Is it all just a load of old pants?
Before the boxers versus briefs debate, came the creation of the Y-front. Colin Bisset traces the design history and evolution of the iconic underpants, from its origins in French Riviera to the billboards of New York City. In the days when what a man wore beneath his trousers was of no interest to anyone but his lover, knee-length flannel drawers or full-length long johns kept him warm. Apart from the flamboyantly decorated codpiece of the sixteenth century, men's underwear had always been a discreet part of a man's wardrobe, worn to protect the body from itchy clothing and to protect clothing from a dirty body. Undergarments were worn mainly by the wealthier classes, although this changed in the nineteenth century, when men were more likely to undress in company for work or sport and needed cover for the sake of Victorian modesty. By the s, the Western world had fallen in love with the notion of physical exercise, thanks in part to the newsreels of the time, which regularly broadcast sport.
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