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A Brief History of Briefs etc

Posted by Dude Undies on

In “exploring” the world of male undergarments, it might be a good idea to take a look at the history of pants, or a brief history of briefs.

A Brief History of Briefs etc

Loin Cloth

Looking around there is quite a lot of information on this. For men, the basic loin cloth was all they had for a long time. Records dating back to 7000BC showed prehistoric man used leather to protect his “loins” when he was hunting and running. Maybe this was the first “thong”? Then it was possibly purely functional. But, from what we see, from the very earliest cave paintings of early man, the male and female organs are quite often prominently represented. Variations of the loin cloth appeared in Ancient Egypt. All classes, including the Pharaohs, wore these. The Pharaohs had a special kilt like variation known as a shendoh. We know this because they took spares along with them to their tombs for the afterlife. A bit like having a few extra briefs in a suitcase if you are going on holiday I guess, although this time it was for eternity.

Another interesting cultural symbol is the penis shield or Koteka that was found in some of indigenous tribes of New Guinea in the form of exaggerated erect penises. The sources don't seem to indicate this had much to do with status but more to do with ceremonies. Similar designs have occurred in African and South American tribes.

Across many ancient cultures, especially the Greeks and Romans, the erect penis was a common symbol often associated with fertility. The connection is still there in modern culture, but this has been sublimated into the designs of some modern male underwear possibly.

Another item of clothing that is intriguing is the Scottish sporran worn over a Scottish Kilt. This is obviously not underwear, and probably derived from a medieval purse, but it does draw attention to the genital area.

In the East, looking specifically at India, the loin cloth was used by Mahatma Gandhi as his way of identifying with the very poor. Its use now is pretty rare, but many cultures used variations of this garment.

Trousers and the Cod Piece


By the Middle Ages in Europe. Trousers began to become very common. These were known as braises. These were made from linen and were worn from the waist to the shins and tied at both ends.

The cod piece leads onto an important issue in male underwear design and fashion, which is still very much with us to this day. To extenuate or show the “male organ” or to hide it. For those in power by the end of the Middle Ages, it was very much about showing their “man hood,” prowess and, importance.

A very basic male thing maybe?

This was very much a fashion item of the 15 th and 16 th century. Cod piece related to the word crotch. These could be attached with strings or buttons, to any supporting garments. Many portraits of that period show men wearing them. This is very much the case with the portrait of the English King Henry VIII, by the great German portrait painter Hans Holbein. The very imposing Henry VIII was made to look even more imposing with the cod piece.

Another possible theory was that the huge size of some cod pieces hid any syphilitic infections. Bandages and ointments may have been added, but to little effect as this was long before the advent of anti-bacteria’s. Syphilis was brought back, more than likely, by the Spanish Conquistadors and soon became rampant across all of Europe. Also, the “beauty spot” was adopted later on, as another way of hiding the infection.

This is not an issue now hopefully. There is still a very important problem though, associated with more elaborate undergarments that is going for a pee. As time progressed more and more lace started to be added. The cod piece had to be detached, and then reattached. Toiletry of any kind must have been even more of a nightmare for ladies of that period wearing some many cavernous skirts and dresses. The tunic hemline of the tunics that were worn tended to rise over time, showing even more of the cod piece. Eventually the cod piece went out of fashion. Maybe the cravat, which took on some pretty extreme variations, took over the role of codpiece, as a means of bringing attention to the male organ. All we have left now is a tie.

Long Johns


The situation for men though stayed pretty static in the West for quite a while. The long johns became the standard form of male underwear. For woman in general, there was continued development in corsets, petticoats, stays, chemise, stocking and bloomers, but all men seem to have wear long johns. These started in the 17 th Century and became more common in the 18th century. Made from cotton, which was starting to become available or wool, they remained a staple undergarment for quite a while.

The 20th Century

Maybe it was changes in culture and material technology that brought on quite a sea change in male underwear designs and set the scene for where we are today.

