After loincloths, breeches and flies, men’s undergarments experienced a revolution during the 20th century to become what they are today. Here is the second part of our short history of men’s underwear.
“Do you prefer boxer briefs or briefs?” Before the 1920s, this question would have been answered by a void gaze, since none of them had been invented. From the end of the 18th century to the 1930s, men used to wear close-fitting flannel undergarments going down to the knees. If it doesn’t look comfortable, bodies began to breathe again in 1925. Jacob Golomb, the founder of Everlast, the famous brand of boxing equipment, made changes to the boxer shorts worn by wrestlers. Golomb realised that the leather belts they worn were not very practical, so he replaced them with elastic waistbands.
However, “boxer briefs” were not an immediate success as undergarments. They were lacking the support provided by long undergarments and old short trousers. It is only at the end of the Second World War that boxer briefs came in the limelight.
Men’s underwear changed forever in 1934, when Arthur Kneibler, an American designer from Coopers, received a postcard from a friend who was on vacation on the Côte d’Azur. On the postcard was a man wearing a swimsuit looking like a bikini and Kneibler had a revelation. Couldn’t this kind of swimsuits become undergarments?
After a few tests, Kneibler created a new type of comfortable and legless undergarments with a Y-shaped front opening. These were called “Jockey shorts” because the support they offered reminded people of the jockstraps.
Success was immediate. The 600 first items were sold on the first day and Coopers sold 30,000 of them within 3 months.
The huge success of designer men’s underwear began during the 1970s and 1980s, as brands like Calvin Klein decided to transform them and made them fashion accessories that were highlighted, especially in music videos.
Cuts became more close-fitting, sexier and items were more colourful, bright and sometimes funny.
During the last 20 years, despite several attempts to create genuine “men’s lingerie”, which is transparent, finely crafted and laced, no real revolution happened on the market.