Henry VIII wearing a codpiece

A codpiece (from Middle English: cod, meaning "scrotum") is a covering flap or pouch that attaches to the front of the crotch of men's trousers and usually accentuates the genital area. It was held closed by string ties, buttons, or other methods. It was an important item of European clothing in the 15th and 16th centuries, and is still worn in the modern era in performance costumes for rock music and metal musicians and in the leather subculture.



Metal cod-pieces, 16th century

From the ancient world there are extant depictions of the codpiece; for example, archaeological recovery at Minoan Knossos on Crete has yielded figurines, some of which wear a codpiece.[1] Most of what is objectively known about the cut, fit, and materials of Renaissance clothing is learned from realistic portraits, clothing inventories, descriptive receipts for payments of artifacts, or tailors’ cutting guides.[2] In the 14th century, men's hose were two separate legs worn over linen drawers, leaving a man's genitals covered only by a layer of linen. As the century wore on and men's hemlines rose, the hose became longer and joined at the centre back but remained open at the centre front. The shortening of the cote or doublet resulted in under-disguised genitals, so the codpiece began life as a triangular piece of fabric covering the gap.

Portrait of Antonio Navagero (1565), oil on canvas, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, by Giovanni Battista Moroni

As time passed, codpieces became shaped and padded to emphasize rather than to conceal, reaching their peak of size and decoration in the 1540s before falling out of use by the 1590s. Armor of the 16th century followed civilian fashion, and for a time armored codpieces were a prominent addition to the best full harnesses. A few of these are on display in museums today: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has one, as does the Higgins Armory[3] in Worcester, Massachusetts; the armour[4] of Henry VIII in the Tower of London has a codpiece. In later periods, the codpiece became an object of the derision showered on outlandish fashions. Renaissance humorist François Rabelais jokingly refers to a book titled On the Dignity of Codpieces in the foreword to his book The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel.[5]

Through the same linguistic route, cods became a modern slang term for the male genitalia.[6]

In contemporary culture

Leather codpiece

Subcultural attire

Resembling codpieces, jock straps made of leather can be worn in leather subcultural attire to cover and confine the genitals of a man, sometimes while wearing leather chaps. Rather than accentuating the male genitalia through exaggeration of the size of the wearer's endowment, attention is drawn through decorative adornment such as metallic studs.

Heavy metal fashion

The codpiece crossed over from the leather subculture to become an established part of heavy metal fashion performance costume when Rob Halford, of the band Judas Priest, began wearing clothing adopted from the gay biker and leather subculture while promoting the Hell Bent for Leather Album in 1978.[7] Ian Anderson, front man for Jethro Tull, wore a codpiece during his performances in the mid-1970s. Gene Simmons of the American Rock Band Kiss often wore black and silver costumes with codpieces. Shock rock performer Blackie Lawless, leader of the group WASP, wore a codpiece that features a saw blade. Heavy metal singer King Diamond has been known to wear a codpiece as part of his performance outfits. Electric Six lead singer Dick Valentine can be seen wearing a brightly flashing codpiece in the music video for the band's 2003 hit single Danger! High Voltage. Metal singer Till Lindemann of Rammstein occasionally wears codpieces on stage.

Oderus Urungus of metal band GWAR wearing a codpiece in a 2004 concert

Black metal musician and Satanist Infernus wore a codpiece as part of his attire during the Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam era of Gorgoroth. William Murderface from the cartoon series Metalocalypse also wears a codpiece on several occasions. Alice Cooper regularly wears bright red codpieces in concert. GWAR front man Oderus Urungus wears a codpiece called The Cuttlefish of Cthulu.

Pop music

Tom Jones wore codpieces during concerts and the lead singer of 1980s music group Cameo, Larry Blackmon, wore a large, bright-red codpiece in all of his performances, which was his trademark. Cameo's frontman sports a codpiece in his videos "Word Up" and "Candy." Guns N' Roses front man Axl Rose wore a codpiece for most of the Appetite tour.

