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Fashion history: Shirt, undershirt, and underpants story

In today's article, we're going to talk about some essential clothes history like shirts, undershirts, and underpants. So let's hop into it:

 The shirt story

The word "shirt" comes from the Old High German word "Hemd", which means "skin". The second skin as a garment can look back on a long history. In its early days around 1000 BC, it was still a simple, floor-length shirt without buttons, but it has continued to develop over the centuries. In the Middle Ages, shirts had interchangeable collars and were mostly used as undershirts. In the 18th century, shirts were also worn as overshirts for the first time and at the beginning of the 20th century, shirts appeared for the first time in the shape known today with buttons along the entire front. The shirt with a fixed collar established itself and still dominates the market today. With the decline in the popularity of the vest under the suit, the shirt pocket was added as an accessory in the 1960s and has since been used in a wide variety of cuts.

Positive confident young caucasian male office worker wearing white formal shirt and classic trousers with belt, having happy facial expression, keeping hands in pockets and smiling joyfully

Shirt fabrics - from linen to exclusive silk

Shirts also went through a complex development in the area of fabrics. The first models were still made of linen, a robust material that was only replaced by cheaper cotton fabrics towards the end of the 18th century. Even today, most shirt fabrics are woven from cotton, to which synthetic fibers are also mixed in many variants in order to produce more cost-effective fabrics. Pure nylon shirts have been around since around 1950. These days, fabrics are often specially processed to make them easier to iron. This can be done using gentle printing processes or by adding chemicals, which can lead to skin irritations.

Shirts today - the popularity never ends

Modern shirts have become an integral part of the model world and differ mainly in terms of the fabric used, as well as the cut, the design, and the collar shape. There are a wide variety of cuff shapes, variants of the collar and button placket, as well as possible fashionable details such as contrasting fabrics in the area of the cuffs and shirt collar. The respective development is subject to the current fashion trends. If the buyer attaches importance to individuality, he can have a tailor-made shirt and design all these aspects according to his wishes and even have a personal monogram embroidered on it.

The cultural history of the undershirt

black man wearing white undershirt

The man's undershirt. Necessary evil or popular item of clothing? Hardly any other male garment is as controversial as the undershirt. It is a thoroughly honest piece of material. Its name already says what it is about: an item of laundry that is worn under the shirt. No more and no less. Its use is just as pragmatic and functional as its name. However, the needs of men have changed: It does not seem absolutely necessary for most - but if so, it should be modern, comfortable to wear, and invisible.

The undershirt - how it all began

The history of the undershirt is also the history of underwear. Since when men - but also women - have been wearing underwear is uncertain. Underwear/shirts for him and her from the early modern period are definitely documented. In the Middle Ages, the “undershirt” was the name given to the lower half of the shirt. What comes close to our current term "undershirt" was the "undershirt". The word "undershirt" had another meaning at that time: It was also called a confidante, a bosom friend - but rather derogatory in the meaning of - sorry - "ass-creeper".

All men and women - rich or poor - wore the shirt under their robes. The "undershirt" had nothing to do with today's appearance for a long time. Until the French Revolution, it was a long linen shirt that was also worn in bed. It covered the whole body: trunk, arms, and legs up to the calves. The basic cut was the same for both sexes; that of the women was cut a little wider at the neckline, with the men there was already a collar.

The undershirt, as we know it today, did not develop until the 20th century - above all the t-shirt, which was originally an undershirt for men. Schiesser was one of the pioneers for our undershirt, which we know today. At the end of the 1890s, the company developed what is known as a knotted jersey. Schiesser had the process patented; in 1900 it was even awarded a prize at the world exhibition in Paris. In the 1950s, underwear made of fine and double ribs followed.

The color white - ideal for the underneath

White has always been the color of the undershirt. Until the 19th century, white linen was used almost exclusively for underwear. The fabric was relatively cheap and also easy to wash. Cotton did not become generally affordable until the early 19th century.

However, the color white was definitely chosen for practical reasons: To get the underwear clean, the laundresses used chemical agents such as chlorine lye and often had to rub hard to completely remove stains. A dyed fabric would not have withstood these treatments.

The preference for white has persisted in underwear to this day. Therefore, until the last century, (under) linen shops were also called white goods shops.

It should be invisible and fine

Today the good item of underwear is no longer called an undershirt, but body wear or underwear. In fashion magazines and TV commercials, the undershirt covers a well-toned male body with muscular upper arms and tanned skin. It exudes a touch of eroticism - the functionality of the item of laundry seems far away. The undershirt should not underline the Adonis body, but above all serve the man. If you opt for an undershirt under your shirt, you want one thing above all, not to be reminded of it.

