By: Rachel Dean
Surprisingly, leather underwear didn’t start with porn stars or people that wanted to hear their nether regions squeak. Actually, leather underwear began almost 7,000 years ago when man used it to cover himself. These loincloths were used until the Middle Ages rolled around when “braies” took their place. Braies were like loose-fitting pants made from linen that ran all the way down to the mid-calf. Unfortunately, they required a lot of unnecessary effort like tying them at the waist and shins. Bathroom trips could never be spontaneous until the “codpiece” was invented. The codpiece used buttons, snaps, and ties and was used to allow men to urinate without having to spend 30 minutes disrobing. Wetting yourself after one too many drinks would hopefully come to an end.
As clothing became short, decorating your crotch became a priority. Padding your codpiece wasn’t just a sign that your insecurity lied directly between your thighs, but it was also very stylish after Henry VIII started the trend. The Victorian Era until the 1930s was all about knee-length flannel “drawers” with matching undershirts. Cute. In the 1930s there finally came a bit more diversity in men’s underwear; the introduction of boxers and briefs. Jacob Golomb, founder of Everlast boxing equipment, began the movement of developing underwear similar to men’s boxing shorts – hence the term, “boxers.” Obviously he replaced giant leather belts with an elastic band on account of…well, it’s just not practical. Since we’re on the topic of practical, some men didn’t find the support they needed from boxers, however. Who can blame them? It’s a hard transition from skin-tight flannels to your junk flailing all over the place.
As luck would have it, designer Arthur Kneibler received a postcard from France with a man on the cover in a bikini style swimsuit. Kneibler knew this would give the kind of support, ease, and practicality most men were in search for. The term “tighty-whities” came after they were originally dubbed “jockey shorts.”
On January 19, 1935 Kneibler’s store, Coopers, took the jockey shorts to the department store Marshall Fields in Chicago to see if the product would sell. On the first day, all 600 pairs of jockey shorts sold out and they sold 30,000 more within the first three months. By 1971, Coopers changed the name of their company to “Jockey” due to the overwhelming success and popularity.
Moving into the 1980s and 1990s, underwear became more than just a necessity, it was fashion. Calvin Klein made headlines, made millions, and made people pass out with his raunchy underwear ads. Now we see underwear designed after TV shows, movies, holidays, and pretty much every major comic book character. Underwear has come from a piece of leather to protect men’s disco sticks from catching on fire, to an item seen as fashionable. With respect to Kneibler’s tighty-whities, I think I’ll take the new, sleeker designs for my man.