In film, electronic media and modern literature

  • In Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange (and later Stanley Kubrick's movie adaptation), Alex and his gang wear codpieces.
  • In William Tenn's novella The Masculinist Revolt (1965), the codpiece becomes the symbol for an antifeminist movement.
  • In the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the Earth is covered in radioactive dust, also known as nuclear fallout, so male characters must wear lead codpieces to avoid becoming sterile.
  • The films Batman Forever and Batman & Robin received much publicity over the size of the molded rubber codpieces of the Batman and Robin costumes.
  • In Jim Henson's movie Labyrinth, the Goblin King (played by David Bowie) sports a large codpiece beneath his riding breeches.
  • In The Pirate Movie (1982), a rock music version of the Pirates of Penzance, the Pirate King wore an enormous jeweled codpiece for comedic effect.
  • In Babylon 5, G'Kar, played by Andreas Katsulas, sports a codpiece as part of his Ambassadorial garb.
  • In one episode of Metalocalypse, Murdering Outside the Box bassist William Murderface purchases a diamond-encrusted codpiece, which is long and sharp enough to kill someone who accidentally fell on it (while another band member also claims to have bought a codpiece, it was, in reality, a vibrating strap-on).
  • In the 1995 film Se7en, a lust-related murder involves a man being forced at gunpoint to don a codpiece with a long blade.
  • In the video games Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero II, Izzy Sparks' main costume features a skull-shaped codpiece.
  • Codpiece was a supervillain who appeared in Doom Patrol #70. He was armed with a mechanical codpiece.[8]
  • In the British sitcom Blackadder episode "The Archbishop" the eponymous anti-hero Edmund wears a "Black Russian" codpiece.
  • In the movie From Dusk till Dawn the character "Sex Machine" wears a black leather codpiece, with a concealed firearm attached.
  • In the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, an episode is called "Codpiece Topology" because the story includes a Renaissance fair.
  • In the video game Final Fantasy IX, the main antagonist Kuja wears a metallic codpiece.
  • The video game No More Heroes features a boss named Destroyman whose codpiece shoots laser beams.
  • In the British comedy/sitcom Red Dwarf, Lister can often be seen wearing a codpiece masturbation device while playing virtual reality video games.
  • Codpieces figure prominently in the six Star Wars movies.[citation needed] Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and the Imperial Stormtroopers wear codpieces as part of their armour.
  • At Renaissance Festivals, some male actors will wear codpieces as part of their outfits. However, as most Renaissance Festivals are set during the mid-to-late reign of Elizabeth I, this is not strictly historically accurate.
  • Thanks to his crotch straps in the famous "Mission Accomplished" aircraft carrier photo-op, George W. Bush became known as "Commmander Codpiece." [9]

See also

  • 1500–1550 in fashion
  • 1550–1600 in fashion


  1. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2007. Knossos fieldnotes, Modern Antiquarian.
  2. ^ Grace Q. Vicary, Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Feb., 1989), Visual Art as Social Data: The Renaissance Codpiece, pp. 3-25.
  3. ^ John Grabenstein, .
  4. ^ David Edge, Arms and Armor of Medieval Knights: An Illustrated History of Weaponry in the Middle Ages.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ A Fan's Analysis of Doom Patrol supervillain Codpiece.
  9. ^

Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Codpiece — Cod piece , n. [Cod, n., ? + piece.] A part of male dress in front of the breeches, formerly made very conspicuous. Shak. Fosbroke. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • codpiece — mid 15c., a bagged appendage to the front of the breeches; often conspicuous [OED], from O.E. codd a bag, pouch, husk, in M.E., testicles (common Germanic, Cf. O.N. koddi pillow, Du. kodde bag ) + PIECE (Cf. piece) …   Etymology dictionary

  • codpiece — ► NOUN ▪ a pouch to cover the genitals on a pair of man s breeches, worn in the 15th and 16th centuries. ORIGIN from earlier cod «scrotum», from Old English, «bag» …   English terms dictionary

  • codpiece — [käd′pēs΄] n. [ COD2 + PIECE] a bag or flap fastened over the front opening in the tight breeches worn by men in the 15th and 16th cent …   English World dictionary

  • codpiece — /kod pees /, n. 1. (in the 15th and 16th centuries) a flap or cover for the crotch in men s hose or tight fitting breeches, usually matching the costume and often decorated. 2. Obs. penis. [1400 50; late ME. See COD2, PIECE] * * * ▪ clothing… …   Universalium

  • codpiece — UK [ˈkɒdˌpiːs] / US [ˈkɑdˌpɪs] noun [countable] Word forms codpiece : singular codpiece plural codpieces a piece of material covering a man s sexual organs, worn in the 15th and 16th centuries …   English dictionary

  • codpiece — noun /ˈkɒdˌpiːs/ a) A part of male dress in front of the breeches to cover the male genitals, sometimes made very conspicuous in former times. Borachio: Seest thou not, I say, what a deformed thief this fashion is, how giddily ’a turns about all… …   Wiktionary

  • codpiece — [[t]kɒ̱dpiːs[/t]] codpieces N COUNT A codpiece was a piece of material worn by men in the 15th and 16th centuries to cover their genitals …   English dictionary

  • codpiece — noun Etymology: Middle English codpese, from cod bag, scrotum (from Old English codd) + pese piece Date: 15th century a flap or bag concealing an opening in the front of men s breeches especially in the 15th and 16th centuries …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • codpiece — cod|piece [ˈkɔdpi:s US ˈka:d ] n [Date: 1400 1500; Origin: cod bag, scrotum (11 19 centuries) (from Old English codd) + piece] a piece of coloured cloth worn by men in the 15th and 16th centuries to cover the opening in the front of their… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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