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Jul 9, 2012

VOGUE winner + Things I Don't Get, Vol. 3: French Back Boxers



Let's begin with today's big announcement: our Vogue Patterns magazine winner!

She's a "mum" and a wife who works part-time and loves to make things...  Please put your hands together for the UK's own Vicki, of the blog VickikateMakes

Vicki, please contact me (peterlappinnyc at gmail dot com) and I'll get your magazine off to you right away!


Moving right along...

Readers, unlike many (most? all?) women, it's fair to say that the majority of men view underwear as strictly utilitarian.  This is changing, of course, thanks to sites like Undergear .com -- NSFW. But really, how many men have a "just for Valentine's Day and anniversaries" underwear collection?  Maybe it's a generational thing too: I suspect younger guys are more open to the unusual.

If I can't wear my underwear comfortably under my clothes, I'm not interested.  Which is why I have a problem with French back boxers.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, this is the style of boxer that predominated in the days before elastic waistbands. You adjusted the fit with the assistance of a buttoned back yoke.



You can still purchase this type of boxer from Brooks Brothers; you won't find them at American Apparel.  I can see these working for WWII re-entactors and zoot suit-attired swing dancers, but for a typical jeans-wearing guy of today, this underwear comes up too high on the waist and is also rather baggy.



I made a pair of these a few years ago from Simplicity 1960, a vintage men's underwear pattern that dates from 1945 (above).  I used an old flowered cotton/poly sheet and they were more an experiment than anything else and -- no surprise -- I never wore them, and not just because of the girdle-like fit (if I made these again I'd grade up a bit so I could exhale).  The real problem was that they practically came up to my armpits. 





I suppose I could redraft the pattern and lower the yoke, but eventually it defeats the purpose: these are not designed to sit on your hip bones.



Men and those that love them, have you ever worn or sewn French back boxers?  Have you ever even heard of them?  Perhaps your fathers or grandfathers wore them, or your maiden Aunt Sal, or you saw them in a Clark Gable movie.

It's not hard to find a vintage pattern for French back boxers -- just check Etsy or eBay (search under "vintage boxer pattern").  Obviously you won't find every size and the prices vary (dramatically).



Readers, do you find French back boxers a best-forgotten relic akin to mens spats and garters, or do you think they could possibly work today, albeit with a bit of reworking (lowering that yoke, for starters)?  

Do you think men should keep a few of these in the back drawer just for fun, i.e., do you find them sexy?

Is it time to bring the French back back? 

Have a great day, everybody!

46 comments:

  1. No Peter, not sexy. Not in the least. Not even you wearing yours! LOL!

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  2. Sorry, but I don't even want to see Clark Gable in those things.

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  3. My husband favors Calvin Klein "boxer briefs" which are knit briefs with french back seaming like you show but with boxer length legs. They fit snug like briefs. He says they combine the best qualities of boxers and briefs and he says the double seam is more comfortable than a single back seam.

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  4. I'd like to think they'll never be a big trend but with the younger generations running out of ways to be different I expect that in a decade or so they'll be the new trend. However, I have a 9 yo son that pulls all his undergarments up as high as they can go & he loves his waistband at the exact place that this style rides. We have had endless discussions but he is determined to wear them high. He'd do the same with jeans but there's a built in limit. :) So one day I expect to see this style in a "modern" form at the mall.

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    Replies
    1. I think your son has the makings of a fashion icon and your post pulled me out of a funk unimaginable!

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  5. Replies
    1. Agree for the front, but not with the Mr. Poopie Pants flap in the back.

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    2. I also agree- love the idea of a yoke on shorts.

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  6. I'm torn. Those are hands-down the unsexiest underwear I've ever seen, even including Civil War reproduction long-johns. On the other hand, I think I would be totally charmed by any guy eccentric enough to wear them once in awhile (note I said, "Once in awhile." Anyone who insisted on wearing them habitually I would suspect of being either insane or a hipster, and thus ineligible for the honor of actually showing himself to me clad only in underwear).

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  7. Given the trend for having underwear waistbands be visible above trouser waistbands, perhaps these could provide more interesting details other than elastic....if underwear is supposed to be on show from time to time, why not?

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  8. Am I the only person that likes this style at all? On the right guy (no offense Peter), these things could be very sexy! (Ok, get rid of the 'poofiness' in the legs to minimize the skirt/culottes-look, but otherwise...) Oh, and I think those long-johns are attractive as well! I like leaving some things to the imagination; maybe it's all those buttons! Don't get me wrong, Undergear is some mighty fine eye-candy, but as we all know, too much candy is bad for you. ;-)

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  9. when first looked, I thought the back was a poop flap.

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    1. I thought it was a poop flap, too! Ha!

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    2. Me too - definitely looks like a poop flap. Not sexy at all...

