If you’re like most people, studying history in school was crazy boring. All you ever heard about was kings and wars and snooze-inducing stuff like that. Seldom did you get to learn anything really interesting – like, how come we wear underwear, and where did it come from?
Underwear got its start back in caveman days. A bunch of Neanderthals were sitting around the fire one night, drinking beer and talking smack about the Cro-Magnon family that just moved into the cave down the street. One caveman’s wife leaned over to him and whispered, “Honey, little T-Rex is poking his head out of his cave – you might wanna cross your haunches.”
To prevent repeats of this social faux pas, man invented underwear. However, early prototypes never caught on. Animal hide proved too scratchy – especially when someone would forget to take it off the animal first. The skins of large snakes were somewhat more comfortable, but invited unwelcome size comparisons. In fact, this was the genesis of the term “trouser python.”
Medieval underwear was not much better. Metal was cold and made it hard to sit a horse. Armor underwear – sponsored by a 6th Century English king and marketed under the brand name Chain Male – never caught on. Turns out that chain mail pinches – not a good characteristic for men’s underwear. One snag on the royal jewel bag was all it took for an entire R&D team to be burned at the stake.
Underwear took a big leap forward in the 13th Century, when silk from China was introduced to Europe by Marco Polo, the famous explorer and inventor of swimming-pool tag. This seemingly innocuous development would in turn give rise to a flourishing trade between the East and West, a handful of new industries and, eventually, RuPaul.
Silk underwear was hugely popular with the French aristocracy. Historians once believed French kings wore lace skivvies, but now know it was actually silk that had been gnawed on by fleas. This was the source of bubonic plague; fleas would feast on a French king’s tighty whities and then, to get the taste out of their mouths, go bite a sewer rat. Et voila – Black Death!
Today, the fashion-forward man has a wide range of choices. Boxers or briefs are just the beginning. In lieu of going commando, modern men can choose from bikinis, jockstraps, g-strings, tangas, and even something called a “bong thong” (don’t ask; I did and I wish I hadn’t).
Whatever you choose, be thankful Playtex doesn’t make men’s underwear. You remember Playtex, right? They made the bra that “lifts and separates.” None of that for me, thanks. Some things – like Laurel and Hardy, or more appropriately, ham and eggs – were meant to be together, and that’s how I plan to keep ‘em.