Every man wears one, except when he goes commando. What is it? An underwear!
Going commando is an expression for a state where men leave the underwear out of their outfit for the day. Apparently, something for those who are adventurous of nature and spirit.
Men’s underwears have not been considered as sexy or as interesting as women’s. After all, how many world’s brands and magazines do you see sold based on sexy men in undies? No Kingfisher or Maxim would sell based on undie-clad men!
Yet, it is a big market out there for men’s inner things! For the 12 months ending September 2014, the men’s underwear market had revenues of $2.7 billion and had grown 3 percent. That is in the US! The total industry of men’s undies is estimated at USD 6.5 billion!
History of the Undies
Beyond the proverbial “fig leaf” – which one wonders what it hid for a sufficiently endowed man of that era – the men of ancient and middle ages wore loin cloth around their area. In India, it is called a langot and is still used by wrestlers in local village gyms called Akharas.
In fact, the tombs of the Pharaohs revealed that the loin cloth was also worn by Egyptians in the second millennium BC. Men in ancient Greece and Rome were rather creative in that they wore loin cloth made of soft leather, linen or wood!
In the middle ages, Braies were being worn. It was typically worn by Celtic and Germanic tribes and even by the Roman – who called it Braccae. They were also made out of leather, wool, cotton or linen.
The men’s underwear was mass produced in the 1700s with the advent of Industrial revolution. In 1874, a tailor in a sporting goods company in Chicago invented “Jockstrap”. Later Jockstrap was used more by the bike riders. These kind of briefs support a man’s genitals but expose his butts.
Let us look at how the briefs gained in popularity.
Briefs were first sold on January 19, 1935 by Coopers, Inc., in Chicago, Illinois at Marshall Field’s department store. They dubbed the new undergarment the “Jockey” because it offered a similar degree of support as the jockstrap (one style of which is also called jock brief or support briefs). The designer of the new style was reportedly inspired by a postcard he had received from a friend visiting the French Riviera depicting a man in a very short, form-fitting bathing suit. Thirty thousand pairs were sold within three months of their introduction.
In North America, “Jockey shorts” or “Jockeys” became an often used generic term for men’s briefs. More recently, “tighty-whiteys” has become a commonly used nickname for briefs.
In the UK, briefs were first sold in 1938. Soon, shops were selling 3,000 briefs per week. They were so popular that in 1948, every member of the British Olympic team was given a free pair of briefs.
In Britain, the term “jockeys” has not caught on and briefs are often referred to as “Y-fronts”. The term derives from the genericized trademark “Y-Front”, property of Jockey International. It in turn derives from the inverted Y-shape formed by the seams at the front of the underpants. The colloquialism is used even when the fly opening may differ in style, and not actually form the shape of the inverted letter “Y” fly on Coopers Jockey brand briefs.
In Australia, briefs are referred to as “jocks” but should not be confused with jockstraps (more specifically used by athletes) which expose the buttocks. Australians generally use the word briefs to refer to the bikini-style underwear for men, which do not have the Y-front opening.
Overall, brief (or jockeys or Y-fronts) remain the most popular type of briefs for men.
Fertility and Underwears
Some experts aver that what a man wears under his pants – and the type of pants themselves for that matter – impacts his fertility. Simply put, boxer briefs and loose pants boost sperm count. Why? Because it lowers the temperature of the testes.
The temperature of the testes is at issue: In order for testes to produce sufficient quality and quantity of sperm, the temperature of testes must be lower than the core body temperature.
“That is why [testes] are located outside of the body,” explains Celia E. Dominguez, reproductive endocrinologist, Center for Reproductive Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine. “Testes were made to be out in the breeze.”
Testes can overheat when a man wears brief underwear. If the testes are too hot — several degrees above where they should be — they are not able to produce sufficient sperm, resulting in low sperm count.
Types of Underwears
Over the years, many types of men’s underwears have been designed. Here is a brief (pun intended) cheat-sheet.
Boxers: cotton or silk undergarment based on shorts. They were invented for boxers in the 1920s, hence the name. The Boxers today are of two types – boxer shorts or boxer briefs. The boxer shorts are made of cotton and are loose fitting. Boxer briefs are long in the leg, like boxer shorts but tighter-fitting, like briefs, basically a combo.
Briefs: are full rise. Which means they covers the body from the waist to the top of the thigh. They generally come with a flap/fly for easy maneuvering when a man is relieving himself. In times of urgency (of many kinds!), this can be a boon unexplained unless experienced.
There are different types of briefs:
Low rise briefs: In these, the waistband rests on the hip approximately 3″ below the waist and have become popular with the low cut pants in vogue these days.
Mid-rise briefs: These have lower rise than a standard brief. The waistband sits approximately 2″ below the waistline, just at or above the navel.
Sports briefs: These have a front cup and a back panel, but the sides are simply an elastic waistband
Jockstrap: comprises a wide elastic waistband with a support pouch that holds an impact resistant protective cup or box to protect the testicles from injury and two straps extending from the base of the pouch around the buttocks to the sides of the waistband.
Thong: The front cup panel is kept in place by a tape that goes through the legs and attaches in the center back on the waistband. This is a style used in athletics for more support, or when minimal coverage is desired.
There are many other types – some quite exotic and crafted to “raise the mood” of the wearer and the viewer but we will let them out of this post for your own “discrete” research.
Advertisements for Men’s Underwears
Those who have grown up in India will surely remember the “Andar ki baat hai” slogan of Rupa Underwear which has gone onto denote secret machinations and corporate politics in general parlance now.
The other one which has been very popular in yesteryears was the VIP Frenchie.
But here is a funny advertisement which goes to address one of the most important issues that men face with their underwears – “Adjusting the set”. They have used that issue to sell!
Men’s undies aren’t the boring simple thing that they have been made out always. For the wearer (and those engaging with him discretely) it can assume immense importance.
Below is an infographic which gives a very detailed view of the mens underwear market. It is obvious that it isn’t something to brush aside.