The History of Men’s Underwear

The History of Men’s Underwear

Where did it all start?


What is one item of clothing every man wears?


It has been the same since the first man walked the earth, although the styles have changed quite dramatically since then! So why is it that so many men avoid buying new underwear (we know the average man only buys new undies once every 7 years, so don’t even try to deny it).

The answer is simple, it involves effort, and it is so hard to find a comfortable pair that does everything you need it to do. But fear not men, there is an answer in the form of the brand Step One who strive to make the best men’s underwear money can buy.

But, before we get to Step One and why they make the best men’s underwear, let’s take a brief stroll through history to find out how men’s underwear became what it is today. 


Ancient History


Let’s start with the most basic form of undies for men. No, not the ‘basic’ underwear style your dad probably wears (you know, those lovely tighty-whiteys), rather, we’re talking about the staple undergarment worn by ancient men, the loincloth.

The simplest definition of a loincloth is a piece of material that is usually wrapped between the legs and around the waist. Depending on the civilisation and the materials available, ancient men would make this garment out of either leather or linen. To give you an idea of how old the loincloth really is, archaeologists have discovered one, made of leather, that they have dated to be about 7,000 years old!

So who wore the loincloth? Basically everyone in ancient history, from the men in ancient Hawaii, the Egyptian King Tutankhamun, Greek philosophers like Plato, and let’s not forget the leaders of Ancient Rome such as Augustus, have donned this legendary article of male modesty.

Now, it may not sound like it, but even as early as the loincloth, fashion was considered. Most men wore linen, leather or sometimes even wool, but if you were important, undergarment let the rest of society know you were from a higher class.

Although most cultures no longer wear loincloths, some tropical societies still embrace this form of underwear for men.

 Ancient History Men's Underwear


Middle Ages


Sadly, all good things must come to an end, the loincloth era ended and men said goodbye to the feeling of wind between their legs.

But this made way for a new type of men’s underwear in the form of braies. These were mostly worn by western men in the middle ages and were a sort of loose trouser. Think of a very early version of the genie pant and that’s basically what braies were.

Middle Ages Men's Underwear 

Men would pull these up like trousers, then tie them around the waist and mid- calf. Richer men would finish off this ensemble with chausses, which only covered the legs- sort of like chaps.

As time went on, braies got shorter to make more room for longer chausses, which then turned into form fitting hose which covered the legs and feet. The closest thing these can be likened to are modern day tights.

Interestingly, hose were multi-coloured and often not worn underneath other clothing. So strictly speaking, they weren’t really undies- although nothing was worn underneath them. Essentially men in this period were either walking around in their undies, or going commando, depending on how you look at it.  

 The middle ages were also the era in which one of the most famous pieces of men’s underwear was born- the codpiece. The trend started as a section in the front of braies which was used as a flap to make it easier for men to wee; then Henry V111 came along.

King Henry started padding his codpiece, this spiralled out of control with all men padding theirs too, meaning codpieces kept getting bigger and bigger. Interestingly, codpieces were sometimes used to hold small items (other than those that are attached to the male form) kind of like an early pocket.

The codpiece remained in fashion from the mid 15th century to the end of the 16th century.   


Industrial Age


The industrial era was when things really started to change for all items of clothing, and not just underwear. The development of new machines like the Spinning Jenny and the Cotton Gin made it much easier to mass produce fabric and therefore clothing.

For the first time in history, people were able to buy underwear from shops rather than either making them at home or hiring an expensive tailor. It’s no secret that women wore corsets and pantaloons in this age, but what underwear options did the men have?

Well, many men began wearing what was known as the union suit. This was basically an all in one made of a knitted material that covered the entire body. The union suit had buttons down the front and a flap on the bum (today, we may know it as an access hatch) to make trips to the toilet easier. If you’re struggling to envision this ensemble, think of a onesie crossed with Long Johns.

Essentially, men were covered from their ankles to their wrists under their everyday clothing.

 Industrial Ages Men's Underwear




As the world saw in the twentieth century, the mass production industry continued to grow. The industrial era had made way for the start of better machinery and more factories to pop up all around the western world.

Interestingly, it was in the early 1900’s that introduced the first men’s underwear print advertisements. However, the actual underwear men were sporting hadn’t changed much in the last 100 years- men were still wearing the union suit!

The only real difference was the time it took for manufactures to produce the item. In the summer, the union suit now had short legs instead of full length with either short sleeves or no sleeves.

World War 1 brought the attention back to durability, as men would often be at war for long periods of time, without the luxury of being able to change. As soon as the war was over, comfort became the rage, with companies focusing on softer fabrics and a better fit.

 1900s Men's Underwear



The 1930’s were when things really began to change, the men’s underwear of this period are clearly precursors to the modern mans undies.

A particular point of interest was in 1935, when the first pair of briefs were sold- these were similar to those of today, with the well known Y shaped overlapping fly.

Today, Y fronts are usually saved for old men and children, but back in the 30’s they were so popular than over 30,000 pairs were sold within three months.

Alongside the origin of the brief, came the original boxer short. These came in the form of buttonless shorts with elastic waistbands. Interestingly, the name ‘boxer short’ came from their similarity to the shorts worn by professional fighters.

1930-1940 Men's Underwear 




Although the majority of the shapes remained the same as that of the 1930’s and 1940’s, other aspects began to change in this era.

Before the 1950’s all undergarments were white and were designed to be completely covered at all times. However, the 50’s introduced a new flare, by creating brightly coloured and patterned pieces.

As well as this, new fabrics were experimented with, and so was born the spandex and nylon boxer short. Companies wanted to advertise their new developments, so the foundation of marketing men’s underwear that was set in the early 1900’s continued.

Underwear became a fashion item in its own right, and not something that should be hidden from the world.

