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Loin Cloths for Girls and for Boys

Knickers For Boys

There were five boys in our family, so the word 'knickers' was never mentioned. In fact, we used to get quite cross with our maternal grandfather who insisted on calling rugby or football shorts 'knickers'.

Loin Cloths for Girls and for Boys

Loin Cloths for Girls and for BoysThe problem was that girls wore knickers, not boys - everyone knew that, so we always assumed that he said it in order to annoy us, which he may well have done, although, I now know that there were people of his generation who did call them knickers.

In our family, the five boys and our father wore underpants - not shorts, which were worn on the outside and not 'boxers', because they had not been invented yet. We wore 'Y Fronts' or something similar, but definitely not knickers.

This was working class life in 1950's and 60's Britain. A decade or so later, I met lots of young men who had grown up with (older) sisters, who called what they wore knickers, but I have never been able to do it, not even in jest.

I imagine that footballers stopped calling their shorts knickers around about the time of the Second World War, which was why I was not used to hearing them described as such.

The first article of men's clothing to be described as knickers might have been the Plus-Fours, which buttoned just below the knee and were worn over long socks. Middle class Victorian school boys wore them to school as part of their uniform.

Underpants for Girls

I have never heard a British girl describe her knickers as 'underpants', but from the films that I have seen over the decades, I gather that it is quite common in America. I have never heard it said in films from Canada, Australia or New Zealand either, although perhaps they say it there too sometimes.

I think that it is true to say that many, if not most, women did not wear any knickers at all until a hundred years ago or so, because they wore copious skirts that reached to their ankles and that was deemed sufficient for modesty.

Hygiene did not really enter into it!

The earliest female under-garments looked more like cloth waders, tied at the waist, so that they did not have to be removed when thy had to do their business. Then came bloomers, knickers, panties and thongs as they got smaller.

The pendulum has almost swung back. They started with nothing, went completely overboard and are now wearing next to nothing.

Women often wear men's boxers and manage to look very feminine in them too, but I am sure that most men would agree that calling ladies' knickers or panties 'underpants' completely de-sexifies them, which may well be why some people do call them that.

Nobody finds their mother sexy and certainly not in her underwear. Beautiful, sure, but surely not sexy? So, maybe it was because I came from a family of six males, that I find the words 'knickers' and 'panties' so sexy., but I know that many other men feel the same way.

After all, who would, or even could, contemplate saying 'panties for boys'?


by +Owen Jones