The History of Men’s Underwear–from the caveman’s loin cloth to the Calvin Klein boxer-brief


The primary purpose of underwear is to protect principal garments from bodily soilure. (In a world without underwear, men who do not properly clean themselves would have “skid marks” on their Brooks Brothers suit-pants rather than on their Fruit of the Loom underpants! And thank God it is relatively inexpensive T-shirts—rather than relatively expensive dress shirts—that bear the brunt of those unsightly underarm deodorant and perspiration stains). Undergarments serve the additional purposes of supporting, contouring, and protecting certain body-parts. And in addition to providing warmth, underwear, if styled properly and selected appropriately, may enhance sex appeal.

History of Men’s Skivvies

Throughout history, the relationship between underwear and primary garments can best be characterized as “in-again, out-again.” For example, what would become the earliest manifestation of underwear—the loin cloth—actually began as outerwear. But as man’s ability to clothe himself evolved, the loin cloth lost its prominence as king of outerwear and was relegated to the humble position of underwear. When the naturally mummified body of Ötzi the “ice man,” who lived around 3300 B.C.E., was discovered in the Ötztal Alps between Italy and Austria in 1991, underneath his cloak of woven grass was a leather loin cloth, indicating that by 5,000 years ago, loin cloths had already become underwear rather than serving as the outerwear they once were for Ötzi’s cave-dwelling ancestors. And Egyptian tombs dating from as early as the second millennium B.C.E. contain extra supplies of linen loin cloths (which the Egyptians would wear under their linen skirts) to sustain them into the afterlife. The wrap-around loin cloth served as underwear for centuries until the Middle Ages—in the 13th century—when step-into, pull-up underwear was invented. Typically made of linen, men would step into their drawers, called “braies,” then secure them around the waist and at the mid-calf by tying or lacing. While the historical record suggests that men of all social classes wore braies during the Middle Ages, only men of the upper echelons wore “chausses”—tights that covered their feet and the lower portions of their legs.

During the Renaissance, chausses became form-fitting (like present-day hose) and covered the entire foot and leg, resulting in braies becoming shorter so as to allow for more of the chausses-covered legs to be exposed. During the Renaissance, then, long, skin-tight chausses and short braies—both regarded as underwear during the Middle Ages—became outerwear. (But See Piero della Francesca’s The Baptism of Christ [1450], where a half-dressed figure is wearing the mid-15th century equivalent of a Jockey-cut white brief).

Men’s underwear as it is primarily known today—the “tighty whitey” look—began taking form in the Victorian era. Until the early 19th century, underwear was made in the home, by hand, primarily of woven linen, cotton, wool, or silk fabrics. Underpants were loose-fitting, extended to the knees, and typically had a drawstring waist. Undershirts, also loose-fitting, resembled what is today referred to as the “painter’s shirt,” but without the collar. But it was the Industrial Revolution plus two pre-Victorian inventions—the knitting machine by William Lee in 1589, and Eli Whitney’s cotton gin in 1793—that led to the mass production of machine-knitted cotton underwear, beginning in the last decades of the 1800s. And for the first time, rather than treating “intimate apparel” intimately, men would purchase ready-made underwear from retail stores instead of having the garments made by hand at home.

By the 1870s in the United States, the standard men’s underwear was the “union suit,” so called because it was an all-in-one, skin-tight undergarment typically made of machine-knitted cotton or wool. Union suits featured buttons down the center-front, from its crew neckline to the crotch, and covered men to their wrists and ankles (Women and children also wore union suits). Some union suits were knee-length and sleeveless. The union suit would remain the gold standard in men’s underwear until the 1930s, when boxers and briefs became preferred. By the late 1800s, men’s knitted underwear was also being made in two separate parts: a long-sleeved top, and long-legged pants. Unlike union suits, the separate tops were only buttoned quarter-way from the neck. And it was those undershirts that became the inspiration for what would become the Henley shirt (See Henley Shirt above, this chapter). The separate underpants were secured at the waist by buttons, snaps, tie-closures, or drawstring. (In World War II, long, skin-tight underpants that extended to the ankles—but were not connected to a top—were issued to American soldiers. And because they resembled the boxing gear prized fighter John L. Sullivan would wear during the height of his career between 1882 and 1892, they were dubbed “Long Johns,” a term still applied to fitted, long-legged underpants).

