Over eighty years ago, when the classic white brief first went on sale, it was a massive success. It promised the support of a jockstrap, but the comfort and modesty to be worn on a daily basis. Men flocked to the jockey brief, excited by the prospect of a supportive underwear that wasn’t as stifling or restricting as the union suits and long johns that previously dominated the market.
As with any fashion trend, excitement about the classic white brief faded with time. Eventually, lower cuts and brighter colors usurped the white briefs’ dominance in the underwear market. But, thanks to the resurgence of fashion trends and some updated styling, the white brief is back and ready to reclaim its throne as one of the preeminent styles of men's’ underwear.
The Original Men’s Brief
Through the Victorian Era and into the first several decades of the twentieth century, men were limited in their choice of underwear. Full-length long johns and the union suit were the about the only options. By the 1920s, there were a few alternatives in the form of the jockstrap and the cotton boxer short, but neither appealed to a wide range of men or the sensibilities of the time.
While the jock strap was fine for the bicycle jockeys and athletes who originally wore them, they lacked the modesty and comfort that men expected. Cotton boxer shorts– which were originally made for boxers to wear while fighting– struggled to catch on for much the opposite reason as the jock strap. Boxers lacked what was referred to as “masculine support,” and this kept many men away.
This dilemma between support and modesty was resolved in 1935. It was then that Arthur Kniebler, an apparel engineer with Coopers clothing company, received a postcard from a friend. On it, illustrations depicted men in their swimwear in the French Riviera. The form-hugging swimsuits inspired him, and he set to work on designing and creating a new style of underwear that was closely modeled after the swimwear. Wanting to brand Kniebler’s creation as a new take on the jockstrap, Coopers named his underwear the jockey brief.
The day of their release was cold and blistery, and the management at Marshall’s demanded that the jockey brief be taken off of mannequins in the store window and replaced with long johns, which they felt the day’s weather required. In spite of the cold, men flocked to the promise of comfort and support of the new white briefs. Before the orders could even be filled, they sold 600 packages of jockey briefs on their first day, and are estimated to have reached 30,000 orders in the next three months alone.
For nearly thirty years, the jockey brief– which came to be known as tighty whities and the y-front, in reference to the construction of the fly– dominated the men’s underwear market. By the sexual liberation movement of the 1960s, however, they were beginning to decline in popularity, as men began to shift toward underwear that was considered to have more sex appeal. As a result, by the 1980s and into the current decade, classic white briefs have had the unfortunate connotation of being frumpy or drab.
Until now, that is.
Redefining a Classic
As far as fashion trends go, something that is out of style one decade can be back in-style the next if it is updated to mesh with newer sensibilities. And that is exactly what is happening with the classic white brief.
The simplicity and function of the classic white brief is a refreshing change of pace after several years of uncomfortable, vibrantly colored “fashion” briefs dominating the high-end luxury underwear market.
Of course, to sell well today, white undies have had to be elevated beyond their original silhouette of the 1930s. Though today’s classic briefs have received a style update, they still maintain the simplicity, support, and comfort of their predecessors.
They’re the perfect pair of briefs for casual daily wear, business wear, or any occasion where you want your outfit to feel calm and refined. By modernizing such a classic look, we’re capturing for today’s men what the original y-front was for the men of its time. In their simplicity, they’re an exciting alternative to the other underwear options on the market today.
While still being attractive, their minimalism sends a message that you don’t have to try too hard– that you’re effortlessly fashionable and refined. They possess style, but lack pretension.
Made from a sublimely comfortable MicroModal fabric blend, our classic white briefs anticipate the future of men’s fashion by harkening back to its past.
To experience the look for yourself, be sure to check out our boutique.