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The history of men's underwear

Updated: Jun 24

The best guide to the history of men's underwear - SCONFORT

Explore the evolution of men's underwear throughout history. From ancestral origins to modern trends, immerse yourself in this captivating story.

The history of men's underwear: from ancient times to the present day


Men's underwear has evolved significantly over the centuries. From simple pieces of fabric used for practical reasons, they have become essential fashion items. In this article, we'll explore the fascinating history of men's underwear, highlighting the changes in styles, materials and perceptions over time.

1. The beginnings of Antiquity

1.1 Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, men wore underwear called a subligaculum. It was a simple piece of cloth wrapped around the waist and held in place by a belt. Greek athletes, on the other hand, wore the "kynodesmus", a band of fabric wrapped around the penis and testicles for added support during sporting activities.

1.2 Ancient Rome

In Roman times, men wore underwear called "subligar". They were similar to the Greek "subligaculum", but were often worn under a toga or tunic. The "subligar" were generally made of linen and were worn for reasons of hygiene and modesty.

2. Middle Ages and Renaissance

2.1 Breeches

In the Middle Ages, men wore breeches, a type of loose pants that went down to the knees or ankles. Breeches were often made of linen or wool and were tied at the waist with a belt. They were worn over the shirt and covered the entire pelvic region.

2.2 The shoes

During the Renaissance, breeches were replaced by chausses, which were tight-fitting leggings worn under clothing. Breeches were often made of silk or velvet and were attached to the breeches by cords. This development marked the beginning of tighter, more stylish underwear for men.

3. Industrial Revolution and Victorian Era

3.1 The invention of the knitting machine

With the industrial revolution, the invention of the knitting machine revolutionized the production of underwear. In the mid-19th century, woolen long johns became popular among men. These boxer shorts were fitted and covered the legs down to the ankles, providing warmth and comfort during the winter months.

3.2 The advent of briefs and boxers

In the late 19th century, boxer shorts were replaced by shorter boxer shorts, also called "swimming trunks." These boxer shorts were made of cotton and were more practical for physical activities. At the beginning of the 20th century, boxers, characterized by their loose fit and open front, became popular.

4. The modern era

4.1 Briefs

In the 1930s, briefs appeared. These form-fitting, elastic underwear provided greater support and freedom of movement. Briefs quickly became popular and have remained a common choice for many men. In recent decI'm sorry, but the response you requested exceeds the character limit allowed for a single response. Please find the rest of the article below:

4.2 Fitted boxers and long johns

Over the past few decades, new variations of men's underwear have appeared. Form-fitting boxers, also known as boxer briefs, offer a slimmer fit and a combination of support and comfort. Long johns, meanwhile, have come back into fashion for those who prefer longer coverage and an extra warm feeling.

4.3 The era of technology and innovation

With the advancement of technology and materials, new innovations have come to men's underwear. Lightweight, breathable fabrics, such as bamboo and high-performance synthetic fibers, provide antibacterial and moisture-wicking properties, helping to maintain a healthy and fresh genital area.

Here are some additional points to consider regarding the history of men's underwear:

1. The industrial revolution and mass production:

The Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries brought significant changes to the production of men's underwear. With the invention of new machines, such as the sewing machine and the knitting machine, mass production of underwear became possible. This has led to increased availability and affordability of men's underwear.

2. Elastic waistbands:

In the early 20th century, elastic waistbands were introduced to men's underwear. This innovation provides a more comfortable and secure fit compared to the previous use of cords or buttons. Elastic waistbands also make dressing and undressing easier and faster.

3. Changing Fashion Trends:

Fashion trends have influenced men's underwear styles throughout history. In the 1920s, shorter, tighter-fitting underwear called "shorts" became popular. In the 1930s, briefs, offering a tighter fit and better support, grew in popularity. In the 1980s and 1990s, boxer shorts with loose fits and vibrant patterns became fashionable.

4. Evolution of materials:

The materials used in men's underwear have evolved over time. Initially, linen and wool were commonly used fabrics. However, with the advent of the cotton industry, cotton became the primary material for underwear due to its breathability and comfort. In recent years, innovative synthetic materials and blends, such as modal, bamboo and moisture-wicking fabrics, have been introduced to improve comfort, durability and performance.

5. Pop Culture Influence:

Pop culture has played a significant role in shaping men's underwear preferences. Iconic personalities, such as actors or athletes, have influenced trends and popularized certain styles of underwear. Celebrity endorsements and advertising campaigns have also contributed to the popularity and visibility of some underwear brands.

6. Sustainability and ethical considerations:

In recent years, there has been an increasing focus on sustainable and ethically produced underwear. This includes the use of organic and environmentally friendly materials, fair labor practices and reducing waste through recycling and upcycling initiatives. Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental and social impact of their clothing choices, including underwear.