Starting with Boxers


These first appeared in 1925 and started the move away from long johns. Developed by Joseph Golomb, who founded the Everest Company. This was an adaptation of the cotton shorts boxers used, hence “boxer” shorts. There was a problem then as there is now with basic boxers, which was the lack of “support”. They took a while to catch on.

Jock Strap Jockey Briefs

The first jockey briefs were sold on the 19 th of January 1935 and became an immediate success, from the Marshal Field and Co. department store in Chicago, in the middle of a snow blizzard. Any sane man would have been wanting to wear his long johns but they sold out of briefs! There was definitely a demand out there for something different.

Like most creative cultural and design innovations, this came from a fusion of different ideas. The jockstrap was already around. They became about as a means of “protecting” penny farthing cyclists or “jockeys”. These were used by messengers using penny farthings and sportsmen.

The designer that fused all these ideas together was Mr.Kneibler who designed “apparel” for Coopers who started off selling socks to lumber jacks. This business was being hit hard by the major depression of the 20's and 30's. Mr.Kneibler had a postcard from a friend in France showing men using brief swimming costumes. From there the penny dropped and the brief was born.

From this extra material support was given to the front, a button or slit for the penis, if there was a need to urinate. It was also molded tightly to fit the body. This was to become the tighty whitey in the US and the “Y” front in the UK. The ladies were still ahead of the game, with the bra coming along in 1913, and developments in material brought along the nylon stocking by the middle of the 20 th century.

Men had finally started to catch up, after a “long winter” of long johns, with the help Mr.Kneibler and Mr.Golomb.

The landscape had been set for further developments in male underwear design. With the brief and the boxer.

Boxers V Briefs

Before looking at these developments it may important to consider the advantages and assumed disadvantages of these two designs.

Checking on some medical advice on the web, it seems to clearly state that boxers are better than briefs because the latter reduce the amount of potential sperm that can be produced if say a couple wants to have a baby.

This is because the testicles get too hot and that apparently reduces the amount of active sperm produced. So the sperm count drops. It takes 10 to 11 weeks to produce sperm. The conclusion being wear boxers.

Other advice again seems to suggest that tight briefs are not good when it comes to fertility. However, if you hunt around the web and look at other accounts, then there are articles that contradict this. Some state it does not make that much difference . So, short of a definitive answer, the court is still out on this one possibly.

But it may be wise to make sure that styles are regularly changed. If someone is in a relationship, it may not be wise to hang onto underwear for too long , so change it regularly, even if it is frequently washed. Hence, have a greater variety of male underwear. There could be possible hygiene issues, or having a pair of pants with holes in them, which may not look that good.

Maybe wear both. Boxers during the day, to keep the equipment cool, so to speak, and briefs later if a partner prefers them. Again a pair of briefs may enhance one's man hood so to speak. Getting an erection may be advantageous in some situations and totally not in others. It may also depend on what else is worn and the age and general physical state of the wearer. So, if you are a “fit” six foot tall man in his mid-twenties, who works out regularly, has a “six pack” and a physique to match, then a pair of tight fitting Levi's and a pair of tight fitting briefs might make a lot of sense. But if you are a middle aged man, with a beer gut, then baggy trousers/pants and boxers would be a lot more appropriate.

What is worn over the underpants may also be an issue. If a pair of trouser/pants are far too tight, do you want your male “panty line” showing through? Or maybe you do at the front? Or do you want to make sure that a pair of sleek body hugging jeans, stays looking sleek. This isn't an annoying line showing around the butt from whatever is underneath?

Again, cruising around the web there seems little consensus on which woman or other partners prefer . Be it briefs or boxers, it seems to be down to personal choice. Fashion trends may dictate which are the more popular at a particular time.