 1950- 1960 Men's Underwear




The changes seen in the 50’s and 60’s made way for the 70’s and 80’s, underwear reached its peak in terms of becoming a fashion item.

All the previous thoughts about men’s underwear needing to be durable or comfortable went out the window. This was the period in which sex really sold- so obviously men’s underwear was tighter, brighter, and skimpier than ever before.

Some very brave men even chose to wear the newest fad of the time- the thong! Although this is basically unheard of now, it was all about sex appeal in the 70’s, meaning the more skin on show the better- including men’s bum cheeks. As you can see, the style of the 70’s and 80’s left very little to the imagination!


1970- 1980 Men's Underwear 




The most current trend in men’s underwear is arguably the trunk- a mix between a boxer and a brief. They are tight like a brief and give men much needed support, but they also have legs, like the boxer. Although, both boxer shorts and briefs are still easily available.

So it really depends on the man and what is comfortable for him. The modern man looks for a mix of comfort and fashion. Luckily for the men of today, they have more options than ever, and most items are readily available and affordable.

 1990- Now Men's Underwear


Introducing Step One


This brings us up to date. Today, there are so many options and brands that focus solely on men’s underwear.

But as with every other time period, there always has to be one person, machine or brand to change the game and introduce the newest technology in the industry.

These days, men can choose to wear whatever is comfortable for them, but many men still struggle to find the perfect fit. In August 2016, the founders of Step One were having this very discussion, so they decided to do something about it. Their aim was to make the best men’s underwear possible. Step One is dedicated to taking out the daily discomfort of men’s underwear, and instead making it the most comfortable part of your outfit.

And let’s be realistic, it needs to be. Your undies are the first thing you put on in the morning and the last thing you take off; not to mention, the fabric is in direct contact with a sensitive area of your body, so it really needs to be soft.

Let’s also not forget that as a man, you need to feel supported by your undies. So if you are sick of the hassle of underwear shopping, either for yourself, or your significant other, (because we all know men will go to extremes to avoid shopping), only to end up with uncomfortable underwear, Step One could be just the solution!


How Step One is Different


So how is Step One different from every other men’s underwear brand in the world?

Well, the first way is the fabric used; unlike most brands that use cotton, Step One uses bamboo. Cotton is the fabric of choice because it’s cheap, whereas bamboo is more premium, here’s why. Not only is bamboo better for the environment, by using less water, it also grows quicker, meaning the plants that are chopped down to use are replenished quicker.

That’s great, but what’s even better is how soft and smooth it is as a fabric. Your old cotton undies will feel rough in comparison. So, the best men’s underwear is undoubtedly made from bamboo. Integrated into our bamboo fabric is moisture wicking technology. This basically means that any sweat is moved away from your body and to the exterior of your clothing.

The result? You’ll feel dryer and fresher for longer. 

Step One also noticed that a lot of underwear rides up, so they have come up with a nifty way of solving this problem. It’s no secret that lycra doesn’t ride up, which is why its great for sport, but wearing it all day every day?

No chance, unless you want no airflow to your little (sorry, big) chap. Wear lycra undies for one solid day and you’ll be begging for a loincloth. But, bamboo moisture wicking fabric, with lycra panels on the inner thigh, that’s a winner!

Men wearing Step One underwear can say goodbye to the dreaded front wedgie, as well as the discomfort of chafing. See men, you can have it all, the best bits of bamboo fabric and lycra fabric wrapped into one perfect trunk. Genius. 

Many men struggle with the pouch section of their underwear, it’s either too tight, or not tight enough meaning there is no support (ouch!). For some bizarre reason the pouch section of most men’s underwear is flat… which, in all honesty, is pretty insulting!

Don’t worry men, we all know you are most certainly not flat! So, Step One have thought of a solution for this too, in the shape of a 3D comfort pouch. This is an elastic lined pouch that helps to keep ‘the boys’ supported and contained. But, fear not, it wont push it all down flat and make you look small, no the pouch will do the opposite.

Don’t worry guys at Step One we have your back (well, we actually have your junk). It is designed to lift and accentuate, which makes you look bigger, and really, who doesn’t want that? It may not be the sole selling point when choosing underwear, but no one can deny, it’s a nice bonus!

This 3D pouch also keeps your nuts away from your legs, which reduces sweat and will help you feel fresh throughout the day! The pouch also keeps your trouser snake well and truly caged inside your undies, so men, you can stop using the excuse ‘I needed to adjust’.  

With all these features that, lets be honest, you wouldn’t have even thought about, there’s no denying that Step One make the best men’s underwear you can buy. Lucky you!

But if you’re still struggling to compare Step One to other products on the market, here is a quick breakdown.


How Step One Men's Underwear is Different 





Step One


Other Brands



Soft bamboo that is naturally moisture wicking and better for the environment.

Cotton which isn’t as soft or as premium in quality. Holds odour and will soak up your sweat.



3D pouch- because you are not flat! Gives you the needed support without crushing you.

Flat, saggy pouch that will not give you the support you need.


Anti-Chafing Tech

Lycra panels to stop from chafing and rising up your legs. These undies will stay put.

Nothing to prevent chafing or the front wedgie. You will be constantly readjusting.


So, we have travelled all the way from ancient history to today; bet you never thought you’d know so much about the history of men’s undies.

Its certainly not the history you’re taught in school! With each different time period there was a preferred style, each believing they offered the best men’s underwear.

But it’s pretty safe to say that no other era had the knowledge or technology that we have today. The developments made by previous generations has helped us to what we believe is the pinnacle of men’s underwear.

Step One have created the best men’s underwear possible.

You’ll never have to suffer the struggle of long shopping trips to find some undies again. It’s now simple, all you need to do is jump online and visit the Step One website.


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