Men’s vintage underwear (quite unlike women’s) hasn’t changed much throughout the years, although it did look a little bit different during the 1940s. Men wore either briefs, boxer shorts, or union suits under their daily clothing.
White knit briefs were made from ribbed cotton with an elasticized waist and were worn high on the waist. Most were legless, but a short leg option was available. They were usually paired with a tank top undershirt of the same material.
Shorts (not called boxers yet) were given to soldiers during the summer months. At first they were white, but while hanging out to dry, they attracted enemy fire, so they were quickly changed to olive drab (tan) instead. Back at home, men wore them in either white, blue, striped, or with a small print on them. They buttoned or snapped in the fly and had either a full elastic waistband, partial elastic panels, or a yoke band with buttons (elastic was in short supply during the war). Shorts were worn above the belly button and they fell to the upper thigh. The back of the shorts was a little baggy, allowing ample room to move about without restriction.
Men always wore an undershirt during the ‘40s. Before the war, a white ribbed cotton scoop-neck tank top was the standard (with thinner shoulder straps than are common today). They were also long, hanging down to the thigh. The white cotton short sleeve T-shirt was the standard issue undershirt for soldiers and soared in popularity during the decade. That’s even how it got its name – it was called the ‘T-type shirt’ by the military. After the war, the short sleeve T-shirt as a clothing item came to be – men started wearing them by themselves without anything over them, as they had become accustomed to while overseas.
During a cold winter, men might have thrown on a ‘union suit’ underneath their clothes. This was simple long underwear. The ‘40s version was very fitted with buttons down the front. The legs reached down to the ankles with long or short-sleeves. These were usually white ribbed cotton with a high crew neck. Short leg varieties with short or tank top sleeves were an alternative to just undershorts in spring or autumn weather. Some full length union suits were made of lighter summer weight materials as well. For many men who grew up with union suits, they were the only style they wore. Briefs and shorts were too modern!
Men’s Vintage Style Underwear
When it comes to vintage style underwear, boxers, and undershirts, choices are few and far between. Here are some options available online: