A Brief History of Men's Briefs.
The male underwear market is stronger than ever, with an estimated worth of £674m in the UK alone, but when did man first feel the need to cover his most private parts?
It all began approximately 7,000 years ago with the infamous loincloth. Prehistoric man took a long strip of fabric, passed it between his legs and fastened it around his waist, to create something that looked rather fetchingly like a nappy. In 1991, archaeologists discovered the very first example of a loincloth on the remains of Otzi the iceman, who lived around 3300 BC. The Egyptian, King Tut, was also a fan of the loincloth, although by then the once simple garment had evolved into a triangular piece of fabric with strings on the longer ends and was made of fine linen. Todays modern take on the loincloth is the G-string, in which a similar construct is used, but combined with much more advanced technology and fabric options. This Cameo version from the Kiniki G-string range features an elastic waistband, pouch front, comfortable string back and is created from high quality Poly Elastane, whereas the loincloths of long ago would definitely have been less comfortable, less colourful and less breathable.
When the Romans came along, male underwear choices began to diversify and although they still wore a longer version of the loincloth, called subligaculum, their undergarments also came in the form of shorts. During the 13th century, kings, knights and even peasants started to wear looser, pull-on underpants called braies. These calf length shirts were often made from linen and allowed a bit more breathing room. Wealthier men also had the option, and the funds, of wearing chausses, which were similar in bagginess but extended down the leg, sometimes also covering the feet.
By the Renaissance, male underwear started to get racier as braies got shorter and chausses got tighter. It was around now that the practical aspect of underwear became important and many garments were fitted with a rather convenient flap for urinating. The flap was either fastened by buttons, ties or snaps and henceforth the codpiece was invented. Perhaps, the most famous codpiece wearer was Henry VIII, who was well known for customising his codpiece by padding it to enhance his manhood.
The invention of the bicycle during the Industrial Revolution, highlighted the need for underwear that was less restrictive and offered more support. Developed in Chicago in 1874 by the sporting goods company Sharp and Smith, the jockstrap provided the solution to saddle sore cyclists everywhere. Taking on the 'legless' influence from the loincloth and combining it with a Y-shaped opening, reminiscent of the flaps of the codpiece, the Jockey brief sold at a rate of 3,000 pairs per week when it first arrived in the UK.
Moving on to the 20th century, manufacturers started to play around with styles that used less buttons or larger flies and for the first three decades a style called the Union suit, a full body jumpsuit, was the main underwear choice, particularly during the war years. After this time, the battle commenced between the boxer and the brief - you were either a boxers man or a briefs man. The boxer short started off life as just that, shorts for boxers. Jacob Golomb, who was founder of the sports brand Everlast, developed a featherweight version of boxing shorts. The theory was that it was much more natural to hang free in looser shorts, so that air can circulate. Fans of the much tighter brief, however, believed the complete opposite, in that it was better to have one's package neatly contained for full support and protection. The choice was entirely personal and it is a decision that is still taken seriously in modern times. From the 1950s onwards, colour and pattern became important factors and the development of new fabrics, such as rayon, Dacron and DuPont Spandex allowed tighter fits, different cuts and even briefer briefs!
Today men have more choice than ever. You only have to look at the impressive range of Kiniki men's underwear to see the choices available.
- Narrow Front
- Micro Brief
We offer a range of vibrant colours and patterns along with the highest quality fabrics that are designed to be durable whilst offering support.
Lifestyle consultant, Nick Ede, was recently quoted in the Independent as saying "It's quite a selfish thing, but men really do take a lot of pride in what they wear underneath their trousers" and it is clear that men's underwear has come a long way since the primitive loincloth.