Boxer Briefs and Calvin Klein

To move forward now towards the modern period. The compromise between boxers and briefs were the boxer briefs . These were developed by John Varvatos for Calvin Klein, where he worked from 1990 to 1995. This was brought to prominence by Mark Wahlberg who was a male model at the time, plus hip hop music, with Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Again possibly, it is just a pair of long johns cut short. To quote John Vavatos from 2010. “We just cut off a pair of long johns and thought, this could be cool”

To go into more detail. A boxer may be too loose for some while briefs could be too tight for others. So the innovations in the boxer brief included a pouch, which can be enlarged, and is designed to fit the testicles and move these forward. This gives more room for the penis. Athletes like them and they are common in everyday use.

Boxer briefs fit on the waist and follow the form of the body down the thigh. There can be just an opening at the front, a key hole fly , a button or snap front on the front pouch, or no fly at all. These boxer briefs are made from combinations of spandex and cotton. A waist band around the top carried the company's brand name.

It is worth looking in a bit more detail at the waist band. This is an additional band of material with the product name on it. Maybe it was a coincidence, but the exposed waistband at the back above the butt (just) became a form of dress. This was very much the case in the early 90's with Hip Hop Culture. Possibly it was a combination of boxers, briefs and boxer briefs? These were nearly always designer products. This was taken up at first by African Americans and Latinos in the USA, then the wider community by the end of the 90's.

Oversized pants/jeans were worn which were too large for their waists. Consequently, these dropped down the reveal the designer labels. It is thought that this is a reference to criminals and gang culture in general. Plus of course, you were cool and could afford a pair of Calvin Klein's. The boy was a man!

The Scene Today: The Gay Market

The general picture now for male underwear is very varied. There are many different markets and needs. The line evolving from long johns, thongs, onto boxers, briefs and boxer brief, is now very diverse.

This will depend on number of variables, culture, class, age, and sexual inclinations. It can still be purely functional, or specialized, in say sportswear. Possibly moving into fetish wear and other areas. This is as varied as the cultures we live in now and it has moved a long way from the male mono culture of the long john a century ago.

But the same variables still apply. To reveal or to hide, loose or tight, functional or decorative. To not make a statement or to make a statement.

Gay Underwear

Looking now at gay underwear. This whole area has evolved considerably over the last few decades with the “coming out” of gay communities. Maybe the main designer brands seem a little conservative compared with some of the design innovations in this field. The male “organ” is pretty predominant in many of these designs. Also the world is very connected now because of the internet. Therefore, ideas can spread very quickly.

Boundaries are definitely pushed forward with these designs so to speak. Many seem to be variations of the basic thong design two designers have been instrumental in pushing the boundaries further:

Gregg Homme and Andrew Christian.

Specific Modern Designers

Gregg Homme

This is a Canadian based company started in 1987. It combines both design ideas, expertise in textiles and material technology.

Their web site states that they have taken the basic designs of boxer brief, briefs, string and thong underwear a stage further in both swimwear and underwear. They also have an interest in fetish wear.

Looking at one example in their range, the Erotik Boxer. The cut and style is up there with Calvin Klein. This uses a mesh material throughout and a “semi concealed” cock ring to enhance the penis.

You are going to get both comfort and quality with these items.

The Kasanova Trunk alludes of course to Giacomo Casanova and Italian adventurer and seducer who along with the British Lord Byron, had frequent “adventures” in the 18 th and early 19th centuries respectively.

In this item the penis is fully protruded, but using a classic boxer brief design and a marble finish.

Andrew Christian

Another designer that jumps out at you is Andrew Christian.

This is a very good link from Wikipedia that outlines his career to date: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Christian. He does focus to a large extent on the Gay community and has also been brilliant at marketing his products. Sportswear seems to have influenced him. The article relates how he was inspired by the way athletes trained to “tone up”, to improve their “rear ends”. The sports reference can be found in the “Flash Flt” range of boxer shorts. It takes the boxer shorts full circle back to where they started, as the shorts boxers used. Like the Calvin Klein's, the product details are along the waist band. This incorporates an invisible seam that rounds off and lifts the buttocks when they are being worn.

