When Was Underwear Invented?

Written by Willie MacDonald


Posted on July 19 2022

These days, with fantastic companies like Bawbags around (wink, wink) it's super easy to get quality underwear delivered right to your door. But did you know that underwear dates back to before mediaeval times? And it wasn't as stylish then as it is now…

You might be wondering where underwear came from – was there a time before it? Will there be a time after it? (we hope not!). In this article, we'll take you on a brief journey through underwear's wild, wonderful history.

In The Beginning…There Were Loincloths

Underwear historians believe that the 'loincloth' was probably the first undergarment worn by human beings. It's the simplest form of undies you can get – typically a piece of cloth wrapped around the privates.

The easiest way to wrap up was similar to wearing a nappy; you passed a long strip of material between your legs and then around your waist or hips to keep things secure. In hot parts of the world like ancient Greece, people would wear these as their only clothing (a trend we're hoping doesn't come back in style).

The 'cache-sexe' was also invited around this period. A cache-sexe is a triangle of cloth with strings that could be used to fasten the tie between the legs and contain male genitals.

These may seem like impractical inventions, but for the time, they served the purpose they were needed for. We got some fascinating cultural undergarments from this period, like the Japanese Fundoshi. The famous Egyptian king Tutankhamun was even found buried with numerous linen loincloths, helping historians to piece together a little more about undergarment history.

The Middle Ages

In the middle ages, and as we moved into the renaissance period, men said goodbye to the loincloth and hello to loose-fitting trouser-like pants called Braies.

Braies hung to the knees or mid-calf and were made of leather, wool, cotton or linen. They were, in many ways, the first proper predecessor to boxer shorts.

One of the great underwear mysteries of the period was if women wore any form of underpants – they wore corsets, petticoats, and a whole range of large, uncomfortable layers, so some historians think they may have seen no need for underwear! 

The Industrial Age – An Underwear Enlightenment

The industrial revolution brought a much more recognisable type of undergarment; the pantaloon.

The pantaloon was like a long boxer or legging. And, though it may sound weird to us, the ladies' pantalettes would often come as two separate garments, one for each leg attached at the waist with laces, and they'd leave the crotch open for 'hygiene' reasons (they didn't have our cool de sacs technology!).

The invention of machinery that could mass-produce underwear like the cotton gin made undergarments more accessible and popular in the 18th Century. As fashions changed and technologies grew, the pantaloon began to evolve into underwear as we know it now, and by the 20th century, boxer shorts and women's underpants as we know them now were coming into style as a comfortable and practical option.

Modern Day Underwear

If, after reading this article, you're thinking, 'thank god for modern underwear', – we know exactly what you mean. And you're in luck! You were born into the generation of easily purchased, quickly-delivered, fashionable, comfortable underwear.

Our Bawbags underwear is made to help you express yourself with a range of exciting undies. You can breathe a sigh of relief in our comfortable, elasticated underwear. Take a look at our website to find a fabulously fun (and practical) range of underwear for both men and women.

When you buy from us, you're also donating to charity. We've raised over £80,000 in our efforts to raise funds and awareness for amazing charities, and we couldn't have done it without your support!