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A Deep Dive Into the History of Sports Underwear

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We have all heard tales that have been passed down from the generation to generation. These include feats of bravery, intelligence, and more. But, the tale we are exploring today is one that usually remains hidden. It’s the story of a piece of cloth that covers one of the most delicate parts of the human body. It’s the story of a product so important that the Victoria and Albert museum in London had an entire exhibition “Undressed: A History of Underwear” dedicated to it. It’s the story of Underwears.

A Brief History of Briefs

The origins of how we arrived to the modern-day underwear reaches quite far back. The first version of any type of underwear was the humble loincloth.

“First appearing over 7000 years ago the ancient loincloth was a simple strip of cloth that was passed between the legs and tied in place to keep a person’s groin area safe.”

It is the first indication that men had learnt to cover their groin area not just as a means of protection but also as an aesthetic tool.
The loincloth was inherited by the Egyptians, with records from around 3000 B.C. showing that the Egyptians wore loincloths made of woven material. These were either tied to be kept in place or were tightened with a belt. The Pharaohs themselves wore specialized loincloths that kept them company even in afterlife ( The Egyptian king Tutankhamun was buried with multiple loincloths). 

The Roman Twist: Subligaculum and more

The Romans brought with them a transformation to the regular underwear. It was called the Subligaculum (sounds more like a medical term than an undergarment right?). It was shaped like shorts or a wrapped loincloth and was worn by both men and women. This loincloth reflected the Romans’ indulgence for life, as it could be modified to accommodate the bandages needed to help with a Syphillis infection.
But, post the fall of the Roman empire the mention of any form of undergarments cease to exist. It is only in the 13th century that the next mention of an underpant is made. These were called “Braies”. They were baggy, calf-length pants that were usually made from linen. Braeis were a uniting factor across society as everyone from a peasant to even kings wore these. Linen was preferred because of its softer nature. But, these braies needed to be laced around the waist and the calves, making convenience a hassle. Imagine having to use the washroom when in these? Phew. And so the evolution of the underwear continued.
To solve the problems posed by Braeis, the codpiece was created. These were similar to braeis but opened up in the front via lace or buttons, making them much more convenient. For various reasons, royalty and the regular population alike started padding the insides of codpiece (why did they do that, we wonder). Through the Renaissance, the evolution of the braeis continued, with tudor pants and other variations.
A common undergarment in the late 19th century was the union suit. It was a single-piece garment that buttoned up at the front. It had sleeves for the arms and legs (covering both the wrists and the ankles). It had a buttoned flap on the backside to help with trips to the washroom. By the time the Union Suit and its successor, the Long Johns faded, the modern era had been ushered in. And with it came the Boxers.

Into the modern era with boxers

A brief look into the history of boxers reveals its deep association with the sport it shares its name with. Until the 1920s men usually wore tight, knee-length pant-like garments under their outer clothes (yep, not comfortable at all). All of this changed in 1925. Jacob Golomb, the founder of Everlast, a boxing equipment company, created trunks for professional boxers with elastic waistbands. Though these weren’t an immediate success, they really came into their own by the end of the second World War. 
In 1934, the underwear industry changed once again! This time it was Arthur Kenibler, an executive and designer at Coopers Inc., who had an epiphany that led him to create what was the “Jockey shorts” (yep, its exactly what you think it is). These were trunks that were reminiscent of jockstraps. These trunks were wildly popular and sold 30,000 pairs within the first three months of their introduction. Eventually in 1971, Coopers Inc. changed its name to Jockey. 
Eventually, by the 1980s and 90s, underwears truly came into their own. From being hidden deep within the drawers, these became things that could be flaunted. They developed their own style and different cuts. Even through the early and mid-2000s, underwears grew in importance to the point where that the men’s underwear industry was even considered an importance indicator of the economy’s health in the US.

Where do underwears stand today?

Today, underwears straddle a dual path. They are both a necessity and a statement for people. The cuts have evolved to be more fashionable and the materials used have changed. There has also been a rise in specialized underwear for different requirements, especially sports and fitness. This has coincided with the rise in people who are health conscious. 
TRYB understands that the demands of an active and healthy lifestyle necessitate specific gear to facilitate the same. Our products focus on addressing the specific concerns that people have as they try to achieve their fitness goals. These range from excessive sweating to chafing and more.
The future? Well, the future looks exciting and we can’t wait to create what will inevitably be a part of history going forward!

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