A Timely History of Briefs.

Today, he announces to much fanfare, is the 65th anniversary of the creation of the briefs,those underpants of the first order. They were first sold by Coopers Inc of Chicago (now Jockey International) on January 19th 1935, designed by apparel engineer Arthur Kniebler as a replacement for the jockstrap, hence their name of jock-brief. (Briefs are known as jockeys to Americans, presumably because it reduced a man’s wotsits until they were midget-sized.) In England the traditional design meant they came be to be called Y-fronts – due to the unusual apeture at the front for extracting the wotsit.

(To The Tune of: Fortinbras, King of Techno by Songs To Wear Pants To)

Today, he announces to much fanfare, is the 65th anniversary of the creation of the briefs,those underpants of the first order. They were first sold by Coopers Inc of Chicago (now Jockey International) on January 19th 1935, designed by apparel engineer Arthur Kniebler as a replacement for the jockstrap, hence their name of jock-brief. (Briefs are known as jockeys to Americans, presumably because it reduced a man’s wotsits until they were midget-sized.) In England the traditional design meant they came be to be called Y-fronts – due to the unusual apeture at the front for extracting the wotsit.

With this flimsy justification, here’s a brief history of the undergarment:

The Lioncloth

The Lioncloth
At the dawn of history, Man’s rapacious shame nearly made the fig tree extinct, so an alternate form of genital coverage had to be found. Enter the lioncloth, as modelled by Conan, Jesus and other fictitious barbarians! Early hunters decapitated entire species to turn them into fetching puce or leopard-skin print pants. As the various large cats became extinct and the pun became too egregious, the early freedom experienced by the hunter-gatherer society faded, and they moved into the middle ages.

The Boxer Rebellion

Braies Yourself
In the Middle Ages, people still hadn’t really conceived of underwear as a good idea – they just wore the same clothes all the time, or until codpiece fashion changed. Braies were halfway between commando jodphurs and man-nappies – large folds of cloth wearers stepped into. The codpiece was actually a pocket in the braies to allow urination (in this instance cod meaning scrotum, rather than edible fish), which gradually became larger because Henry VIII thought his willy should be bigger than everyone else’s (or possibly because he filled it with syphillis-medication – true fact!) In Scotland, this shifted into the Sporran, as an ideal place for haggis storage.

...or stretching a joke too far...
Long John Silver's Silver Long Johns

The Boxer Rebellion
As the century moved on, braies got replaced by hose or drawers. Industrialisation meant that cotton fabrics became widely available, and people no longer had to make their own pants out of firehoses or dresser drawers. In the late 19th Century, some New York chappy created the Union Suit, a one piece suit with an ‘access hatch’ or ‘fireman’s flap’ at the back. This was the precursor of the Peak Pant, the Long Johns, a favourite of tramps and boxers everywhere, which became the male world’s preferred undergarment.

War is Pants
Despite the deaths of most of Britain’s men, those who returned from the front were equipped with army issue shorts – much like modern boxers and a sea-change in pant design. Those with the limbs left to wear them, rapidly adopted this modern convenience. Then 1935 saw the advent of the brief, shorts with the legs removed, and the 1980s saw a further refinement, in the advent of the G-string, which removed the back, and crotchless pants, that removed the bottom.

The Future
With the trend of the last hundred years being a gradual retreat from the apex of the pant, the Long John, we can see that soon there will be no pants left at all in the wild, and will only be kept alive in special museums, or old people’s homes. Everyone else will be going commando, which will keep military recruiters very happy indeed.

On meetings of minds.

At the start, chance happenings – two good brains happening on each other, meeting by renown and word of mouth. Nothing else, no writing. Then, with writing, papyrus passing from palaces of the kings as edicts, the only minds that were known. Then writing widens, concepts are allowed and others than the kings have raw materials to communicate over long distances. Books are born, but not correspondence – that is solely by couriers, word of mouth and long-distance travellers. Ideas are communicated but not refined by the best, only by the local leisurely.

Then writing becomes commonplace and the brains start to gather at cities. Support networks spring up to bring the best and brightest to the palaces to work – and they take themselves. True meetings of minds begin – the bright spark of Athens, Rome and its poets, Constantinople, then the reflected glories of palaces and monasteries, running in parallel. Parchment becomes cheap, correspondence and letter-writing springs up, from Rome onwards, the mental community becomes wide and slow, with fast-moving hubs.

As the population grows, travel becomes no longer just for trade and war, but for exploration and self-improvement – by the 17th century, poets, thinkers, musicians and so on can move between the courts and gain fame in several places – Handel, Descartes, Leibniz and the rest dance between kingdoms, meet and share wealth. Slowly the speed and wideness of renown increases til it peaks, in the early 20th – a small number of wealthy talents hopping between Bloomsbury and the Algonquin – Pavlova, Chaplin, Gertrude Stein – but still separated by transatlantic difference.

After that the number of minds blossoms, the world becomes soaked with them and great ideas become hard to disseminate – the mixtures of medias, the cheapness of communication, gradually reduces fame. A century passes, greatness weakening. Now I see great minds online lost in the noise, spreading themselves thin for a grasp at glory, but connecting their with their compadres, albeit perfunctorily. Communities struggle into existence, ideas spread and die rapidly, alienation from the locale is easy but not complete. Where next?