Posted on February 27, 2015
Women weren’t the only ones responsible for modesty during the Renaissance. Men were held to a higher standard as well. One of the most revolutionary fashion items that held men to a higher standard was the codpiece. From flat to cushioned, the codpiece was designed to keep a man’s private parts private.
Before the Renaissance, men’s fashions consisted of tunics that reached to one’s knees or longer. Tunics combined with tights are what kept men covered and out of sight. During the Renaissance, men’s fashions began to change. The tunics that men wore started to get shorter, stopping at mid-thigh. This normally wouldn’t be a problem but it was because of the way tights were made. Tights weren’t more than two tubes that covered the legs, leaving the middle unsewn. The opening in the middle made it easier for men to attend to their bathroom needs. While that opening made it easy for men to go to the bathroom, it left their hindquarters exposed when they had to get onto horses.
As the wealthy continually changed the way men’s tunics were made along with other fashions, the way tights were made wasn’t. Women were exposed to men’s private parts being flashed when they sat, rode a horse and many other daily activities because of the length of the tunics. The public outcry was hard for people to ignore. By 1482, a law was passed, forbidding anyone below a Lord to expose their hindquarters by wearing short doublets.
With so many people crying foul at the sight of men’s privates being exposed, the codpiece was born. It started as a flat, triangular piece of material. It was used to cover the gap the tights left open. It was something that wasn’t too reliable but it got the job done. With the introduction of codpieces, a bit of decency was restored.
The popularity of the codpiece grew. With so many wealthy men catching on to the trend of wearing codpieces, they began to add to it. Instead of allowing the codpiece to continue to be flat and unadorned, they added to it. Codpieces went from flat to pouches, cushioned and decorated. There are some that decided to use their codpieces to carry valuables. With so many codpieces being decorated and flaunted, the fashions followed. Men used their codpieces as another way to flaunt their virility.
The codpiece isn’t used in today’s world in a traditional sense. The descendant of the codpiece is now in use and has been for some time. Eventually someone decided it was easier to sew the gap between tights and hoses closed. Instead of needing such a flagrant codpiece showing, it was sewn into men’s clothing. This led to closures featuring zippers, buttons and flaps.
While the codpiece looks funny in today’s standard, it’s something that served a purpose. Women were saved the embarrassment of seeing so many male members flying in the wind. Men were able to flaunt their virility. From flat to cushioned, codpieces taught men how to keep their privates private.
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