Elastic, invented by Thomas Hancock in 1820, revolutionized underwear over a century later in the 1930s by simplifying it: Underwear could be put on and taken off easily; buttons, snaps, and tie-closures became superfluous or irrelevant (During World War II, with a shortage of the rubber needed to manufacture elastic, buttons, “French backs,” and snaps were again used as fasteners and size-adjusters in men’s underwear); and since underpants could be secured at the waist (rather than supported from the shoulders), the union suit fell out of favor, boxers and briefs becoming all the rage. The 1930s also saw the introduction of functional design elements—such as the Y-vent, access-flap, and “kangaroo pouch”—to boxers and briefs. And leg, arm, and neck bands were added to knit briefs and undershirts for enhanced fit and aesthetics.

Color was introduced to underwear in the 1940s. And as with so many other fashion trends throughout history, the inspiration came from the military: During World War II, soldiers were issued olive-drab undergarments, which, when hung out to dry on battlefields, provided for better camouflage than traditional white underwear. Another major advancement in underwear in the 1940s came as a result of nylon, which served as the foundation of a new outlook on the cut and fit of men’s underwear. The use of Sanforized (preshrunk) fabrics also became commonplace in the production of underwear in the 1940s—and for good cause since before that technology, men would have to buy underwear one size larger in order to accommodate for shrinkage when laundered.

The in-again, out-again relationship between underwear and primary garments was perhaps epitomized in the 1950s when the T-shirt became a popular outer garment for young men (See The T-shirt above). It was also in that decade that patterned briefs became popular. For the first time, underwear was used to express personal style or to make fashion statements. Synthetic fabrics allowed for innovative designs, and color and patterns (some whimsical) became commonplace. The bikini brief, inspired by women’s swimwear of the late 1940s, made its menswear debut in the 1950s—in everything from salacious animal-skin prints to peekaboo mesh fabrics.

Led by Italy’s Peppino Gheduzzi, the 1960s was the decade of overall elasticity in men’s underwear. Rather than using elastic only in waistbands, elasticized fabrics such as Spandex were used to construct entire undergarments, thereby allowing for close-fitting silhouettes and support. The stretchability of such fabrics also enabled smaller, less cumbersome underwear. By the end of the 1960s, however, with the coming of the Hippie Movement and the attendant Sexual Revolution, some men completely eschewed underpants, even if undershirts became evermore popular, being elevated not only to shirt- status, but also to “talking-shirt” status as men used words, symbols, and other graphics on T-shirts to make social and political statements.

If the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s encouraged men to take off their conventional underpants, then the sexy underwear of the ’70s and the designer underwear of the ’80s encouraged them to put their “undies” back on. While the design and marketing of women’s underwear had from decades earlier embraced a sexual component (à la Frederick’s of Hollywood, established in 1947 by Frederick Mellinger, inventor of the push-up bra), it was not until the 1970s that men’s underwear became intentionally sexual. And as the sexual element got bigger, the underwear itself got smaller—and tighter. By the mid-1980s, designers, led by Calvin Klein, were styling sexy underwear and marketing them in sexy packaging typically depicting muscular male models—like Antonio Sabato, Jr., and Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg—packing “six-pack” abdomens. In addition to fitted boxer-briefs (a hybrid featuring the length of traditional boxer shorts, but with the close fit of traditional knit briefs), men started wearing thong, jockstrap-inspired, and G-string underwear. And just as women’s underwear offered support and enhancement features, some men’s underwear was designed and constructed to support and enhance the male anatomy.

One of the most appreciated advancements in men’s underwear in the 21st century came from HanesBrands: In a campaign that used basketball legend Michael Jordan as its spokesperson, the company led the way in replacing abrasive, annoying, skin-irritating manufacturers’ labels with labels printed directly onto the inside fabric of underwear—much to the delight of customers. Other major underwear manufacturers immediately followed suit.

The internet has also significantly advanced men’s underwear. During the first half of the 20th century, only a handful of manufacturers were regarded as viable in the underwear industry: Fruit of the Loom, Jockey, Hanes, Zimmerli of Switzerland, and BVD, for example. Then in the 1980s and ’90s, with the rising popularity of “designer underwear,” the market expanded to include such labels as Calvin Klein, 2(x)ist, Pierre Cardin, and Perry Ellis. Still, though, without major financial backing and access to and a presence in major retail establishments, small underwear companies struggled for market share. A few companies such as International Male cultivated niche markets through direct-mail catalog sales. But with the popularity of the internet, beginning in the late 1990s, small, “boutique” underwear manufacturers have been able to cultivate wide-reaching customer bases with their innovative designs, resulting in the commercial success of companies like Andrew Christian, C-IN2, Diesel, Jack Adams, and Good Devil. In addition, hosting sites such as and serve as umbrellas for a plethora of up-and-coming men’s underwear companies.

And the in-again, out-again relationship between underwear and primary garments appears to be alive and well going into the 21st century. The tank top is now treated as a shirt in the young, well-muscled, Western man’s wardrobe, and the hip-hop tradition of wearing loose-fitting pants low on the hips so as to deliberately display boxer shorts is, for the most part, regarded as a fact (albeit an unfortunate one) of 21st-century life. Even women have embraced the notion of underwear as primary garments. Since the “grunge look” of the 1990s, the daughters and granddaughters of the women who defiantly burned their bras in the 1960s are deliberately showing their bra straps, wearing bras with garments designed to be worn without support.


Undergarments are the first line of defense against bodily odor and soilure and should therefore be laundered with special care—above and beyond that stated on the manufacturers’ care labels. Because undergarments are worn directly against the skin, they are most effectively laundered inside-out after being pre-soaked for about 24 hours. Special care, for example, should be given to the armholes of undershirts, pre-washing them by hand. And men who do not use or have access to bidets or wet-wipes should pay special attention to their underpants to ensure that they emerge stain-free from the laundering process. No lover needs to remove a gentleman’s sexy underwear only to have a head-on collision with skidmarks! Conventional deodorants tend to cause armhole discoloration on white T-shirts; but mineral salts rock deodorants are a good, stain- and residue-free alternative.


How Should Transgender People Conduct Themselves in Gender-Specific Public Restrooms?

Transgender Persons in Shared, Public, Gender-Designated Restrooms

A “transgender male” is a person with a female or part-female anatomy who self-identifies as of the masculine gender. A “transgender female” is a person with a male or part-male anatomy who self-identifies as of the feminine gender.

A transgender person whose outward appearance is consistent with the gender with which he or she identifies should use public facilities consistent with his/her self-identified gender.

When using public restroom facilities, a transgender person should, to the extent possible, conduct him/herself in a manner regarded as generally consistent with the gender with which he or she identifies. For example, a transgender female, when using the women’s restroom, should sit to urinate when using a shared facility even though her anatomy would allow for urinating from a standing position—the reason being that urinating from an upright position would alert, alarm, and may make uncomfortable other women in the facility. A transgender male, on the other hand, would not attempt to urinate at a stand-up urinal in a male restroom, but should, instead, urinate in a toilet stall from a sitting or stooping position.

A transgender male desiring access to a dispenser of feminine products within a female restroom facility should not enter the female facility, but should, instead, request the kind assistance of custodial personnel or a female entering or exiting the facility in the securing of the desired items.

Inter-sex, inter-gender, bi-gender, gender-neutral, gender-ambiguous, gender-fluid, gender-curious, a-gender, etc., persons should utilize the gender-specific public restroom that is consistent or more consistent with their outward appearance, conducting themselves accordingly therein.

As with all other matters of etiquette, one’s personal needs and wants must be balanced as against those of others. The objective should be for everyone using public restrooms to be comfortable and at ease.

With the increasing acknowledgment and acceptance of transgender people, business establishments and municipalities are increasingly offering gender-neutral restroom facilities with individual stalls, or offering gender-neutral accommodations in addition to gender-specific ones. But in the meantime, the onus is on gentlemen to make the transition as comfortable and as seamless as possible.

