Briefs are a type of short, tight underwear and swimwear, as opposed to styles where the material extends down the legs.
A main difference between male briefs and female briefs is that male briefs are often designed with a seam or much larger pouch in the crotch area to accommodate a bulge. This is because men and boys have larger external genitals in comparison to women or girls, thus requiring more fabric in the crotch area.
Briefs were first sold on January 19, 1935 by Coopers, Inc., in Chicago, Illinois. They dubbed the new undergarment the “Jockey” because it offered a similar degree of support as the jockstrap (one style of which is also called Jock brief or Support briefs). Thirty-thousand pairs were sold within three months of their introduction. In North America, “Jockey shorts” or “Jockeys” is often used as a generic term for men’s briefs.
In the UK, briefs were first sold in 1938. Soon, shops were selling 3,000 briefs per week. They were so popular that in 1948, every member of the British Olympic team was given a free pair of briefs.
In Britain, the term “jockeys” has not caught on and briefs are often referred to as “Y-fronts”. The term derives from the inverted Y-shape formed by the seams at the front of the underpants which purports to allow easy access to the penis for urination. The colloquialism is used even when the fly opening may differ in style, and not actually form the shape of the inverted letter “Y” fly on Cooper Jockey brand briefs
In Australia, briefs are referred to as “jocks” but should not be confused with jockstraps (more specifically used by athletes) which expose the buttocks. Australians generally use the word briefs to refer to the bikini-style underwear for men, which do not have the Y-front opening.
In the United States, a slang term for briefs is “tighty-whities.” The exact origin of the term is unknown, but it is generally used as an epithet.
In recent years, a hybrid called boxer briefs has become popular. Like boxers, they have short legs, but like briefs, they are made of elastic, snug-fitting material. A shorter version of boxer briefs are called trunks.
Briefs often feature a fly – a covered opening on the front of the garment which allows for convenience at urinals. There are several different fly designs in common use, including but not limited to the standard vertical fly, the horizontal fly, and the y-front fly. The use of a fly is optional, and many styles do not utilize a fly at all.
Traditional size briefs for both sexes cover the upper part of the thigh and extend upward up to (or cover, depending on the design) the navel. This style is often referred to as “full rise” or “full cut”. There are also “low rise” and “mid rise” styles whose measurements vary between manufacturers.
Briefs also refers to a style of women’s and girls’ panties that is typically cut with a high waist to provide full coverage of the hips and buttocks. A control brief is a kind of high-waisted panty girdle. French-cut or high-cut briefs expose more of the front part of the thigh, while boy briefs have short legs, similar to men’s boxer briefs, often combined with a lower waist.
Briefs is also the name given to costumed outerwear worn by female dancers and athletes in sports such as cheerleading, figure skating, and tennis. These briefs are typically worn under a short skirt; they may be attached to the skirt or dress body, or a separate garment (“cheer briefs”).
Briefs and fertility
Tight briefs have been blamed for negatively affecting the semen analysis, since they may interfere with the cooling of the testes. However, not all research has come to the same conclusion. A study in the October 1998 Journal of Urology, for example, concluded that underwear type is unlikely to have a significant effect on male fertility.