From the Middle Ages to the first decade of 20th century most men wore tight-fitting linen under-trousers of varying lenght. Rather than having a fly front, they had a buttoned opening at the rear. From Victorian times into the first decades of new century, union suit was so popular in several countries. It was a kind of all-in-one flannel underwear usually wore by workers. Later men began wearing these jumpsuits that matched their shirts. Union suit was cut at the begining of 20th century so you could wear a top and the ‘long johns’ separately.


Boxer shorts trace their heritage back to the long woolen drawers worn by boxers in the nineteenth century. But it was when the heavyweight fighters Jim Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons both abandoned traditional boxers’ tights in favor of shorter trunks, at the turn of the 20th century, that an icon was born.

Shaun Cole’s ‘The Story of Men’s Underwear ‘argues that the term boxer shorts was named after the heavyweight boxer Jack Dempsey, who won the 1919 world title in a pair of long loose shorts. Shorts of similar cut, made of lightweight fabrics, were soon being produced as underwear.

Boxers gained popularity when they were issued to United States infantrymen for summer wear during World War I. Cotton boxer shorts with buttons to adjust waist. Soldiers found their baggy undershorts to be comfortable both because of their loose fit and because they allowed air to circulate in warmer temperatures. In 1925 Jacob Golomb, founder of boxing brand Everlast, began to tweak their leather trunks worn by pugilists opting for an elastic band. Modern boxer shorts was born at that moment.


Boxer shorts were later eclipsed in the late 1930s. Arthur Kneibler, a executive at Coopers, Inc, received a telegram from a close friend in France and the picture on the front of the postcard was a man wearing a small bikini-style swim suit. He then created the first underpants denuded of any legs and featuring a Y-shaped opening. He would eventually name ‘Jockey shorts’ because of the similar support that an athletic cup offered.


US army wore a military issued olive drab boxer style short in World War II. That color was chosen for camouflage purposes, especially important on the occasions when the shorts were drying on make shift clotheslines throughout the battlefronts. The decisive push for mainstream acceptance of the boxer shorts started at the end of WWII, when soldiers returning home began incorporating them into their casual wardrobe.

In the 50s shirts designs landed in boxer shorts collections. It started with simple geometric shapes like vertical stripes and simple squares. While the basic shorts and boxers were still the standard, the creativity of their over-all print patterns was unlimited.


Boxer shorts and briefs had varying ratios of sales for the following years, with strong regional and generational preferences. Furthermore, studies have suggested that tight underwear and high temperature are not optimally conductive for sperm production. Boxer fans say it is natural to hang free, allowing air to circulate.

The 70s was a decade dominated by brief because tight trousers but the battle lines were redrawn in 1985 when english model and musician Nick Kamen sat in that 50s style launderette wearing crisp, cotton shorts for a Levi´s commercial. Same decade, a company named Joe Boxer began to introduce funny and comedic underwear in US. Joe Boxer really jumped into the spotlight when it made boxers printed with the image of hundred-dollar bills and the Secret Service decided that these duds violated forgery laws and confiscated 1,000 units.

Designer brands like Calvin Klein or Paul Smith introduced men’s underwear line too and turned the perception of men’s underwear to one of a fashionable item. Finally first 90s brought the introduction of a new style, the boxer brief, that has been increasing their market share in the last years.