Unveiling the History of Lingerie for Men: An Intimate Portrait of Its Evolution
by Henrique Spotorno
Lingerie for men has graced wardrobes for centuries, much longer than one might assume. But what is the origin of this alluring attire, and how has it transformed over time? As we look to the future, we can't help but wonder, will the next revolution in lingerie captivate the senses? Let us indulge in a sensory trip back in time, and explore the history of lingerie for men, shall we?
Underwear vs. lingerie: What is the difference?
Let us proceed with caution and establish a clear distinction between two intimately related concepts: underwear and lingerie. While they may share similarities, they are distinct entities deserving of separate consideration.
While underwear fulfills a basic need considering human anatomy: it was born to provide comfort, support, and to prevent external clothes from deteriorating. Lingerie, on the other hand? It's a whole different story — while it can be practical too, its main purpose is to enhance the human body, to create an alluring effect, and oftentimes to seduce.
A brief history of men’s briefs (and their purpose)
Evidence suggests that undergarments for men have been around since Ancient History (our ancestors were just as interested in looking and feeling sensual as we are today). And even though it has evolved throughout history and it varies widely depending on the time period and culture, one thing is clear — the prevalence and quality of men's lingerie is higher during periods of economic prosperity and cultural openness.
The Ancient History Era
The earliest forms of underwear for men can be traced back to ancient civilizations. However, we only have proof of precisely this: underwear. Men from ancient civilizations -such as the ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome- have left artwork representing men wearing different forms of undergarment made from loincloths made from linen. These were designed to protect the human body from their daily work.
In artwork and literature from medieval Europe, we start seeing a first draft of what we consider lingerie nowadays. Linen materials disappear to make room for more luxurious and sumptuous materials, such as silk and velvet. During this time, we also have proof of the first ornaments and intricate designs — partly to show their wealth and status, partly to display a more appealing and sensual look.
The Late Modern Era
In the 18th and 19th centuries, men's undergarments continued to evolve, with the introduction of new garments, such as the waistcoat (a piece of cloth that was worn over the shirt) and drawers (a kind of loose-fitting shorts). Later on, the union suit was introduced, being a more elaborated piece that covered the man’s body.
Nevertheless, during the 18th century (during the Industrial Revolution), mens fashion experiences a huge change, and starts evolving towards an ideal more similar to what we know today. In other words, this is when men’s clothing became boring.
The rise of mass production and the need for more functional and practical clothes ended up in basic and sober clothing, including underwear and lingerie.
The Contemporary Era
Advancements in technology and innovation have ushered in a new era of undergarment fashion. With a vast array of styles, materials, and hues now available to us, we can select from an abundance of options, tailoring our choices to specific needs, be it comfort, support, or style.
During the 1960s, the iconic bikini brief was introduced, revolutionizing the underwear game. However, it was in the 1970s and 80s that queer men made a significant impact on the evolution of men's underwear, with the rise of fetish wear and leather culture. Leather jockstraps and harnesses became popular among queer men, as they allowed them to explore their sexuality and express their identities in a more overt way.
The evolution of men's underwear owes a great deal to the profound influence of queer communities. In the early 20th century, when homosexuality was still widely condemned and marginalized, many queer men resorted to purchasing women's lingerie or crafting their own undergarments as a means of expression and empowerment.
As society began to shift towards greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals, men's underwear also began to evolve and cater their needs. The growing movement towards gender inclusivity in fashion includes having collections of men's underwear and lingerie specifically designed for them. This has led to the development of styles that are designed to be worn by people of any gender, as well as a greater focus on gender-neutral designs that celebrate the human body in all its diversity.
Why is it important to have men’s lingerie?
Just as women have long used lingerie to express their unique style and sensuality, lingerie designed for men and gender-neutral individuals can serve a similar purpose (if not equal way). Lingerie designed for men can come in a variety of styles, colors, and fabrics -regardless of current gender-marked influences- allowing people from all genders to express themselves in a way that feels authentic and true to their personal style. Wearing lingerie can provide confidence and empowerment, especially if its purpose is to feel sexy or to spice up their intimacy.
Does this idea tickle you? Take a look at our gender-neutral lingerie collection and join us on a journey through the fascinating history of lingerie for all genders.
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