Romans were the first to wear a garment which has a somewhat resemblance to modern day underwear. They used to call it subligaculum. It might be of interest to note that the Egyptians and the Greeks never wore underwear at all!
Long baggy drawers called ?braies? made their appearance in Europe in the 13th century. Those who were better off wore chausses over the braies to cover their legs. Modifications of braises and chausses went on all the while and by the time Renaissance found its way in Europe, braises had become shorter and more form fitting and chausses began to look more like modern day hoses.
Braises had codpieces which allowed men to urinate without removing them completely. Over time people started using thicker and thicker codpieces for greater protection and to secure their modesty.
Henry VIII of England however gave these codpieces a revolutionary twist. He started using a heavily padded, bizarre shaped codpiece not only to highlight the shape of his private parts but also to use this part of the garment as a pocket to carry odd small bits of essential items! It became a rage in the fashion world during those times and carried on till the end of the 16th century.
In the 1930?s a quite revolution took place!
Easy elastic bands were innovated and companies such as Jockey and Hanes began selling underpants with elastic bands and called them boxer shorts since they resembled the gear worn by professional boxers.
The word underpants also made a triumphant entry into English dictionary.
With the advent Jockey Y-vent briefs in 1934 underpants went through a metamorphosis. For the first time an easy to use diagonal vent was introduced instead of flaps and codpieces. Two years later, ?kangaroo pouch? underwear which had a horizontal vent arrived in the market but could not compete with the diagonal vent types which were preferred because of their ease of use.
World War II witnessed another quantum leap in the underwear world. For the first time the soldiers were issued colored underwears as the white ones were too conspicuous when hung out to dry! Thus began the era of multihued undergarments.
The end of the War saw the discovery of a preshrinking technique called sanforization. Before this people had to buy underwear one size larger to allow for shrinkage during washing!
1947 saw the introduction of another fabric called nylon tricot and the 50s and 60s saw a sea change in how the underwear was perceived. Rainbows rained on under garments and prints and color combinations became bold and wild. Another new fabric called Lycra Cotton saw the light of the day in 1960.
Underwears started become smaller and tighter!
The 1970s and 1980s saw the entry of designer labels such as Calvin Klein, Sauvage, Ron Chereskin, and Tommy Hilfiger and underwears became a fashion and a fun item. Briefs became briefer, bolder and newer fabrics were introduced. About the same time, use of sex as the overriding theme became prevalent in all the advertising campaigns.
This overemphasis on sex saw a queer trend catch on since the mid-90s ? that of not wearing any underwear at all! Underwear was perceived as the final barrier to sex, and not wearing underwear was a turn on for many. This practice of freeballing (freebuffing, in case of females) or going commando is practiced by both the sexes and is a very ?in? thing now a days