An undershirt should serve the man

The undershirt of today has to adapt to the needs of the man: tight fit, comfortable materials against perspiration such as super combed long-staple cotton or the luxury fiber micro-modal and not visually visible, even with the shirt collar open. After all, men wear the undershirt next to their skin all day. High-quality undershirts take exactly these needs into account. Therefore, the best compliment to give an undershirt is to forget that you are wearing it.

History of underpants

skinny man wearing whit underpant

It was not made easy for the gentlemen of this world to arrive where the modern man is today: in comfortable underpants - briefs, boxer shorts, or pants - depending on personal preference. What seems natural today has had a long and in the truest sense of the word "hard" development behind it. The Starrymille presents the history of underpants.

Development with many stages

While in art the shameful covering was still done in the form of a fig leaf, the real underpants had to be developed over many stages.

While in antiquity the ancient Greeks went “down without” under the long robes, it was the Romans who wrapped extra cloths around the tunic underneath and wore a kind of “original underpants”. However, it was still a long way from attributes such as practical and comfortable - the thick cloth was abrasive and could not be combined with clothing worn over it. Presumably, this was the reason that these original underpants fell into oblivion again.

Undershirt, nightgown, and underpants in one

It was not until 1000 years later that the world of men in Europe attempted to meaningfully hide masculinity. The three-part loin protector was certainly a trendsetter for the time - just the art of connecting the separate “leg warmers” to the middle loin section required great skill. Today, one would prefer not to imagine the pain of sore from this very impractical covering. In the following years, only a linen shirt was worn, which was an undershirt, nightgown, and underpants at the same time.

In the 12th century the brouche, a kind of wide short trousers made of linen or wool, was used. This, in turn, was replaced by closed tights with a pubic capsule at the beginning of the 15th century. A picture that brings a smile to your face today.

Textile engineer of German descent, inventor of modern underpants

Somehow the men did not want to be able to develop something suitable that could also be worn under tighter clothing. The gentlemen had to wait until 1934 for Arthur Kneibler, Sales and Marketing Director at Cooper’s Inc., to invent the first tight-fitting letter in the history of underwear. The background to this idea was a simple holiday card showing a man in a tight-fitting bathing suit, as was worn in Europe at that time. This card from the French Riviera inspired the company and the first slip (letter) without a top were created under the name JOCKEY BRIEF, which was named after the JOCKstrap incorporated into the slip. In this context, the company had its name legally protected.

How scandalous the so narrowly cut invention was at the time was particularly evident at the first underwear show in Chicago: The model, dressed as a groom, wore only a see-through tuxedo made of cellophane and nothing underneath except the new Y-underpants! Quite a picture that could still attract attention at a fashion week today.

Double rib underpants Made in Germany thanks to Schiesser

The original manufacturer Kneibler - who later also called himself "Jockey" - issued over 100 licenses to manufacturers around the world who continued to develop their model of underpants. This is how Schiesser also got one of the coveted licenses and gifted the men's world in 1951 with the first and to this day unforgettable double-ribbed underpants made in Germany.

Almost at the same time, the US Army brought us the "boxer shorts" developed from their summer uniform and made them known in Germany.

The wild 1960s and 70s as well as the first gay movements in the 80s let the designers' imagination run wild from now on: The result was underpants with shrill, floral patterns, men's thongs, bodysuits, bikini briefs for men and whatever the newly discovered body cult otherwise coveted.

Briefs, boxer shorts, and pants have prevailed - the intervention not

In the end, only a few models have really gained acceptance and proven themselves for everyday use: briefs, boxer shorts, and pants. Rather loose-fitting or tight-fitting depending on personal preference. The procedure, which was initially so successful, is rarely used anymore. This may also be because for men when going to the toilet, slightly lowering their trousers has proven to be more effective than reaching through the special entrance. Today, in fashionable underpants, only a stitched seam without any function is reminiscent of the former Y-engagement.

The challenge of a designer today is to optimize the underpants in such a way that men no longer just feel comfortable in them. Depending on the use - in business, sport, leisure, or at celebrations - men's underpants should be as discreet as possible and not noticeable when dressed. On the other hand, it can delight even more when the covers fall. Quality, environmental and skin compatibility, advantageous cuts, longevity, comfort, and design are just a few points that a modern underwear designer like ALBERT KREUZ has to consider today when creating new models that embrace the man’s life around his most important piece make it a little more pleasant!

The gentleman thanks and can finally sit back in peace in the modern retro shorts and devote himself to other beautiful things. In any case, he doesn't have to worry about his underpants anymore.

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