Who Invented Underwear Anyway?


Who Invented Underwear?

underwear-history-ancient-greeceIsn’t it strange when you imagine life without something so essential?

The bowl.

The wheel.

Your smartphone.

Yet everything had to be invented by someone. As purveyors of the best underwear that the world of designer brands has to offer the modern bear, we felt it was our duty to understand where it all started and educate the rest of you!

But a little digging around in the bush has shown us that it isn’t that straight-forward. Unlike most inventions, where one man has a lightbulb moment and suddenly a new thing exists, the wearing of undergarments by humans is more of a journey. A slow burn, shall we say…

The Ancient Underwear World


A long, long time before our branded waistband boxers, the ancient Egyptians were covering their nether regions with loin cloths. In the middle ages, these linen shorts even got a name; “braies.”

However, the lady bears, being either slightly more fussy or slightly less, depending on how you want to look at it, well they didn’t bother wearing knickers until the 19th Century. But they were wearing corsets a few hundred years before that, like an old-fashioned version of our modern day support wear.

Knickers and Pants

Knickers is a funny old word, mostly used in Britain to be fair. It comes from a book called “History of New York” by Diedrich Knickerbocker (but actually written by someone else) in which the illustrations showed a Dutchman wearing long, loose fitting garments on his lower body. Loose men’s trousers became known as “knickerbockers”. Then women’s underwear took the same name. The word was eventually shortened to knickers.

Our friends in America call women’s underwear panties, which obviously comes from pants. And pants derives from a character in Italian comedy called Pantalone, after whom 18th Century men’s underwear was nicknamed “pantaloons.” Shorted to, you guessed it, pants.

South Pole Socks


For a long time then, underwear was famed for how practical it was, not how pretty. Nothing proves this more than the choosing of our brand chums Wolsey® by Captain Scott and his team, to keep their bums and feet warm during the infamous 1911 race to the South Pole. Almost a century later they would become the first company in the UK to receive the British Standard 5750 for quality systems in sock manufacture. They’re THAT good.

Paolo Nespoli would later beat that trunk claim to fame when he wore Sloggi® briefs on his STS-120 mission to outer space in 2007!

So the idea of covering the old private parts isn’t new. But the idea of wanting them to look good while covered, well that is a little more recent…

The Birth Of Lingerie

As far back as the 1860s, women were introducing coloured fabrics into their underwear collection. Triumph Lingerie® was born in 1886 and would go on to become leaders in the lingerie world. In the 19th Century, women began to appreciate underwear decorated with lace and bands – the first sniff of a type of lingerie. It would be the 1940s, however, before it was highly fashionable for women to wear luxurious briefs. But during this decade Britain was at war (WWII) and clothes were rationed so women sometimes made their own knickers from parachute silk.

Stockings, Hold Ups and Tights

Nylon stockings had been around since the 30s but it would be much later, in 1959, that tights (pantyhose) would become part of the lingerie look. The classic Y-front style of men’s pants went on sale in the USA in 1935, and then in Britain in 1938.

The Boxer Short


Also back in the 1930’s, our very good friends at Jockey® were revolutionising men’s underwear with the introduction of the “boxer short”. In 1934, Arthur Kneibler received a post card from the French Riviera showing a man in a bikini style swimsuit. It inspired the creation of the famous Jockey® brief.

The day of the product’s debut, Chicago’s popular Marshall Field & Company store sold out of its stock by midday! The Jockey® short was a national sensation. In 1947 their brand name was stitched into the waistband of the underwear for the first time, a trend that would become synonymous with men’s designer underwear to this day for brands like Tommy Hilfiger® and Calvin Klein®.

And we might think that it’s only modern society that was risqué enough to invent things like crotchless underwear but actually, it wasn’t until the 20th Century that women’s underwear began to be made completely closed!

Inventing The Bra


The ultimate staple of the 21st Century lady bear’s underwear drawer – the bra – is the most recent of all the inventions. It was 1913 when Mary Phelps Jacob invented the modern bra, using two handkerchiefs joined by ribbon. It would be another 50 years before Wonderbra® would revolutionise the market with their take on it. One of our favourites, Triumph Lingerie® worked on their first prototype bra in 1919. Their groundbreaking developments would use elastics for the first time just 20 years later.

Barely-There Underwear

Thongs were invented in the 70s but didn’t become really popular until the 1990s, and even more recently have the Tanga and Thong shapes started to become a popular choice in men’s underwear!

And now we have a vast array to choose from – balconette bras and push-ups, seamless technology and body contouring. Man bears too take their underwear more seriously as part of their fashion routine, with breathable fabrics, a variety of leg and waist lengths and a multitude of patterns and colours.

There’s no doubt the pantaloons have come a long way, and at UtilityBear.com we’re to help you find the best of what the modern world has to offer your grizzly bear-bits!

One thought on “Who Invented Underwear Anyway?

  1. This was a really interesting post, it’s interesting to see the change in men’s underwear especially as there are so many options available for them these days!

    Liked by 1 person

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