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  10. Scott, I like them too. I think they would be very sexy if fitted properly on the right man. Peter, I think you should sew up a pair with a better-fitting waist and let us judge. :)

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  11. while i love my outer garments to be vintage - i will stick to my low rise ginch gonch for the "under support".

    they are fun to see on pattern packages, and in museums - but i wouldn't want to see them on my guy.

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  12. I pretty much hate all boxers. They remind me of old man underwear. Give me a man in some briefs (not white!) Of course it helps if he is packing....Ok I will leave now.

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  13. Men's underwear is all about contour and allure these days. Those older styles appear to blousy.

    Nowadays we're all about the drape on the landscape, showcasing our angles and bony prominences, minimal conceal and maximal reveal.

    Oh ya, that's men's underwear in these modern times. Tight and terrific!

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  14. My Dad wore these kind of boxers (b. 1926) with elastic in the waistband. I remember ironing them (yes, I was taught to iron both his boxers and tshirts) as a young girl.

    Because of this, I have mixed feelings about them and remember that rear flap that was so hard to iron and fold smoothly. I haven't heard their positives and negatives brought to light so clearly, and if he were still alive I would certainly ask him what style underwear he prefers. Don't you feel men's slacks are now cut much too close to be wearing this style underwear?

    But I certainly would not be ironing them anymore!

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  15. Oh, what fun! This will keep me buzzing for a few days - wondering what could be done to update them? Surely, soon, young men will tire of wearing their pants down below their rears. Thanks for the jolt of creativity today, Peter. I'm not sure I can do anything useful with it, but it's fun to ponder.

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    Replies
    1. The problem, Kitty, is that if you take the yoke too far down, you lose the fly.

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  16. DH refers to these kinds of boxers as "those things his grandpa used to wear", and he wouldn't be caught dead in them. I'm guessing that it will be a few years before they come back in style. They may be part of a retro craze eventually.

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  17. Male garters haven't entirely disappeared. My husband is active duty Air Force and has to wear them with his working blues uniform on Mondays and on any occasion requiring dress blues. Supposedly they're necessary for keeping the shirt's tails in place properly. No idea if any other branch uses them.

    Do NOT ever call them garters around the male personnel, though. They will be quite affronted. ^_- They insist the proper term is "shirt stays".

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    Replies
    1. Men's garters are elastic bands to hold socks up (at least they're elastic in later incarnations; they were originally ribbon before elastic came along).

      So, they are correct; those are not garters.

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    2. Military men can wear a lot of things and get away with it!!

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  18. Peter, I can't get in above to reply on the right string - but to colaborate more - its the back of the boxers that has the unique appeal for me and the front I would adjust to be a straight wide waistband like board shorts. Unless there is a reason why the yoke needs to be shaped?

    I made competitive wrestling singlets for teams for a decade. My weirdness still ponders on how to create a different crotch for them too - lycra is fine on men but 250 pound wrestlers need a different style and design through the crotch area than a 12 year old wrestler. I never settled on a solution but I still ponder it. Like I said, this will keep me going for several days thinking! And thank you for posting the photos of you in the style. I wouldn't have seen the possibilities by just looking at the pattern.

    Sethrak, now I will need to ask my son-in-law if he wears "shirt stays". He's career Army and is extremely particular that his dress uniform be perfect.

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  19. I like them. Though they should be tad lower. Men today have forgotten that the waist is level with the navel, NOT the hips. I never wear pants or underwear that don't ride at or just below the navel. There is nothing sexy about mooning everyone when you bend over. ;-)

    That said, I think within a generation guys will be wearing their pants above the navel in a reaction (or overreaction) to the excessively low pubic hair showing style of the last decade or so.

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  20. umm... well... i like them! especially on Clark Gable. They have a very mature/aged look that says gentleman. I think they look like classy men's underpants. And the pair you made look great Peter, except that they look too tight at the waist. The baggy bottom part isn't especially attractive, but the tidy yoke is! They're almost kind of like a girdle for men... aren't they flattening over the part of the stomach that might bulge?
    Interesting post Peter!

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  21. What...boxers?-sorry distracted over your buff bod...
    I prefer colored briefs on a guy.

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  22. in about 1980, my daughter found these boxers in an army-navy store. they were leftovers from WW2 and were tan/olive color. after she stopped laughing, she bought a few pairs and they became her summer shorts. (side note: she says $2.00 per pair)

    is it time to bring the french back back? not in my opinion. is it time to bring the french back?
    hhmmmm........that 's a question that needs some thought.

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  23. The "Mr. Poopie Pants" comment cheered me up after a very long and difficult day.
    If the design is slimmed down a bit, it just might work.

