Whether it is correct to describe what is happening to men’s underwear as a revolution, or simply an evolution, is a moot point. The fact is, men’s underwear ain’t what it used to be! And that’s not simply a function of the style, but also the methods of marketing. Jonathan Shokrian, who owns and operates MeUndies.com, has pioneered a website offering an unparalleled e-commerce experience for the purchasing of underwear and undergarments – more about that later.
Firstly, it’s interesting to review how the material that men have used to cover their essential equipment has evolved from the time of the Stone Age.
The first underwear is known to have existed some 7,000 years ago, when a prehistoric man used leather to cover and protect his loins. Ancient Egyptian art depicts men in loincloths; the pharaohs wore a sort of specialized loincloth called a “shendoh,” and were even buried with extra supplies of the garment for use in the afterlife. One can only speculate about what was going on in the minds of the Egyptians concerning how and when the mummies would decide it was time for a change of clothes!
Variations of the loincloth existed into the Middle Ages, when loose-fitting trousers called “braies” came into fashion. These breeches had to be laced tightly around the waist and shins. The problem with the design was that it made answering the call of nature a bit of a hassle. Thus arrived the “codpiece,” which opened at the front using buttons, snaps, or laces, thus enabling men to urinate without removing their braies.
From Victorian times, up to the 1920’s, men wore tight-fitting knee-length flannel “drawers” beneath their pants, usually with matching flannel tops as undershirts. These two garments were sometimes combined into one – the traditional union suits, or “long-Johns” – frequently colored red.
However, in 1925, Jacob Golomb, founder of boxing equipment maker Everlast, decided to amend designs for the trunks worn by the boxers. He replaced the leather belts on the shorts with more flexible elastic waistbands. That is how boxer shorts were born – but they weren’t an immediate success as underwear because they lacked the support that drawers and union suits provided. It was only after World War II that boxer shorts became more popular as an alternative to the snugger briefs.
The design of men’s underwear changed forever in 1934, when Arthur Kneibler, an executive and designer at the Wisconsin hosiery company Coopers, Inc., received a postcard from a friend visiting the French Riviera. The postcard showed a man in a bikini-style bathing suit. Kneibler realized that this type of swimsuit could be converted into underwear. He produced snug, legless underwear with an overlapping Y-front fly. Coopers called the new product “Jockey shorts” because the high level of support provided was reminiscent of jockstraps. The first batch of 600 Jockey briefs was delivered to Marshall Fields flagship store in Chicago on January 19, 1935 – and sold out on the first day! Within three months, the company had sold 30,000 pairs.
Designer underwear really took off in 1970’s and 80’s, when labels such as Calvin Klein transformed our briefs from something to be hidden into a fashion and lifestyle choice to be flaunted. Billboards showed men with toned bodies to die for that made the name Calvin Klein synonymous with snug-fitting underwear which left not much to the imagination. The only remaining battle on the underwear front is the one between those insisting that support is everything, and others who prefer, or need, their private parts to get a little air. The question of keeping the testicles as cool as possible is very important because sperm die, or are not produced in sufficient quantities if the groin area becomes overheated. Once again, it’s a war between function and fashion. Who will win? Why, the underwear makers – of course!
Well, that’s as far as the actual designs go – but what about the sale and marketing of underwear? There has been a revolution in that area too. The rapid growth of Internet retailing took many by surprise. Jonathan Shokrian realized there were potential benefits in taking the underwear shopping experience online, but only if the customer were offered something unique.
Obviously, price would play a part; cutting out the costs associated with conventional brick and mortar retailing was a start, but there had to be another angle. For MeUndies, Jonathan created a never seen before underwear subscription model. He specifically targeted the younger market, which he believed no longer identified with traditional department stores, but still wanted the designer quality they offered.
Shokrian says, “They want to try a new young brand that emulates their personality and lifestyle. People love discovering and finding something they’ve never heard of and sharing their discovery with their friends. Men’s underwear has come a long way, and it is an exciting time to be involved in the space. MeUndies is looking forward to what is going to happen next and staying ahead of next trends.”