In the 13th century, pull-on underpants were invented. The style was still loose but the design now resembled a garment of clothing. The new loose fitting underwear was called ‘braies‘. The wearer stepped into them, lacing them up at the waist and at the calf. These baggy draws were often made from linen being worn by peasants and Kings alike.
Come the Renaissance the braies became tighter and shorter, a convenient flap was designed to urinate through and this would be buttoned or tied shut, thus being classed as one of the earliest codpieces. Men no longer had the fear of being exposed; they were secure in their undergarments. As time went on the codpiece became more elaborate, Henry the VIII started a trend of padding the crotch out to accentuate the manhood. This became so popular that it went on until the late 16th century.
The Tudors were followed by several centuries of more demure smalls, bringing on the next step of design, which was to experiment with different types of fabric. Men were now opting for long cotton, silk or linen drawers. With the Victorians adding a button fastening to the fly for ease and comfort, undergarments were starting evolve. Elaborate fastenings at the knee like a row of buttons or an adjustable tie would be used to hold the leg in place and to make the braies less noticeable under the gentleman’s attire.
The beginning of mass produced underwear was started between 1760 and 1840 during the industrial revolution. With the invention of water powered spinning machines, the ‘cotton-gin’ made fabrics more widely available. For the first time people began buying underwear in stores rather than making them by hand at home.The standard undergarment of this period was the union suit, this covered you fully from your wrists to your ankles. This later became known as the Long John.
Shreddies | Cotes Mill, Loughborough, United Kingdom