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  24. So, how are THESE any more ridiculous than what we routinely see around hanging out of boys' pants everywhere? I have to LAUGH when I hear young women say things like "Boxer shorts are so sex-eeee!" Well, I am from the generation to whom boxer shorts were associated with "grandpas". Tighty-whitie Y-fronts(and later, greenies, bluies, etc) were the order of the day! As boxer shorts go, IMOHO, these are actually much more ATTRACTIVE than today's offerings in their way! (And they would in fact make great women's shorts-with a bit of tweaking!)

    I agree the back of them could use a little work (after all, they didn't have stretchy materials back in the day) but what you are seeing there is EXACTLY the same non-centre-seam back as is seen on "boxer briefs", but baggy because of being done in a non-stretchy material (the fit on Peter's shorts could probably use some tweaking as well; they look a bit "wedgy")

    But as you see, the high fitted waistband acts as a bit of a 'girdle"(in Peter's case, a LOT of a girdle!) and probably helps keep them from slipping down (the no-elastic problem again) I for one can't agree that these boxers "look ridiculous"; certainly not after witnessing what has been on offer in the fashion world in the last while!

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    1. But you have to look at it from the young folks perspective. All their grandpas wear y-fronts and their dads wear boxer briefs. Nothing turns off a young person faster than their parents/grandparents underwear. like everything else in fashion, what's hot in underwear is cyclical. Once the baby boomers die off, tighty whities will probably be all the rage again.

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  25. I've never made a pair of true French-back boxers, but I did make a pair of no-seam boxers. Actually, it had seams, but just not down the center back. I think it was a Kwik Sew pattern that was still available in recent years.

    I wore them once - for a whole day. And swore I never would again.

    What ever comfort was offered by no back center seam was more than offset by the extra bunch of fabric that continually crept up and into my crack, if you know what I mean!

    They also didn't fit in the crotch very well and raised the pitch of my voice every time I sat down.

    I'll never make these again, but I would like to find a pattern (or make one) that combines the flat fitted panel in the front along with an elastic band around the sides and back.

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  26. My granddad wore similar boxers. I doubt my grandmother sewed them since I remember her saying they were hard to find. He had sensitive skin and could not tolerate elastic touching him. I don't think he wore his britches quite so high though!

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  27. WELL WELL WELL...Peter you look amazing in those boxers(compliments)..Lots of room to move HEHE.....On the serious note, I am not sure this is something I would prefer to wear on a daily basis but I do see benefit of having shirt stay when wearing business shirts....I guess if there is a way to make it slightly tighter and with the lower waist- then....potentially we have the winner undies ...

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  28. I've never seen this style before! And frankly, I hope never to see it again.

    I don't really care if men's undies are outright *sexy*, but these are just hideous...

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  29. Well I think you look quite delicious in them. I love the way men's trousers used to sit so much higher and I think the discomfort is as much from getting used to a waist that is so much lower now. It's been like that for menswear for over 40 years, whereas for women it only happened 20 years or so ago. I'm all for getting those waists up again!

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  30. Bobbin doctor:

    That's odd; I thought the whole point of the "no-seam back' was to KEEP the shorts from riding up and "wedging" like a seamed back does...perhaps you need to adjust the crotch depth from front to back. I haven't seen this adjustment for men illustrated anywhere(then again I haven't ever heard of men custom-fitting their underwear) but the adjustment must exist; I'm sure MEN vary in size and contour 'down there' just like women do, with occasional need for additional space in the front/back!

    I found for myself after buying a pair of mens' longjohn style underwear last winter that they were actually more comfortable worn front to back, with the "front space" allowing me more ROOM in the back, where I needed it!

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  31. Years ago my boyfriend got the ugliest pairs of boxers because they were cheap. They're a hybrid gone wrong- lowish elastic waist with a huge French boxer flappy ass. I'm going to learn how to sew men's underwear just so I don't have to look at his horribly unsexy boxers anymore!

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  32. Hello...I'm told this "no elastic" thing sort of came around during WWII because rubber (which is used to make real elastic) was either in short supply or rationed. My mom used to say that a new car tire just couldn't be had during that time. If a person had a flat, it was patched and you drove on. All available rubber, I'm told, was going to the war effort, tires for service vehicles and the like. So it wasn't necessarily a matter of convenience, style or comfort but rather of necessity. My mom also said it was almost impossible to but a new pair on nylon hose during the same period. Nylon then was a relatively new fiber and was being used to make parachutes and the like and was largely unavailable for civilian use. My mom said she got pretty good at mending her own hose. Silk hose were available apparently but could be quite costly. Not sure of dates on the boxer shorts patterns, but keep the shortage of elastic during WWII in mind!

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  33. I a very excited to find a solution to my little problem of being allergic to latex and most types of elastic material. I can deal with baggy better that itching and rash or blisters from elastic waistbands..

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