The undercover story: A briefs history of Y fronts
For men, 19 January, 1935, was their equivalent of the day Mary Jacob patented the first bra in 1913 or the moment in 1959 when Glen Mills had the inspiration for tights – it was when Arthur Kneibler’s Jockey briefs first went on sale at a department store.
But it was a nervous launch. Although the briefs had been put on show in the window at the Marshall Field & Co department store, its management thought it ludicrous to try and sell such skimpy items on a cold day that cried out for long johns – then the dominant form of men’s underwear – and ordered the display to be removed. They were so wrong. Before their orders could be carried out, 600 packages of Jockey shorts were sold. And 30,000 pairs were sold in the next three months alone.
Mr Kneibler was an “apparel engineer” for a company called Coopers, originally set up to sell socks to lumberjacks, but which had been hit hard by the recession. While searching for an idea to help the company, he received a postcard from a friend on holiday in the south of France, which featured a picture of man wearing an abbreviated swim suit.
At this point, the only serious challenge to the hegemony of long johns had come from the boxer short, a cotton version of the trunks worn by boxers, and first designed in 1925 by a Joseph Golomb, founder of the Everlast company that still makes boxing equipment. But they were slow in finding customers because they did not provide much of what was termed “masculine support”.
One thing that did was the “jock strap”, a method of protection mostly worn by sportsmen and named after the bi-cycle “jockeys” or messengers who rode penny farthings for whom they were designed. Mr Kneibler’s mission was clear – the Jockey brief was born.
by The Punjapit Alliance