Sunspel would say the former are correct, of course, having been the first European manufacturer to import the idea from the US and produce its own line, in 1947 – when boxer shorts soared in popularity in part as a result of having GIs stationed in the UK throughout World War II, boxer shorts being standard-issue kit for the US Army.
But Sunspel had to, as it were, go the full 12 rounds too before boxers found lasting popularity. It would be more than 30 years before a boom in popularity in the 1980s saw boxer shorts become as symbolic of the decade as the Filofax and padded shoulders. Yet, unlike those, boxers also survived the 1980s – sometimes in jersey, sometimes with button fastening, sometimes with a French back, sometimes with various twists on the cut of the fly, but always there.
Why is that? That boxer shorts work brilliantly in crisp cotton is one reason – cotton feels good next to the skin and, somehow, also seems more hygienic. Medicine might even back their cause – the latest research suggests boxers are better for your balls (there’s a campaign line in readiness). But, as Bond and even Batman, might attest, they also just look better. They’re the underwear that makes a man of you, not a boy.
Josh Sims is a journalist and author of Icons of Men’s Style.
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