The Modesty and Manliness of the Codpiece

Like females who have their “essentials” when it arrives to underwear apparel, gentlemen have them, way too. Each individual 1 of us has to use undergarments to safeguard our personal parts, preserve our modesty, and glimpse respectable in other people’s eyes.

Of program, you know about some forms of men’s underwear like briefs and boxer shorts. But not a lot of of you may well have listened to of a codpiece.

Effectively, we cannot blame you, except if you are proficient in fashion historical past. The codpiece is a pouch or covering flap that attaches to the entrance of trousers, enclosing the male genitalia. The codpiece was one of the common products of clothing all through the 15th and 16th generations.

The codpiece was also a popular attribute of a extensive hose, which resembles women’s stockings or tights. All through the 1400s and the 1500s, the codpiece was worn as underwear to defend a man’s personal components. But unlike most varieties of men’s underwear that are generally concealed beneath an outer garment, the codpiece is visible.

The term “codpiece” is derived from the Center English expression cod, which signifies “scrotum.”

For quite a few decades, the codpiece has extensive been an enigma among social and vogue historians, social psychologists, and ethnologists. But possibly it needn’t be – evidently, there had been a simple motive for the codpiece’s existence, at least in the beginning.

At the time, doublets – men’s fitting jackets well known in the Middle Ages – were being finding smaller and shorter. As a final result, a man’s private pieces turned unintentionally uncovered, especially each time he sat down or mounted a horse. That’s why guys began to have on codpieces to deal with their crotches. Most of the earliest codpieces were being generally built of linen.

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Given that it was 1st introduced, the codpiece became just one of menswear’s necessities all through those people hundreds of years. Originally worn as a simple piece of outfits for modesty uses, the codpiece later on turned a vogue assertion. 

The codpiece was shaped like a sheath that fitted as near to a man’s “member” as attainable. As a result, the codpiece did a double intent – although it coated the genitals, it also emphasised them. Men at the time seemed very pleased of displaying off their codpieces mainly because they had been a statement of virility. The measurement and duration of the codpiece were being an indication of the wearer’s clear masculinity. Even so, some gentlemen tried out to exaggerate their standing (masculine and or else) by stuffing their codpieces. According to Grace Q. Vicary, a cultural anthropologist, the codpiece’s key operate was “phallic connotations of aggressive virility exhibit.”

When the codpiece peaked in popularity from the 1540s to the 1580s, it was padded to make it seem more substantial and lengthier. Afterwards codpieces highlighted decorations and elaborations. They ended up so elaborate to the place of starting to be the item of ridicule from individuals who imagined of them as outlandish.

Pier Maria Rossi di San Secondo by Parmagianino

The codpiece as “P.P.E.” in opposition to syphilis?

Since the codpiece was designed to address male genitals, there may possibly have been a useful website link in between that and syphilis, a bacterial infection generally transmitted via sexual intercourse. The syphilis epidemic swept through Europe beginning in 1494 or 1495 when the 1st recorded outbreak happened in Naples, Italy. Syphilis was identified at the time as the “French pox” or “French disease” considering that it was claimed to have been unfold by the French troops.

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Vicary offers a further idea that the codpiece was designed to incorporate a contagious sickness – in this circumstance, syphilis. According to her, treating syphilis was termed for “a galaxy of herbs, minerals, syrups, and decoctions,” which were being instantly used in a “variety of messy unguents and poultices.” To protect a man’s fancy garments from stains developed by this kind of mess, he may as effectively isolate his genitals by covering them with “a huge, boxy penis container,” Vicary writes. The codpiece could also have the oozing pus from the contaminated genitalia.

In addition, Renaissance men carried a large amount of swords, daggers, and other tools hanging from their belts. The codpiece, therefore, guarded a man’s sensitive assets from being unintentionally thumped and grazed by this sort of sharp resources.

Does the codpiece even now exist?

Later on on, the codpiece was criticized by clerics and spiritual leaders. Queen Elizabeth I was also towards the style. From the large, padded, and overstuffed codpiece, it became smaller sized once more. By the 1600s, the codpiece had fallen out of vogue in favor of other undergarments, such as drawers. 

Bauer & Black jockstrap

The codpiece is no longer an everyday undergarment, but similar clothes do exist. Maybe the finest-recognized modern by-product of the codpiece is the jock strap (earlier mentioned), which shields the genitals from injuries throughout make contact with sports activities or any other vigorous bodily exercise.

The codpiece is also popular in significant steel manner. Having said that, it became in particular notable between steel groups all through the 1970s by way of the 1990s. At the time, rock musicians ended up consistently besieged by ravenous admirers, specifically for the duration of a reside concert. Fearing that their “assets” would bear the brunt of this kind of adoring assaults, they turned to wearing codpieces as defense from personal injury and harassment. 

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Oderus Urungus of GWAR

Some of the rock metallic codpieces were actually elaborate, strange, and… properly, epic, like this Cthulhu-styled codpiece worn by the late Oderus Urungus of the heavy metal group GWAR (earlier mentioned).

The codpiece also made a fleeting look on the significant fashion catwalks. Vogue designers, this kind of as Jean-Paul Gaultier, have taken inspirations from the medieval codpiece to make identical garments that discover highly effective themes of masculinity and sexuality. 

It appears that when the codpiece is no for a longer time worn as a typical undergarment, the thought guiding it did not vanish fully.