A Very "Brief" Secret History of Underwear.

1323 BCE: Egypt's King Tut is entombed alongside a wealth of jewelry, furniture, lamps, jars - and 145 loincloths. He's also entombed with over 400 statues of servants meant to clean said undies, just in case heaven doesn't have washing machines.

634 CE: The loincloth began to fall out of fashion in Europe. It's replaced by looser-fitting braies, which are basically cloth hose for men. Luckily, they come with easy-access openings at the crotch for convenience - if not modesty.

1390: Geoffrey Chaucer kvetches about the tunic's scandalous rise to midthigh level (for which undergarments neglect to compensate) in "The Parson's Tale" of The Canterbury Tales: "Alas! Some of them show the very boss of their penis and the horrible pushed-out testicles that look like the malady of hernia in the wrapping of their hose; and the buttocks of such persons look like the hinder parts of a she-ape in the full of the moon."

1482: King Edward IV forbids persons below the rank of Lord to expose their genitals with short tunics, sparking an outcry among fashion-forward Englishmen. They respond by inventing the codpiece, a simple piece of cloth covering their naughty bits.

1525: Henry VIII - perhaps insecure about his inability to produce a male heir - stuffs his codpiece, starting a trend that transforms its formerly flat, utilitarian shape into a conspicuous bulge, then an exaggerated, protruding loaf.

1793: The cotton gin is invented, simultaneously increasing demand for slave labor and cotton underwear, which could now be mass-produced. The union suit, an early version of long johns, became the standard 19th-century undergarment. Rural men often wore the same union suit all winter, washing it only when spring arrived.

19th Century: Scholars speculate that one of the reasons women constantly faint in Victorian novels is that Victorian women really did constantly faint - because uber-tight corsets so restricted their lung capacity.

1880: Rear today, gone tomorrow: The bustle, a padded frame that enhances the shape of a woman's derrière, reaches the height of its popularity after 200 years of an on-and-off use. Ten years later it disappears entirely.

1909: Horace Greeley Johnson invents the Kenosha Klosed-Krotch union suit, essentially long johns as we know them today. For his contribution, he was dubbed "the Edison of Underwear."

1919: Women's enthusiasm for athletic pursuits like bicycling and tennis make restrictive corsets impractical; trouserlike "bloomers" become popular instead.

1922: Perhaps the most important year in the history of women's underwear (at least from a man's perspective): a luxurious new kind of underwear with pleated chiffon, crepe, and satin is popularized by flappers. It comes to be called "lingerie" (for the French for "underwear").

1970: The thong begins to appear on Brazilian beaches. Apparently, underwear fashion has come full circle, returning to the days of loincloth-wearing, butt-baring simplicity. Appropriately, however, thong is actually an ancient word, derived from the Old English thwong, meaning "flexible leather cord." Which means that - had he been so inclined - Shakespeare might have penned Sisqo's tune as "Thwong Song."

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From mental_floss' book Scatterbrained, published in Neatorama with permission.

Be sure to visit mental_floss' extremely entertaining website and blog!


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Yeah, and most thong-wearers are so very much NOT the kind of creature that should be going out in public. At least not unless they're wearing anything less than, oh, say, several burqas...

--TwoDragons
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