The “Show it” range is again essentially a boxer brief by Andrew Christian, but he has cleverly incorporated a “lifting” feature. This is a “comfy up” which supports and protects the male organs. The lining is soft elastic. Therefore, the male organ is projected comfortably. This does not always seem the case with some other examples I have seen on line. Again, there is a waist band showing the product's name. These boxer briefs look well-made and well cut. Though a “designer product” the prices on line do not seem exorbitant.

Again, the “Almost Naked” is yet another variation of boxer briefs. Before going into the styling, there is a really interesting development in the materials used in this range. The bulk of the material is a form of rayon produced from bamboo. This amounts to 93% of the total product. This makes this potentially a very environmentally friendly pair of pants. It is not just the erotic potential that Andrew Christian pays close attention to, but the sourcing of the materials, along with the real ergonomics of the design. That is the comfort and practicality of each product. For example, this product is designed to fit the body’s anatomy. The bamboo fiber also helps to keep the body free of moisture.

Another thing that is noticeable with these Andrew Christian designs, is that although they are overtly sexual at times, they maintain a “classic” look and they are eminently practical.

The Shock Jock Brief and Cup are also interesting innovations. There are set of very good YouTube videos where Andrew Christian directly explains his products.

The two examples I have here are the Shock Jock, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vu2Ck_LrZqs and the Show- It Boxer Briefs using Flashback technology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsupADI7VBE. There are both extremely good sites. It is also interesting to see a designer talking very clearly about the products he has designed.

Flashback technology uses a similar principle to that of a wonder bra, where the butt is lifted and shaped. Andrew Christian explains this very clearly if you go to this YouTube link. The jock cup also extenuates the male organ. This is made from soft fabric and slips into a pocket inside the brief or other Andrew Christian garments. This is both washable and will not lose shape. Thus mimicking the wonder bra.

Again this emphasizes that these products are innovative and provocative, but they are also practical and comfortable. Also, given the acres and acres of gay male underwear sites on the web, all his products are made in Los Angeles USA.

To look now at a few specific examples:

Twerk Y Back Jock with Show It

As jock straps go, this does not have a micro thin strap, but it does give support around and under the butt. It also has a comfy cup, show-it extension at the front. Using a soft elastic, this can extend the male “equipment” up to 1.5 inches or 3.8cm. It comes in a variety of bright colors, using cotton, and polyester.

Gigolo Peek-a-Boo Brief

To start with, a gigolo is a “kept” man for the pleasure of a lady or gentleman partner. Peek a Boo being a game for young children. Now you see me now you don't. So the connotation here is clearly sexual. The behind or butt is covered in a see through mesh material. The frontal equipment is housed in a pouch and uses the same material. This can easily be” popped up”. The mesh is supported by a curved waist band. The mesh is made 92% nylon and 8% spandex and the supporting waist bands are again 93% rayon made from bamboo and 7% spandex. Bright colors are also used to bring out the form of the briefs.

The publicity on the site state that this is a “one off” that will never be made again. But I am guessing that variations are already been produced elsewhere.

Present Situation:

There are also a series of web based retailers and designers that are well regarded presently within the general gay community such as JOR, Clever, Joe Snyder, Pikante, and Petit-Q.

Main stream designer products such as Calvin Klein and Emporio Armani, also seem to be influenced by recent gay innovations. Online, there are many sites trading in very cheap gay male underwear. The bulk of these could well be from main land China. Any new design ideas are quickly copied, adapted, and marketed online.

There is also a whole range of new products available. These include Thongs, Lace Thongs, G Strings, Mesh Briefs, and Jock Straps.


Looking initially at one gay brand Clever : Clever Moda Sporty Thong Standford Men's Underwear:

Essentially this thong consist of a waist band, pouch, and a band going through the butt (so to speak).

In this example the thong is very “sporty”. It has a solid classical cut and a well-defined, but not too extrusive, pouch area.

Looking at a few sites, there seems to be a huge variety of thong designs. The main variables being the width of the waist band and the pouch design. That is the enhancing of the “male equipment.” Some seem to flatten out the penis, others push it out, using the curve or pocket of the pouch.

