The Evolution of Men’s Underwear: From the Beginnings to Today
4 min read
You probably can’t imagine life without your men’s underwear or boxer briefs today. As the shields that protect the family jewels from the outside world, uncomfortable pants, and dreaded zippers, men’s underwear serves a pretty important (and comfortable) function today.
So, when did the first dude decide to put this kind of protection on himself? How did we get to where we are today? Let’s look at a brief history of the evolution of men’s underwear.
It Started with Leather
Historical texts have confirmed that men first used leather to cover their loins about 7,000-years-ago while migrating, building, hunting, and gathering. We hope you've evolved! For thousands of years, not much had changed, as we see everyone from ancient pharaohs to Chinese texts depicting men in these kinds of leather wrappings. Pharaohs especially loved their underwear, with many of them buried alongside their beloved leather briefs (good memories I suppose).
Loose Fitted Trousers
Around the time of the Middle Ages, men began to wear loose-fitting trousers that were called “braies.” These trousers extended from the waist to the mid-calf region and were worn underneath breeches. However, this version of men’s underwear proved to be a little too warm in those hot summer months, preventing any kind of airflow to one’s loins (we all know how unpleasant that can be).
Born from necessity was the “codpiece,” which took this braie design and added a buttoned flap that enabled men to take a leak when needed, button up, and go back to their business. Plus, this new design included some ventilation that was seriously missing for a few hundred years. No wonder they all looked so pissed off!
The codpiece improved in practicality and design for a few hundred years, leading us up to the turn of the 20th century. Jacob Golomb, the founder of a boxing equipment company known as Everlast, started to change the design of these long-legged men’s underwear staples. He realized the bagginess was ideal for boxers, who needed the flexibility to move with speed and agility and would allow future greats to "Float like a butterfly sting like a bee". He is credited with creating the first boxer, that was actually not popularly received until after WWII.
At the same time, Arthur Kneibler, an executive at Coopers, Inc. in Wisconsin during the year 1934, received a postcard from France where a man was depicted in a tight onesie at the beach. After some practice, Kneibler released a snug, legless underwear with an overlapping Y-front fly that was totally new at the time (but still needed lots of work!). The world was finally introduced to what we know as tighty whities today. Thank god we've move along from here!
Designers then started to pour their talents into this new burgeoning industry, making men’s underwear something of mainstream consumption following WWII. Really, the rest is history!
We end this timeline with the arrival of our brand, Chill Boys, known for making performance boxers, bamboo boxers and bamboo boxer briefs that are comfortable, cool, and embedded with fabric technology that makes them perfect for any kind of climate. We salute all of the men of the past that experimented with less-than-comfortable underwear so we could comfort our goods in style today.
The History of Men’s Underwear Options
Men’s underwear has come a long way from the loin cloth and the cod piece. Today, men have plenty of options when it comes to protecting the family jewels. From practical comfort to pure fashion statement, skivvies choices abound.
Perfect for sleeping (or boxing back in your great-grandfather’s day), men’s boxers give users room to feel the cool air breeze. While they traditionally don’t provide much support, they are quite comfy. Boxer shorts were originally developed in the 1920s by Everlast, a boxing company that wanted to switch from traditional sweat-inducing leather shorts to cotton-blend boxer shorts. Even with this progress, men's drawers still needed an upgrade.
Briefs, undies, jockey shorts. Love them or hate them, they’ve been around since 1935 by Cooper’s Inc. Great for hipster skinny jeans, men’s briefs provide easy access, full coverage, and less bunching. The minimal coverage accentuates the gams, among other things. If you are a minimalist at heart, maybe briefs are the pick for you.
Popularized in the 1990s, boxer briefs provide the best of both worlds. Supportive while providing full coverage and a more modern look, these bad boys hug in all of the right places. Optimal for any shape and size, boxer briefs will keep you snug and secure. Modern boxer briefs have the added benefits of advanced fabrics for key properties such as moisture wicking, stretch and breathability.
Long johns, or thermal underwear, is choice for the outdoorsman or simply a dude freezing his nether regions off in the cold. Trapping heat and insulating the body against freezing conditions, long johns can be made from a variety of material blends. Hailing from 17th century England, men’s long johns did not reach popularity until the 18th century when it came to sleeping options. Fun fact: they were supposedly named after an infamous knife fighter who enjoyed taking on adversaries in his underwear. You, too, can be a “long john”, but perhaps without the knife fighting.
Men’s jockstraps were invented in the late 19th century for cyclists and overall sporty spices. The term “jock” is actually derived from “jock strap”, meaning a strap for athletes’ goods. Giving full front coverage with a room for a protective guard, jock straps are open in the back and have elastics waist and thigh bands. They can also be used as men’s lingerie, because women can’t have all the fun in that market.
If you want breathable, comfortable briefs with a boost, men’s performance underwear are the choice for you. Thanks in part to the fitness craze, modern men's underwear has probably advanced more than modern men. Advanced technical fabrics make for an amazing base layer. We've come a long long way since the days of the leather cod piece.