era of men’s fashion innerwear began in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution brought about social and cultural changes that affected the way men dressed and perceived themselves. The braies and the codpiece gradually gave way to more fitted and comfortable types of men’s fashion innerwear, such as the drawers, the union suit, the long johns, and the knickers1. These types of men’s fashion innerwear were made of cotton or silk and were elasticated or buttoned at the waist and legs. They were also more discreet and modest, as men’s outerwear became more tailored and less revealing.
However, the most significant innovation in men’s fashion innerwear occurred in the early 20th century, when two American entrepreneurs, Jacob Golomb and Arthur Kneibler, independently created the two most popular types of men’s fashion innerwear today: the boxer and the brief2. Golomb, the founder of the boxing equipment company Everlast, designed the boxer in 1925 as a more flexible and comfortable alternative to the leather belts that boxers wore in the ring2. The boxer was a loose-fitting short with an elastic waistband and a fly front. It became widely popular after World War II, when soldiers returned home with surplus boxers from the army2.
Kneibler, an executive at the underwear company Coopers, Inc., invented the brief in 1934 after receiving a postcard from France that showed a man wearing a tight-fitting one-piece swimsuit2. Kneibler was inspired by the idea of a snug, legless underwear with an overlapping Y-front fly that would provide more support and less bulk than the traditional long johns2. He named his product the Jockey, as it resembled the jockstrap that athletes wore. The brief was an instant success, selling 30,000 pairs within three months of its launch2.
The Contemporary Trends
Since the mid-20th century, men’s fashion innerwear has become more diverse and dynamic, as various factors such as fashion, media, technology, and consumer demand have influenced the development and marketing of new products and features.
The market is now at the cusp of some unexpected developments as consumer expectations pave the way for some more evolutionary ideas to bear form. Consumer insights and preferences are blazing the new trends into the fashion innerwear market as new design labels transform those ideas into sustainable realities in the form of new and innovative men's innerwear.