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Latest Articles - Luxury

How To Wear A Wrist Watch Properly – The Lesson of Style

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Codpiece: the Essential Atavism

Thursday, 18 November 2010

CodpieceA codpiece (from Middle English cod meaning «scrotum») is a covering flap or pouch that attaches to the front of the crotch of men's trousers and usually accentuates the genital area. It was held closed by string ties, buttons, or other methods. In the 14th century, men's hose were two separate legs worn over linen drawers, leaving a man's genitals covered only by a layer of linen. As the century wore on and men's hemlines rose, the hose became longer and joined at the centre back but remained open at the centre front. The shortening of the cote or doublet resulted in under-disguised genitals, so the codpiece began life as a triangular piece of fabric covering the gap.

As time passed, codpieces became shaped and padded to emphasize rather than to conceal, reaching their peak of size and decoration in the 1540s before falling out of use by the 1590s. Armor of the 16th century followed civilian fashion, and for a time armored codpieces were a prominent addition to the best full harnesses.

The expansion of the silhouette in men's fashion during the reign of Henry VIII was not limited to exposing the codpeice to view. There was a literal expansion as well. Although Henry VIII was considered to be one of the handsomest men in Europe, he was a large man later in his life and the new style suited him perfectly. The boxy silhouette can be explained by Henry's desire to hide his excess bulk, but it doesn't explain the expansion of the codpiece, as it was exaggerated in size, the bag was puffed and slashed, and even ornamented with jeweled pins. This new prominence was an effort by men to exaggerate their endowments. Besides, Henry VIII was very likely concerned with the image he was presenting to the other rulers of Europe. So much did his inability to beget a healthy male heir (his son, later Edward VI, was always sickly) weigh on his mind, that Henry VIII changed the entire religion of England. Henry VIII understood succession problems, having only come to the throne because his older brother, Arthur, died young. Ever conscious of his image, the exaggerated codpiece told England, and the rest of Europe as well, that his equipment could not be at fault.

However, as the fashions changed, the exuberance and flamboyance of Renaissance styles were replaced by the clean cut and elegant precision, and men's attire changed dramatically, gradually becoming more comfortable. The noisy clatter of metal and jewels was replaced by the inaudible clinking of zipper or buttons fastening without a sound. Today, the transformed codpiece is found in its original place though this time it can have buttons, zipper or a special wedge-shaped flap, which provides maximum comfort to a man.

After numerous design and functional transformations through the centuries, the codpiece ceased to be a separate clothing item, leaving only an outline in the place where it used to be. In trousers and jeans, a codpiece is a zipper, concealed beneath the flap. Breeches, pants, shorts, and even men's tights - all these men's wardrobe items include some variation of the codpiece, depending on the function of clothes, its style and fabric.

Men's tights or underpants that keep men warm in the cold season, are tight fitting and nearly clinging to the skin, and therefore codpiece is present here as a single vertical flap, which provides anatomical support for the genitals. A pioneer of men's underwear design, French label HOM began in 1968 with the production of pants with a convenient flexible codpiece, intended for an active man of any age who strives for success in life and work. In 1997, HOM patented a new innovative underwear design which included the horizontal opening and using anti-allergic fabrics. The horizontal opening in the pants offered more comfort for men in comparison with than the vertical opening with buttons or zipper. The latter were designed mostly for the right-handed men who could easily unzip the codpiece while the left-handers faced some difficulties.

Modern underwear for man may include synthetic materials, but the codpiece fabric should always be natural and anti-allergic.

Gone are the days of knights and tournaments, and kings flaunting their tinkling bejeweled gold codpieces. Today, the original version of the codpiece is still worn in performance costumes for rock music and metal musicians and in the gay leather subculture, while in everyday life codpiece has turned into an essential part of men's bottoms, the fly. Though some designers who have a rich sense of humor from time to time come up with a modern version of the codpiece. However, this is merely a harmless prank which hardly goes beyond the catwalk.

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