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Underwear: its history and evolution

There are some things that defy common sense. For example, lighters were invented before matches and clothes before underwear.

From the earliest existence of mankind, the days of the Cro-Magnons and Lucy, clothes have met one of the essential needs for basic survival – protection from the cold. So, when the first frosts turned the plains sparkling white, when the icy winds whipped the high peaks whistling with hostility, people covered themselves with animal skins to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. And conversely, when the first heat burned down on the steppes, setting fire to the earth, taking off those skins helped to relieve inconvenient sweating and sunstroke. But it was only much later that underwear was invented, so we would be wrong to think that Smilodon (sabre-toothed tiger) underpants were the ancestors of panther strings, just as diplodocus boxer shorts were not the ancestors of kangaroo briefs.

Originally, underwear was a response to a need for comfort. Lightweight, intimate and worn next to the skin, this type of clothing was developed as a means of reducing the friction and irritation caused by the protruding seams of the frilly suits worn at the time. Besides that, underwear made movement and exercise easier. Anyone who has done their exercise routine without wearing boxers – or a bra, for example – will understand that very well. Initially made of rough wool, in time they began to be made from cotton.

Naturally, the concept of hygiene is also closely linked to underwear. White shirts, woolly vests and the bandeaux that enveloped the breasts were boiled clean, providing a de facto semblance of hygiene, at a time when there were no dry cleaners to deal with greatcoats, thick tunics and heavy dresses.

But underwear also has another function: appearance. It is there to support and mould the body. Originally an object of modesty, serving to hide our sexual attributes, underwear gradually became an object of sensuality. Although this may seem elementary when it comes to feminine underwear, with the advent of alluring lace, for example, it is much less so where men’s underwear is concerned. Indeed, until the 1960s, men’s underwear had only two primary functions: comfort and hygiene. Men’s underpants and briefs were shapeless, standardised and devoid of any aesthetic.

Gradually, though, sizes, colors and materials became more and more diverse, and by the 1980s men’s underwear was as much an object of fashion, or even eroticism, as women’s. Sagging, the practice of showing part of one’s underwear by allowing one’s trousers to sag below the waist – or the buttocks, in the case of the more daring, or even the knees in the case of those who don’t feel the cold – contributed in particular to these changes in behavior and ways of thinking. Although nowadays we may dismiss this practice as old-fashioned, if not vulgar, sagging has also enabled the popularization of the idea that men’s underwear is a symbol of belonging, as well as being aesthetic and seductive, and a marker of style and personality.

Every day, Sizable approaches the production of its underwear armed with the knowledge of this centuries-long evolution. Comfort, hygiene and aesthetics have reached a high point now. Representing the very best in underwear, Sizable products are soft and firm, antibacterial and thermoregulating, elegant and practical. But, as we have seen, underwear is also a reflection of the times, so we go even further. We are committed to responding to the global emergencies of today and tomorrow. In other words, we make underwear and we make it well, but not just anyhow!

The quality of our products does not come at the expense of the values associated with respect for the environment, ecosystems and the various workers involved, from the production of the yarn all the way through to the packaging and, finally, dispatch. Sizable has added a fourth important dimension to its underwear: responsibility.