in: Clothing, Style

• Last updated: June 10, 2021

Bringing Back the Codpiece

Man wearing codpiece with dog illustration. Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Ty Karnitz.

Men today have been bringing back many classic things from the past: the hat, old cocktails, shaving with a safety razor…and now it’s time to revive another quintessential piece of manliness: the codpiece.

What’s a Codpiece?

In the 1500s, men wore hose to cover their legs. Now the hose they wore were nothing like the hose women wear today. The hose covered the legs but did not cover the genitals. As the jackets and doublets got shorter with fashion, men began to accidentally expose themselves when they sat down or mounted a horse. So, to cover their manhood, men began to wear a codpiece (from the Middle English “cod,” meaning “scrotum”).

The codpiece began as a simple piece of fabric that would be tied down, really just an extra piece of linen. However, as time wore on the codpiece became more elaborate and decorative, longer and padded. So instead of helping to conceal the genitals, the codpiece emphasized them.

However, there are alternative theories as to why the codpiece was developed. Author Marion Sichel, in the book History of Men’s Costume, suggests the codpiece developed because men’s hose became so tight they restricted movement, and the codpiece gave men more freedom of movement.

While the most readily accepted idea is that the codpiece was used to emphasize a man’s sexual prowess, there is another idea about what a codpiece was used for. Anthropologist Grace W. Vicary believes that the elongated codpieces might have contained medication to relieve symptoms of venereal diseases; this way the medication would not ruin the outer clothing.

Whatever the reasons for the codpiece’s evolution, it is without a doubt one of the most unique and distinctly manly articles of clothing ever seen. And though its height of popularity might have been in the 1500s, there is evidence that early precursors to the codpiece were around even in Ancient Greece. Some figurines recovered in archeological digs on Crete depict codpieces.

Who Wore Them in The Past

An armor standing in museum wearing codpiece. Some very manly men in the past have worn codpieces. Henry VIII is a prime example. His armor on display in the Tower of London shows that he wore a very large codpiece.

Now, the codpiece has fallen out of fashion in the last five hundred years or so, but that doesn’t mean it has vanished entirely. The Star Wars movies show great examples of codpieces on the armor of Darth Vadar and the Storm Troopers. David Bowie wore a codpiece in The Labyrinth, and Malcolm McDowell sports one in the Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange. You also see them in a lot of heavy metal bands today and in the leather subculture. Also across the world, at Renaissance fairs, men wear them still to this day.

Batman Robin wearing codpiece.

Codpieces are handsome AND functional. Seen here: an incredibly stylish bulletproof codpiece.

Why Men Should Wear Them

Men wearing codpieces for modeling. The codpiece should be brought back because it can help men today Command a Room like a Man. Any man boldly sporting a codpiece as he walks into a room will instantly gain everyone’s full attention. But remember, the codpiece is supposed to accentuate and not dominate, so even though everyone is likely to be staring at you, keep the focus on them. Maintain eye contact and talk about others. Following those simple rules will also help draw a lady’s attention.

Where to Buy

Luckily enough, the codpiece is not extinct. They are still readily accessible on some very popular websites, including Amazon, and most of them will only cost you a little over 100 dollars apiece.

But perhaps that is too expensive. Perhaps, as a cautious man you want to make sure that you’re not spending money on something you won’t want in a few years. That’s okay, too, because there are cheaper alternatives.

Sports Authority, and other sport stores, offer a wide variety of jockstraps and cups that with a little effort could be turned into beautiful codpieces. Some of the newer cups look like shorts and could be worn by themselves. Some of the older styles might need a little paint, so they don’t look so white and out of place over your jeans.

Just remember to be creative about it. To make the cup look more sophisticated, try painting a design on the outside of it, like flames or dragons or an axe or maybe just a smiley face. There’s really no wrong way to bring back the codpiece–just get to it!

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