Don’t Shake the Snake! (Men’s Bathroom Etiquette)

Don’t Shake the Snake

After a hundred years of indoor plumbing and billions of complaints and reminders from women, men have finally learned that they must lift the toilet seat before urinating. And it will probably take another hundred years for them to learn to return the seat to its lowered position after urinating. But men’s bathroom etiquette does not begin and end with toilet seats. (In public restrooms, by the way, rather than doing the “male thing”—lifting the seat with one’s shoe-protected foot so as to avoid having to touch the usually filthy seat with one’s bare hands—a gentleman should use a handful of toilet paper to protect his hands as the seat is lifted, discarding the used paper into the trashcan. Lifting the seat with one’s foot, though tempting under some circumstances, only exacerbates the problem by adding street-germs to the ones already thriving in public bathroom stalls). After urinating into the bowl, toilet paper or a paper towel should be used to wipe away any urine that may have been misdirected onto the rim of the bowl. (If the rim is not wiped dry, the seat will be lowered onto the urine-splattered rim, causing the next gentleman, who, like all other gentlemen, will raise the seat before urinating, to have to handle an unclean toilet seat. After flushing, the seat and the lid (if there is one) should be lowered so that the subsequent occupant encounters a wiped-clean, closed toilet.

One of the reasons there is usually so much urine around toilets instead of in them is because most men—even gentle ones—have never been told, not even by their dear mothers and older sisters, that the penis should be wiped dry with toilet tissue after urinating. (Somehow, men think that only women need to wipe themselves dry after urinating). Instead, most men, almost ritualistically, but certainly triumphantly, stand over the toilet, trying to skillfully shake any residual urine into the bowl. But shaking and aiming are opposing actions, resulting in about half of what was intended to go into the bowl landing elsewhere—sometimes embarrassingly onto the very gentleman’s trousers. Obvious solution: After urinating, a man should simply use a few squares of toilet tissue to wipe his glans dry, discarding the paper into the toilet before flushing.

When using a toilet where people outside the bathroom or those in nearby spaces are likely to overhear what is taking place in the bathroom, a gentleman must conduct himself with utmost discretion. When urinating, for example, it would be polite under the circumstances to direct the flow of urine onto the porcelain next to the water reservoir as opposed to directly into the water, thereby reducing the possibility of announcing to those in audible vicinity exactly what is taking place within the bathroom. In other words, when nature calls, a gentleman need not call attention to it.

Hands should always be washed with soap and water after urinating. And a conscientious gentleman, even in a public restroom, will always use paper towels to ensure that the wash-basin area is cleaner and drier after his use than when he encountered it.

A bidet, a bidet! My kingdom for a bidet! (The Etiquette of the Bidet)

No Bidet? No Way!

It should be illegal, on grounds of proper hygiene and public health, to construct a 21st-century bathroom without a bidet. A bathroom without a bidet is like a kitchen without a sink or a car without windshield-wiper fluid. (Try dry-wiping a muddied windshield….Exactly!) It simply makes no sense. The fact is that dry toilet paper alone does not properly clean the anal area after a bowel movement. If that were the case, one would be able to wipe one’s hand clean with dry paper towel after spreading mustard or chocolate syrup over the hand.

There is also a proper way to wipe the anal area after a movement of the bowels: With sufficient toilet paper in hand, a man should wipe his anal area in an upward swipe, towards his back and away from his genitals. Back- and-forth wiping of the area should be avoided as it tends to spread the fecal matter rather than remove it. Some health professionals also believe that back-and-forth wiping contributes to the development of hemorrhoids; and in the case of women, it is believed to be a contributing factor to vaginal yeast infections since forward swiping tends to deposit fecal matter, and its attendant bacteria, onto or near the vagina. In countries such as the United States and those of Northern Europe where bidets are not the norm, a significant percentage of the population walks around with unclean anal areas. A gentleman, however, does not. There is no surer way to bring a racy evening to a screeching halt than to observe “skid marks” in a lover’s underwear.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to take a shower after having a movement of the bowels. (That is why bidets were invented—a very long time ago—in the first place!) After wiping the anal area with dry toilet paper, the bidet should be used to wash the anal area clean with soap and water. Today, most bidets are designed with the water-source situated towards the rear of the device, which was a much-needed improvement to some older-model bidets, where the water source was situated at the base of the bowl. (You get the point…..)

