The Development of Men’s Underwear

One might imagine that men’s underwear has to be a relatively simple line of clothing… but one could certainly imagine wrong, not least when they examine the long track record in the development of men’s underwear that a certain humble company in England enjoys. Today, much as it was from the start, Sunspel is a go-to source of underwear for men, and that such a reputation has been sustained is testament to the firm’s ability to incorporate the best of the old and new.

Ever since its 1860 establishment, Sunspel has produced underwear. That leaves it well-placed to assess the journey that underwear has undergone down the years, not only in itself, but also in its social role. In those long-gone early years and decades, the world was very different, with its underwear being no exception. The British Empire was at its height, pioneering entrepreneurs like Sunspel’s own Thomas Hill thrived amid the second Industrial Revolution and the underwear that the Nottingham company then produced wasn’t boxer shorts – it was undershirts, singlets and tunics.

The company’s early staff had a formidable reputation for their skill in the use of Lisle cotton, chosen for premium men’s underwear on account of its smoothness, strength and durability. This reputation was sustained long after Sunspel clothing began to attract acclaim in the furthest corners of the British Empire. Not for nothing was the company – previously known as Thomas A Hill Ltd, later Sea Island Textiles Ltd – renamed after its then most successful underwear brand, Sunspel, in 1937. This was also the year in which the firm made the move to the Long Eaton area of Nottingham, where it remains today.

The new premises amid the thriving local lace making industry could have barely been better chosen, as far as the subsequent development of Sunspel’s men’s underwear was concerned. It was the 1930s, after all, that saw the creation of the brand’s renowned cellulock fabric, which was just one of many innovations by the company in that era to gradually transform it into the country’s premier men’s underwear manufacturer. The unique lightweight Quality 14 cellular fabric continues in use in the company’s current underwear, on account of the cool feel and comfort that it provides when worn close to the skin.

Subsequent developments in men’s underwear came thick and fast, demonstrating that there have always been ways for enterprising clothing manufacturers to boost the luxury, durability, longevity and all-round wearability of their underclothes. Particularly prominent in the current men’s underwear range at Sunspel, for example, are boxer shorts, which played a monumental starring role almost 40 years later in the iconic European Levi’s Launderette advert, in which they were donned by model Nick Kamen.

However, premium men’s underwear has always been about more than boxers. It’s also about the very finest quality briefs, trunks, vests, shorts and T-shirts – as are all plentifully stocked in the present Sunspel online and retail stores.