City Cast

Chi’s Brief Role in Underwear History

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on January 9   |   Updated on June 21
A Jockey underwear advertisement. At the top of the ad reads "Look your best while you wear your least."

A 1976 Jockey advertisement. (SenseiAlan / Flickr)

You’re familiar with the age-old question: boxers or briefs? But do you know the city’s role in helping bring tighty-whities into the mainstream?

Since the late 1800s, S.T. Cooper & Sons (later Cooper's) had been in the undergarment business. The Midwestern company had been known for its socks and hosiery when it started creating underwear at the turn of the century.

In 1934, a postcard of a man in a bikini style bathing suit from the French Riviera inspired marketing executive and apparel engineer Arthur Kneibler to design snug, legless underwear.

On Jan. 19, 1935, Marshall Field’s was the first store to sell the briefs. Despite a blizzard that day, all 600 pairs sold out, according to CNN.

The company found global success and later changed its name to Jockey. But Chicago does have one more chapter in the company’s history: The city hosted an underwear fashion show. And, yeah, it was weird.

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