Before sitting on the bidet (Yes, that lid-less, truncated-toilet-looking contraption next to the toilet is the bidet. And no, it isn’t a miniature bathtub for swimming rubber duckies or washing feet!), the water should be allowed to run for a few seconds before being tested by the back of the hand to ensure a comfortable temperature. Once sitting on the bidet, the hand (in Islamic cultures, only the left hand), the running water, and the liquid soap which is generally provided, should be used to thoroughly cleanse the anal area. At the end of the procedure, one of the disposable hand towels, which should be situated next to the bidet, should be used to pat-dry the anal area. Thereafter, with the water still running in the bidet, additional soap should be used to preliminarily wash the hands, the bidet serving as the basin. Another clean, disposable hand towel should then be moistened and used to wipe the rim of the bidet clean. And yet another hand towel should be moistened and used to wipe-clean first the liquid soap dispenser and then the bidet faucet and spigot before the water flow is extinguished. (And while preliminarily washing the hands and tidying the bidet, the bidet is “flushed” with running water in the process). After all the disposable towels have been properly placed into the trash receptacle, a thorough washing of the hands with soap and water should be conducted in the hand-face wash basin.

Today, in private homes that have no bidets, a conscientious host or hostess will provide moist towelettes, either individually wrapped or in a dispenser, for the purpose of cleaning the anal area after a preliminary wiping with dry toilet paper. In the instances where those towelettes are of a cloth-like consistency, they should not be flushed after use as they can clog the average household toilet and/or disrupt the typical municipal sewage-processing system. Instead, they should be discretely folded to conceal any fecal residue, wrapped in paper towel or toilet paper, and placed into the wastebasket. (Obviously, then, it is of critical importance that the preliminary wiping with dry toilet paper be thorough!).

Very few public restrooms have bidets. When it is absolutely necessary for a gentleman to have a bowel movement in a public restroom, several sheets of moistened paper towels, one or two to which a dab of liquid soap has been applied, should be taken into the stall and utilized to accomplish the necessary task. After all, a gentleman must adjust—elegantly—when necessary.

Whether toilet or bidet, private bathroom or public restroom, seats and rims should always be wiped clean with a moistened paper towel (or sanitizing wet-wipes, if provided) after use as a convenience to the subsequent occupant. No one needs to sit on traces of the previous occupant’s perspiration.


The Courtesy-Flush”: When having a bowel movement in a public restroom or any bathroom likely to be occupied shortly thereafter by another person, a courtesy-flush should be conducted in order to minimize any offensive odors. Immediately after the initial release of the bowels, when feces and the gases that often accompany them are likely to have the most offensive odors, the toilet should be flushed, thereby eliminating or significantly reducing the offensive odors. Then, of course, at the end of the bowel movement, the toilet should be flushed again.


The History of Jeans: One of the essentials of a gentleman’s wardrobe


What rice and corn and potatoes are to food, jeans are to fashion: A 21st-century gentleman can wear jeans to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all the while being well-dressed. Regarded—perhaps alongside the T-shirt—as the quintessential American garment, jeans actually have their origins in the Old World. Genoa, Italy, long known for its production of corduroy, also produced an indigo-dyed, sturdy, corduroy-like fabric which, by the 1500s, was being used by Genoese sailors to make their pants as well as to protectively wrap cargo for shipment. The French, who admired the fabric, referred to it as “Gênes,” the French word for Genoa, and it is believed that the word “jeans” derives therefrom. Eventually, French fabric mills in the city of Nimes tried, unsuccessfully, to copy the Italian fabric, creating instead a twilled fabric that was called “serge de Nimes.” Over time, that fabric would come to be referred to as simply “de Nimes” (“of Nimes”) then, finally, “denim,” the word used today to describe both the fabric and garments made therefrom (though whenever used to describe garments other than pants, the name of the specific garment follows the word “jeans,” such as in the case of “jeans jacket” or “jeans skirt”). Dungaree, a twill fabric originally from the Dungri section of Bombay (present-day Mombai) and also used to make jeans, is the same as denim, except that traditionally, denim was dyed after being woven, whereas the yarns used to produce dungaree were dyed before being woven. Today, the word “dungaree” refers both to the fabric and garments made therefrom, especially pants.

