A Short History of Underwear: Part 4 – 1930s – 2000.

A Short History of Underwear: Part 4 – 1930s – 2000.

A big revolution in men’s underwear came in 1934 – with the introduction of Jockey’s Y-Front range. Having begun manufacturing men’s snug-fitting briefs – considered risqué at the time – in 1930, this new innovative Y-front diagonal vent feature was soon adapted into boxers and briefs as well as into long-johns.

In 1936, a company called Munsingwear developed the horizontal vent line of men’s undies known as the “kangaroo pouch”.

Nothing much changed during the early 1940s, while the world was at war. To save for the war effort, Jockey stopped using elastic waistbands for a time and reintroduced the woven band with side buttons. In addition to this, unbeknownst to the civilians back home, soldiers wore boxer shorts in army-green – important for camouflage, as white shorts drying on a line in the jungle would have been far too obvious!

After the war, pre-shrunk cotton blend fabrics were used for underwear manufacture, and briefs and boxers became the norm for everyday wear..

Print patterns became available for the first time by the 1950s. Simple geometric patterns were followed by wild animals, playing cards and dice, to name but a small sample of what was available.Synthetic fibres were also introduced in the 1950s, including rayon and nylon, affording more comfort and better fit.

Thanks in part to cinema, the T-shirt graduated from being purely an undershirt and became acceptable outerwear for certain circumstances.  Notably, stars like James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause”, and Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire”, brought the T-shirt-as-a-shirt to the attention of the masses and the fashion for it took off.


The biggest evolution in the 1960s and early 1970s for underwear was that it was coming off! The hippie and liberation movements saw youth shed their undies as a protest – against anything they felt the need to protest, including the Vietnam War.

In the 1970s T-shirts began to be used for advertising – rock bands, movies, businesses, branding, sporting teams, etc.  Wearing what you love or showing your allegiance to on your chest was desirable, especially among teens and younger people. And as exercise for its own sake came more into vogue, the jockstrap was a popular piece for lots of men.

In 1982, men’s undies became more of a fashion item as Calvin Klein launched his men’s undies line. Some of the most famous advertising campaigns since have been for this brand.

Today the range of available men’s undies is enormous – long gone are the days where we sewed them at home.  Men tend to personally prefer either “boxer” or “brief” (or commando!) – but comfort, a sense of protection, and a certain level of enhancement are qualities a man seeks in his choice of undies – and that has not changed in over two thousand years!

Next Week: Part 5: Women’s Corsetry #1