7. Underwear as a status symbol:

Throughout history, men's underwear has served as a symbol of status and wealth. In certain periods, only the wealthy could afford to wear luxurious and intricate underwear, made from expensive fabrics like silk or velvet. Underwear decorated with elaborate embroidery, lace or monograms became a way to display one's wealth and refinement.

8. Military influence:

Military uniforms have had an impact on men's underwear styles. During World War II, soldiers were issued standard "long johns," which were long underwear made of wool or cotton. These underwear provided warmth and insulation in cold climates. The practicality and comfort of military underwear has also influenced civilian fashion trends.

9. Athletic Support:

The development of athletic support in men's underwear is worth mentioning. In the late 19th century, the jockstrap was invented, providing the support and protection needed for athletes participating in vigorous sporting activities. Over time, sports support has been incorporated into various styles of underwear, such as briefs and compression shorts, to meet the needs of active people.

10. Cultural and regional variations:

Different cultures and regions of the world have their own styles of men's underwear. For example, the traditional Japanese underwear called fundoshi consists of a piece of cloth-like fabric wrapped around the waist and between the legs. In Scotland, the “kilt” is a traditional garment that is worn without underwear.

11. Underwear as Fashion Statements:

In recent years, men's underwear has become a fashion statement, with bold designs, patterns and colors. Underwear brands have embraced creativity and innovation, incorporating fashion-forward elements into their designs. This shift has led men to view underwear as more than just a functional item, but also as a means of expression and style.

12. Body image and comfort:

The evolution of men's underwear has also been influenced by changing notions of body image and comfort. In the past, the focus was mainly on functionality and support. However, with changing attitudes towards body positivity and individual comfort, there has been an increased demand for underwear that fits well, flatters different body shapes and promotes self-confidence.

13. Online Retailing and Customization:

The rise of online retail has allowed for greater accessibility to a wide range of men's underwear options. Online platforms offer convenience, discreet purchasing and customization options. Customers can now choose from different sizes, styles and fabric preferences, ensuring a personalized and comfortable fit.

14. Underwear as lingerie:

While men's underwear is often associated with practicality and functionality, there is also a market for men's lingerie. These are generally more provocative and sensual styles of underwear, designed to enhance the appearance of the wearer and create a sense of allure. Men's lingerie can include items like lace briefs, thongs, or mesh underwear.

15. Underwear Technology:

Technological advancements have made their way into the world of men's underwear. For example, moisture-wicking fabrics have become popular, designed to wick sweat away from the body and keep the wearer dry during physical activities. Additionally, antimicrobial treatments are sometimes applied to underwear to reduce odor-causing bacteria.

16. Special-purpose underwear:

Beyond everyday wear, there are specialized underwear available for specific purposes. For example, thermal underwear provides insulation in cold weather, while swimsuits and swim shorts are designed for swimming and water activities. Some underwear is also designed for specific sports, offering features such as padding, compression or moisture management.

17. Underwear and advertising:

Advertising for men's underwear has undergone significant changes over time. In the early 20th century, advertisements for underwear often focused on practicality and comfort, emphasizing features such as elastic waistbands or supportive designs. In recent decades, marketing campaigns have become more provocative, using sexualized images and celebrity endorsements to promote underwear brands.

18. Underwear and Men's Fashion Industry:

Men's underwear has become an integral part of the fashion industry. Designer brands and high-end fashion houses now offer their own lines of men's underwear, often featuring premium materials, unique designs and high price points. Men's underwear fashion shows and collaborations between fashion designers and underwear brands have also become more prevalent.

19. Online Communities and Reviews:

The advent of the Internet has facilitated the growth of online communities and forums where individuals can discuss and review men's underwear. These platforms allow people to share their experiences, give feedback on different brands or styles, and offer recommendations to others looking for advice in their underwear purchases.

20. Sustainability and environmentally friendly practices:

As sustainability becomes a growing concern, the production and consumption of eco-friendly men's underwear has gained ground. Some brands favor the use of organic cotton, recycled materials or implement environmentally friendly manufacturing processes.

Additionally, initiatives to reduce packaging waste and promote recycling are becoming more common.

Understanding the history of men's underwear provides insight into the cultural, social and technological developments that have shaped the underwear industry. From ancient civilizations to modern times, men's underwear has undergone significant transformations in terms of style, materials and manufacturing techniques to meet the changing needs and preferences of individuals.


The history of men's underwear is a testament to the evolution of styles, materials and preferences over time. From the simple pieces of fabric of ancient times to the technologically advanced modern underwear of today, men have sought options that provide comfort, support and aesthetics in equal measure.

Whether you prefer boxers, briefs, long johns or another variation, it is important to choose underwear that meets your individual needs for comfort, health and style.

We hope this article has helped you learn more about the fascinating history of men's underwear. Whether you're interested in the historical aspect or simply looking to understand the evolution of styles, it's clear that men's underwear has come a long way to become what it is today.

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