But “jeans,” “denims,” and “dungarees” as they are known today—those sturdy cotton pants with copper rivets—are as American as fast-food, hip-hop, and no-fault divorce. And it all started when Levi Strauss, a German immigrant, moved to San Francisco from New York in 1853 in the height of the gold rush in order to establish a dry goods store. As legend has it, Strauss met a gold prospector who was interested in purchasing ultra-durable work pants for his miners (rather than the canvas for tents and wagons covers that Strauss was selling). So Strauss used some of his canvas to construct work pants (called “waist overalls”), only to discover that while the miners liked the pants for their durability, they found them too rough on the skin. In response, Strauss substituted the coarse canvas with the softer, but durable, serge de Nimes. And all was well. Then in 1872, a Latvian immigrant named Jacob Davis wrote to Strauss suggesting that they apply jointly for a patent for pants rivets that would make pants stronger at their high-stress areas such as the corners of pockets. (Davis had established a San Francisco-based business making horse blankets and canvas tents, both of which utilized rivets). In 1873, both men were awarded the patent, and jeans were born, though they would be referred to as “waist overalls” until 1960 when the name “jeans” was attached to the pants by baby boomers. Long associated with laborers’ clothing and cowboys, jeans became mainstream—amongst young people, males and females, in the 1950s when Hollywood actors James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Elvis Presley popularized denim in their films of that decade. By the 1960s jeans had come to symbolize youthful rebelliousness and disillusionment and as such became a cornerstone of the dress code of the Hippie Movement. By the late 1970s, fashion designers were marketing their own “designer jeans”; and by the early 1980s, jeans had become a staple garment the world over. Fifteen-year-old Brooke Sheilds queried and answered in the unabashedly provocative TV ad, “You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” And Sasson jeans evoked oohs and ahhs with its catchy “Ooh La La” campaign. Banned in many schools and restaurants in the 1950s, today jeans have become almost obligatory in some casual settings. And when paired with sport coats or blazers, jeans may be worn to practically any event that is not specifically designated “formal.” Indigo (with all the faded and diluted shades thereof) remains the most popular color for jeans, but black is also commonly worn, and white jeans make for a fresh option in the spring and summer months as well as throughout the year in the tropical and arid regions of the world.

The History of the T-shirt–one of the greatest sartorial classics of all time

The T-shirt

The T-shirt derives its name from its shape: When laid out flat, sleeves perpendicular to torso, the garment forms the letter “T.” (So technically, there is no such thing as a “sleeveless T-shirt,” a term oftentimes misused to describe the “athletic shirt”). (See “A-shirt” below).

Along with jeans, the T-shirt is often credited with being the most popular garment of the second half of the 20th century and now the 21st, serving in every capacity from undergarment to work shirt to walking billboard to pajama top to regular shirt. Almost every man on the planet has at least one T-shirt in his wardrobe. And T-shirts have become the events memorabile and tourist souvenir item of choice—so much so that there is the saying, “Been there, done that, got that T-shirt.” T-shirts are generally inexpensive, low-maintenance, comfortable, and forgiving in their fit. So what’s not to like about them?

If classic is defined as that which has stood the test of time, then the T-shirt is one of the great sartorial classics of all time. The T-shirt made its way onto the fashion scene sometime between the Spanish-American War in 1898 and just before World War I in 1913 when the US Navy began issuing them as undergarments. But the submariners, who typically had to work in close, hot confines, would wear the T-shirts as an outer garment in order to receive some reprieve from the heat. After the war, the former military men continued wearing T-shirts—as shirts—in their civilian life. By 1920 the term “T-shirt” had been listed as an official American-English word in the Merriam Webster Dictionary. And the basic design of the T-shirt—with its jersey-knit cotton fabric; collarless, crew neckline; short sleeves; and tubular torso—has remained virtually unchanged ever since. By the 1940s, the T-shirt had come to be regarded as the unofficial “uniform” of laborers: bakers, miners, farmers, mechanics. The former undergarment had emerged as standard outerwear. But it was in the 1950s, when Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause nonchalantly wore T-shirts as regular shirts, that T-shirts became a must-have for teenaged boys. The T-shirt allowed young men, inspired by Brando and Dean, to unabashedly display gender—in an erotic way that had previously been regarded as socially forbidden.

