Underpants (also called undies for short, especially among children and young adults) is a general term for items of underwear that cover the body from the waist to, at least, the top of the thighs. They are worn directly on the skin and under other items of clothing. Their purpose is to provide modesty, comfort and hygiene.
The word "underpants" is slightly more British than American English, and somewhat archaic as it has been shortened to "pants" in British English. "Underpants" tends to sound childish and evokes practical cotton basic styles only; it might also be used in medical or technical contexts, or as a formal word to refer to children's underwear.
Types of underpants include:
- drawers (male, female)
- open drawers (female)
- bloomers (female)
- knickers (female)
- panties (female)
- briefs (male)
- boxer briefs (male)
- boxer shorts (male)
- long johns (male)
Since the Middle Ages, men began to wear a loose undergarment called brouche or braies. These were eventually replaced by simple cotton, silk or linen drawers, which were usually knee-length trousers with a button flap in the front. Such underwear was usually worn under trousers, whereas under tunic-style garments it was usually preferred to go without. The Scottish kilt is a good example of this tradition.
Women did not wear any such garment, as it was considered specifically male. It took until the mid-19th century when women began to wear drawers too.
The schoolyard rhyme "I see London, I see France, I see someone's underpants" is used by children to make fun of a child whose underpants are acidentally showing (see also panchira).
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