Boxers, briefs, and commando

Since my three exciting days in costume at the San Diego Comic Con this year, I’ve been thinking a great deal about costumes, their design (both from the artist’s and the character’s p.o.v.), and functionality (Incredibles pegged it right: capes are a pain).

The biggest mystery remaining is the briefs on the outside that some heroes wear. Why? But more importantly why do heroes that survived the Golden Age intact uniformly wear these?


Superman invented them, Batman’s got them, so do Spectre, Captain America, and Namor.

Why? From an artist’s stand point it does a couple of things.

a. breaks up large areas of a single color. Think about when they briefly revamped Batman back in the 90’s sans briefs. There was too much gray, and the inkers were placing shadow there anyway. The fight was lost and Batman regained his dignity.

b. conveniently gets rid of the need to draw even the hint of the old twig and berries.

But as Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent why? When they were cobbling these outfits together why?

I’m willing to concede that modesty might have played a factor. A sports cup would have achieved the same goal.

A friend pointed out that in Superman’s case his mother designed the costume after Kryptonian fashions. They’re aliens and culturally underwear is worn on the outside.

In Namor’s case, it makes sense. He’s a swimmer and needs to weigh less and not create much drag.

I don’t know why for the other characters, but I have noticed that those with the extra layer seemed to have fared better in the void between the Golden Age and the Silver Age. With the exception of Hawkman, all of the DC characters that received a revamp didn’t wear briefs. By the 50’s they didn’t need them either. Flash didn’t sport them, neither did GL. The Silver Age wasn’t so worried about modesty I guess.

Any thoughts? I think I’ve spent too much time thinking about this.

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3 comments on “Boxers, briefs, and commando

  1. Jesse says:

    Green Lantern kind of did. It was a onesy, but the way the green breaks up the black can give that impression. Depending on the artist, of course.

  2. Hoyt says:

    What better way to avoid embarrassing panty-lines (see Captain America) than to show your manliness and wear the briefs on the outside?

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