Using the T-shirt as a means of advertising was also born in the 1950s, starting when the Miami-based company Tropix Tops obtained the exclusive rights to print images of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters on T-shirts to promote the Disney brand. The company also started printing the names of Florida resorts on T-shirts, marketing the State as a tourist destination in the process. Almost immediately thereafter, rock bands were using T-shirts to promote their new releases. By 1967, T-shirts were being used as walking, breathing, interactive placards for social and political commentary as well as serving as a canvas for pop art. And because the classic T-shirt is unisex, women began wearing them in the ’60s. At 1969’s Woodstock, it was the tie-dye T-shirt that embodied the ethos of the historic gathering: young, carefree, and colorful.

But if bold tie-dye T-shirts epitomized the anti-establishment, mod dress of the Hippie Movement of the ’60s and ’70s, then it was the pastel-colored T-shirts worn by Miami Vice star Don Johnson that would give rise to the concept of “casual-chic” in the 1980s. Johnson effortlessly (or so it seemed) paired T-shirts with expensive designer suits; and overnight, like Brando and Dean before him, redefined American fashion. And the world followed suit—so much so that decades later, Johnson’s once-iconoclastic look has become iconic.

The History of Pants

The ancient Egyptians did not wear trousers; neither did the Greeks nor the Romans who came after them. However, Late Stone Age figurative art from Siberia dating from around 16,000 years ago depicts trousers being worn. And sixth-century B.C.E. Greek ethnography describes trousers being worn by both men and women in the horse-riding nation of Persia and its allied peoples of Central and Eastern Asia, such as the Bactrians, Armenians, Scythians, and Honnu, thereby being the oldest known written records pertaining to the wearing of pants. Pants, then, today one of the iconic symbols of the Western man, apparently originated in the Eastern regions of the world.

Variably called “pants” (the shortened form of pantaloons), “slacks,” and “breeches” (a variant of “britches”), two things seem to have converged for the invention and widespread use of trousers: cold weather and horses. It was not until the third century B.C.E. that the Roman Republic’s cavalry would start wearing pants—after suffering major defeats from Hannibal’s pants-wearing cavalry during the second Punic War. (After all, it is much easier to maneuver on horseback in slacks than in togas, tunics, or skirts!) And as the Roman Empire spread beyond the Mediterranean basin into colder regions, pants became more popular on account of the additional warmth they provided. [In the New World, before the horse was introduced to the native peoples of North America by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, Plains Indians wore tunics rather than pants].

During the Middle Ages, from the 5th to 15th century, pants of various styles and lengths, from loose-fitting to skin-tight hose, would rise and fall in popularity. Pants were also worn under tunics, thereby sometimes being regarded as an undergarment. By the 8th century C.E., men of the noble and knightly classes throughout Europe were wearing pants. And while women had been known to wear pants for outdoor work through the centuries, with the Christianization of Europe, it had become taboo for women to wear trousers. It would not be until the middle of the 20th century, after the initial stir caused by French designer Paul Poiret (1879-1944) in 1913 when he designed loose-fitting harem pants for women, that “the fairer sex” could freely wear pants.

The etymology of the word “pants” is quite circuitous. A 4th-century Christian doctor was sentenced to death by the Romans for his healing abilities, which he attributed to Christ, but the Romans, to magic. After numerous attempts to kill the good doctor, ranging from his being burned with torches to being put into a pot of boiling lead to being thrown to wild animals, etc., he did not succumb to death until he acquiesced, at which point not only blood, but also a substance as white as milk, is said to have gushed forth from his neck when his head was severed. The doctor was later canonized and given the name Saint Pantaleone because of his extraordinary bravery. (“Pan” in Greek means “all,” and “leo” means “lion” in Latin, thus all-lion/all-brave). Eventually, Saint Pantaleone became a popular saint in Venice, Italy, so much so that Venetians were called “Pantaleoni.”

In 16th-century Italy, a type of theater called Commedia dell’arte was born. And one of the stock characters was “Pantalone,” the miserly Venetian merchant whose standard costume consisted of pants of a particular cut. When Commedia dell’arte reached France, the French began calling garments that resembled the bottom portion of Pantalone’s costume, “pantaloons.” And by the late 1700s, the term would be used to describe pants of any cut or design. Eventually, the British adopted the word, the lower classes shortening it to “pants,” much to the objection of the more polite classes. And by1840, Edgar Allan Poe had used the word in his writings, thereby becoming the first person to commit the word to official print. One can only imagine what the good Saint Pantaleon must think at the thought of the many men who pull down his namesake in order to take up sin!