The Mindset List® of UNDERWEAR
You ae likely wearing undergarments while you read this. What’s in an undergarment—mindsets, that’s what. The history of underwear is a history of mindsets—about outer versus inner, about discretion versus convenience, about civilization versus comfort, about sex appeal versus repression of same, and about men versus women. Go backstage with us now to consider, say, the Victoria’s Secret Mindset of Fruit of the Loom!
1 As he began his life of crime in Breaking Bad, Walter White found it so hot in the meth lab that he had to strip down to his jockey shorts—yes, they were white.
2 The loin cloth was the earliest type of underwear, but only the rich could afford to have a portion of imported silk along with the wool and linen.
3 King Tut was buried with untold riches but didn’t neglect to include his loincloth in the tomb.
4 The loin cloth goes back 7000 years ago to present-day Hawaii.
5 The first medieval under garments weren’t under at all—at first—but were trousers (braies) worn when working outside.
6 In time the trousers went “under” as padding to relieve the discomfort of mail armor worn on the legs.
7 An added and convenient feature of these trousers: the codpiece, the flap of which obviated the need to remove all armor in order to pee.
8 Henry VIII padded his codpiece in order to emphasize his faux manhood—this started a trend.
9 Women in the later Middle Ages wore smocks and gowns, the latter well-decorated; and these too were displayed openly until later, when they too went “under.”
10 The first corsets were designed to flatten, not emphasize, the bust.
11 The cotton gin revolutionized underwear, as mass-market cotton textiles became available.
12 By the 1820s whales were incessantly killed for their corset-reinforcing bones, which now squeezed women’s waists to become so tiny that their breasts were more manifest than at any other previous time in history.
13 Whales lost their lives in the process, and sometimes women were so confined as to faint in public.
14 As fashion shifted to shorter skirts, pantaloons were in demand to cover the legs.
15 Even so, pantaloon crotches were left open in the interests of hygiene.
16 It would only be a matter of time until fashion would insist that women’s bottoms also be accentuated—hence, the relatively short-lived bustle.
17 By the turn of the 20th century “Long Johns” were popular for men, women, and kids alike, but with a back flap to ease visits to the toilet.
18 The first actually comfortable corset—which stretched and removed the need for steel or whale bone—was called the “Liberty Bodice.”
19 In time, the Long John for men underwent fission, with underwear and undershirts two separate items.
20.By the 1920s there were actually ads for men’s underwear, stressing comfort and durability.
21 Boxer shorts for men spun off from boxing trunks; jockey shorts, from jockey straps, or “athletic supporters.”
22 The first bra came onto the market in 1914.
23 Bloomers began to replace pantaloons, but starting in the 1920s, hemlines got higher, comfort began to reign, bras began to flourish, and the days of the corset were numbered.
24 The first “panties” were called “step-ins.”
25 Women shed bloomers and began to cover their legs with stockings, held up by something called a “garter belt.”
26 In an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David’s estranged wife dates a man who manufactures “fly-less” men’s underwear.
27 After the Second World War, underwear actually became a fashion item, with lavish colors and synthetic materials such as dacron, rayon, and nylon.
28 Christian Dior gave the world the “Bullet-Pointed Bra.”
29 Fredericks of Hollywood made the first “Wonder Bra.”
30 As the 1960s dawned, the panty hose dawned with them.
31 In time, these would be prescribed by doctors for men and women alike who suffered from vascular leg problems.
32 The star quarterback Joe Namath became a spokesman for a leading panty house maker and was his own best role model.
33 As the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have worn on, underwear has become increasingly entangled with sex appeal, with the G-String or “thong” no longer confined to exotic dancers.
34 Underwear had not entirely lost his glamorous mystery, as the Victoria’s Secret Company long proved.
35 Bill Clinton was asked which underwear he wore—boxers.
36 Calvin Klein used almost nude male models to market his fashionable boxer shorts.
37 Underwear sales worldwide now top over 100 billion dollars a year.
38 10-year-old Jack Singer wore over 200 pair of underwear at once in 2010—a world record.
39 From the annals of “spontaneous combustion”: Before the early 1800s it was believed that pairing dirty underwear in a bucket with wheat germ would generate mice.
40 In Italy, ringing in the new year while wearing red underwear is thought to bring good luck.
41 Queen Victoria’s white cream underwear, embroidered with VR, is not priceless, but it did sell for nearly 15 grand.
42 As part of the anti-war movement in the 1960s, women’s underwear was sometimes emblazoned with PEACE and LOVE.
43 As men thought women should not wear anything between their legs, they were consigned to protection from petticoats alone.
44 Marie Antoinette once scandalized the French court by wearing a chemise dress previously used as underwear.
45 If you can find some, antimicrobial underwear can be worn for three months at a time.
46 Muslin was a popular material for underwear in 1903—and a necessary one for the Wright Brothers’ maiden flight.
47 Twelve percent of American consumers still own underwear that’s around eight years old.
48 Wearing underwear that’s been stored in a deep freeze, in order to keep cool, remains inadvisable and reserved only for the desperate.
49 Carrie Fisher wore no underwear during the filming of Star Wars because George Lucas persuaded her that there was no underwear in Outer Space.
50 Major league baseball umpires must wear black underwear in case their pants split on the field.