Today, in the run-up to the 75th anniversary -- of the brief, not the wedgie -- Jockey has launched a media campaign in celebration of the tighty whitey, complete with archival photos, little-known factoids and a host of contests and events, which can be found by checking out, I kid you not, Jockey's Facebook page or Twitter feed.
You may not be the type to follow an underwear maker's Twitter feed, but there's a 25% chance you, or the guy in the cubicle next to you, wears the brief. Jockey cites a December 2008 report from NPD that says one in four pairs of men's underwear purchased today is a brief. (I don't see a lot of men in their skivvies these days, but I would have actually pegged that percentage as a bit higher.)
Some of the other interesting facts gleaned from today's media blitz:
- The name has nothing to do with horse racing; the garment was named the Jockey Brief on account of ts jock strap-like "functional benefits."
- At one point sales were so brisk that an airplane, christened "the Masculiner" (which I'm guessing would so not fly these days), was used to make deliveries around the country.
- The Kenosha, Wis., company, once known as Coopers Inc., officially changed its name to Jockey in 1971.
- In 1963, the company created astronaut undies for the Apollo program that included elastic bands on the cuffs designed to loop around the astronauts' palms and prevent a zero gravity wardrobe malfunction.
But the brief has resonance beyond simply its place in the pantheon of underpantaloons -- it seems to be some sort of litmus test. Why else would a student ask Bill Clinton "Boxers or briefs?" in a 1992 MTV interview? (It was briefs.) [** Updated 6:33 p.m. September 29: A previous version of this post said Clinton wore boxers. Consider this a brief memory lapse.] Perhaps it's just part of wanting to know if the famous and powerful are like us underneath.
Which brings me to perhaps the most memorable ad campaign of my childhood -- baseball player Jim Palmer, circa 1976, staring out from a magazine (it was either a two-page ad or I was much smaller then).
The future Baltimore Oriole Hall of Famer reclines on bended elbow, with perfectly feathered hair and a gleaming pair of hand weights. He wears nothing more than a pair of striped Jockey shorts and a wan smile.
I don't think I've donned a pair of briefs -- or picked up a hand weight -- since.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photo: Major league pitcher Jim Palmer (with some sweet hand weights) models a pair of Jockey briefs in a 1976 advertisement. Credit: Jockey International.