Pikante Jockstrap Mercurio Men's Underwear:

This is an interesting variation in the overall thong design. This Pikante product has a beige waist band. This has the product's name stitched onto it. What is interesting is the distinctive black plastic pouch and the “retro” clip holding the waist band together. This is simply stitched onto the waist band at two ends. This is 93% Polyester and 7% Spandex overall.

Candy Man Slinky Thong

This comes with a thin belt band, around the butt. The pouch has been anatomically designed to fit comfortably around any one’s personal equipment. This comes with an elastic edging which makes sure that one's attributes are kept snugly in place. This is 96% Nylon and 4% Spandex.

To step outside the logic of this account for a while, as two remarkable looking Candyman products have just caught my eye on this web page.

Lace Thong

The lace thong intrigues me. Some are marketed as briefs but they are really basically variations on thongs, with a pretty narrow waist band.

Lace is associated with the feminine, which may be the gay association here. But lace has been used before in male fashions, not as underwear but in handkerchiefs and some very ostentatious cravats, in the 17 th and 18th Centuries in Europe. There are many examples in portraits, such as those for the French Louis XIV. Again, the styles of the fops and dandies in Regency England. It is still found in some of the flamboyant and extrovert shirt designs associated with some Latin American men along with dancing, for example Salsa.

Coming back to today. The lace thong is very feminine in its style but still the pouch designs is very tight and overtly masculine. This is a very interesting combination.

A very innovative company in this field is Candyman.

Candyman Lace Thong

The overall design is very simple. This is simply consists of a waist band with the product name embroidered on it and a very delicate black lace pouch. Although the pouch is quite large it is pretty sensual and “feminine”. Elastic seams are used for added comfort. This is made from 96% Nylon and 4% spandex.

There is an interesting variation from Joe Snyder who is exploring a number of different approaches.

Joe Snyder Bikini Lace

There is covering at the “rear end” which closely covers the butt. A touch reminiscent of a tighty whitey and of course a bikini. The band is fairly narrow so more skin is shown. There is a range of pouch sizes available from small to extra-large.

Again there is a very elaborate and delicate see through material used in the pouch. This looks to cover a larger area than the previous example, forming a tantalizing triangle. This can be worn during the day or later for any special occasion. This can come either in black or white.

Fetish Wear

This brings up another topic. That of fetish wear. Just touching on two examples from totally different poles so to speak. Continuing with the “lace” theme:

Male Power: Scandal Lace Micro Thong: This is on the Freshpair web site. This pretty much mimics a pair of ladies panties. There is a full band of “galloon” stretched black lace in a full band around the whole body using a mesh material around the crotch area. Quite a “feminine” result.

Male Power: Cyclops Jockstrap: This is again a Male Power product the polyester spandex material imitates leather. There is a studied belt around the waist and two low hanging straps underneath the butt cheeks. The material forms a studded oval shape and the penis is fully exposed. This is “uber” macho and possibly a touch SM. This product is totally for “show”.

G Strings

Looking now at G strings, these seem another variation on the thong, with supporting waist belt reduced to a string.

When I Goggle in “male G strings” then Freshpair.com jumps to the top of the list. The site seems to be catering for the gay market. There are just so many variations on it, of this basic item of male underwear. Some again, have a variety of pouch styles. Others totally exposed the male genitals. Again the butt or arse comes in for some detailing. On Freshpair.com Gregg Homme and Andrew Christian products seem to dominate.There are however, some very interesting variations from other companies and designers.

Two products by Good Devil:

Good Devil Preview G-String

There is a fine “string” from the pouch at the front and underneath the butt. So this is a “G” String. What makes this product interesting is the cut away section at the top of the crotch section. This reveals partly of course what is underneath. Basically a tease. This uses a stretch metallic fabric along with elastic trimming

Good Devil Sheer Size:

Another clever design from Good Devil, simple but it works. There is a very slight G string slightly below waist level. This is combined with a neat rectangular pouch that fits firmly over the “crown jewels”. This is 93% Polyamide and 7% Spandex.

The difference between a thong and a G string is just a matter of degree. Both are pretty minimal and go around the waist and across the center of the butt. The G-string is basically thinner.

Mesh underwear.

Another “revealing” variation overall is the use of mesh underwear. This may also have a practical application as well, as the grid mesh material allows the body to “breathe”.

In this JOR product the emphasis again is on sportswear.

JOR Athletic Boxer

This uses a very tight fitting micro fiber mesh with matches the form of the body. The top section, below the waist belt, is a yellow mesh material through which you can see the skin. The pouch neatly covers the crotch area and is in the same material. It is supportive and comfortable. The material is 78% nylon, 16% spandex. This is really a modern interpretation of the brief.

Petit-Q Kini Mesh Bikini

This has straight forward straps that neatly contour around the butt area and are also in the front. This sets off a pouch nicely using a triangular shape using the same revealing mesh material. This comes in red or black. This is 81% Polyamide and the Petit-Q product is quite a contrast to the JOR. This one is primarily for show where as the emphasis in the JOR design is on a well-toned body.

Variations and adaptations now seem to be endless. There appears to be a real creativity in this market, with no end of different ideas.

Jock Straps

The Jock Strap is designed to support the testicles and penis by lifting up the male “equipment” with the use of straps across the lower buttocks. This gives rise to “jock briefs”. The Jock Strap in its modern form can be traced back to 1884, designed to help bicycle “jockeys”. Protective caps and padding are used in the sportswear versions. 

Looking again at a JOR product:

The emphasis again with this JOR product, is for a physical athletic feel. There is a wide waist band and extra bands around the butt for extra lift. The pouch area is perforated allowing a sneaky look at what is in side. This is also large and comfortable. Made from 78% mesh and 22% Spandex.

Pikante Castro Jock Strap

This jock strap fully displays the male organ in a semi erect form. So it would not be very suitable if it was worn under regular clothing. This is very much for show. The pouch has been designed to accommodate the penis, and accommodate different shapes and configurations so to speak. This product uses 85% Nylon and 15% Spandex. The spandex has a micro fiber which allows for a close and comfortable fit.

Again solid sportive straps fit across the butt helping to lift it and add to a sporting physique.

This Pikante product is also well cut, proportioned and designed as well as giving quite a degree of sexual allure.

Looking now at other particular sites, who have a large range of gay male underwear and the Petit-Q range in particular, I will focus on a specific example:

Petit-Q Jockstrap Pise

This comes with a light blue waist belt. The pouch is supported by a rear strap underneath the butt as well as an asymmetrical strap. This is designed to show off a lot of skin. The material is mainly nylon at 93% with spandex at 7%.

Looking across a range of other Petit-Q products, they seem to have an interest in playing around with asymmetry and seem to be trying out a number of “out of the Box” design ideas. They appear a pretty innovative company.

Markets on Line

But there is a real complexity out there on the web now. But there is an important observation to make. There are a number of different sources for all of this as well. If you jump straight in there are acres of very cheap “Gay” based male underwear. These web sites seem extremely cheap. Looking at them, they appear to be from main land China. The impression I am getting is that producers there seem to very quickly pick up on what is happening in the overall market and immediately reproduce their versions of this in bulk Does this mean there is innovation going on in main land China, or is this a case of copying Western designs then manufacturing them in bulk a lot cheaper?


The main variables for male underwear seem to be, to reveal or to hide, to be tight or be baggy, and to play safe and take risks. Again the needs of a six foot gay guy who works out in his mid-twenties will not be the same a middle aged straight guy in his mid-50's who has a liking for the odd beer. In the last two decades or so there has been a revolution brought about by key Gay designers like Andrew Christian.

There is a recognition that men have bodies and body parts, long a feature of ladies lingerie. This adds to the fun of wearing male underwear, which has become a feature of the age we are now in.

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