Front and rear view of traditional men's briefs.
Man wearing full cut (full rise) briefs
Front and rear view of women's high-cut briefs

Briefs are a type of short, tight underwear and swimwear, as opposed to styles where the material extends down the legs.

In the case of men's underwear, briefs, unlike boxer shorts, hold the wearer's genitals in a relatively fixed position, which make briefs a popular underwear choice for men who are participating in athletic activities or who feel they need more support than loose-fitting underwear can provide. In addition, boxers often ride up the body when the wearer is running.

Briefs often feature a fly - a covered opening on the front of the garment which allows for convenience at urinals. There are several different fly designs in common use, including but not limited to the standard vertical fly, the horizontal fly, and the y-front fly. The use of a fly is optional, and many styles do not utilize a fly at all.

Traditional size briefs for both sexes cover the upper part of the thigh and extend upward up to (or cover, depending on the design) the navel. This style is often referred to as "full rise" or "full cut". There are also "low rise" and "mid rise" styles whose measurements vary between manufacturers.

See swim briefs for the case of briefs as swimwear.



Briefs were first sold on January 19, 1935 by Coopers, Inc., in Chicago, Illinois. They dubbed the new undergarment the "Jockey" because it offered a similar degree of support as the jockstrap (one style of which is also called Jock brief or Support briefs). Thirty-thousand pairs were sold within three months of their introduction. In North America, "Jockey shorts" or "Jockeys" is often used as a generic term for men's briefs.

In the UK, briefs were first sold in 1938. Soon, shops were selling 3,000 briefs per week. They were so popular that in 1948, every member of the British Olympic team was given a free pair of briefs.

In Britain, the term "jockeys" has not caught on and briefs are often referred to as "Y-fronts". The term derives from the inverted Y-shape formed by the seams at the front of the underpants which purports to allow easy access to the penis for urination. The colloquialism is used even when the fly opening may differ in style, and not actually form the shape of the inverted letter "Y" fly on Cooper Jockey brand briefs.

In Australia, briefs are referred to as "jocks", but should not be confused with jockstraps (more specifically used by athletes) which expose the buttocks. Australians generally use the word briefs to refer to the bikini-style underwear for men, which do not have the Y-front opening.

In the United States, a slang term for briefs is "tighty-whiteys" (with various spellings and inversions: "tidy-whities", "whitie-tighties", etc.). The exact origin of the term is unknown, but it has often been used as an epithet.

In recent years, a hybrid called boxer briefs has become popular. Like boxers, they have short legs, but like briefs, they are made of elastic, snug-fitting material. A shorter version of boxer briefs are called trunks.

Other languages

In various continental European languages, such as Spanish, Italian, Bulgarian, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek and Polish, briefs are not called by a word indicating shortness, but rather by the English word slip, which in American English is rather used for a type of lingerie. However, in Canadian French, the word bobettes is used instead of the International French.

Women's briefs

A figure-skater wears a costume with attached briefs under the skirt

Briefs also refers to a style of women's and girls' panties that is typically cut with a high waist to provide full coverage of the hips and buttocks. A control brief is a kind of high-waisted panty girdle. French-cut or high-cut briefs expose more of the front part of the thigh, while boy briefs have short legs, similar to men's boxer briefs, often combined with a lower waist.

Briefs is also the name given to costumed outerwear worn by female dancers and athletes in sports such as cheerleading, figure skating, and tennis. These briefs are typically worn under a short skirt; they may be attached to the skirt or dress body, or a separate garment ("cheer briefs").

Briefs and fertility

Tight briefs have been blamed for negatively affecting the sperm count, since they may interfere with the cooling of the testes.[1] However, not all research has come to the same conclusion. A study in the October 1998 Journal of Urology, for example, concluded that underwear type is unlikely to have a significant effect on male fertility.[2]


Media related to Briefs at Wikimedia Commons

  1. ^ WebMD, Boxers vs Briefs
  2. ^ A critical analysis of the role of underwear type in male subfertility

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Briefs — steht für den Familiennamen folgender Personen: Götz Briefs (1889–1974), deutscher Nationalökonom Ulrich Briefs (1939–2005), deutscher Politiker (SPD, Grüne, PDS) und Volkswirt eine Band aus Seattle, USA, The Briefs …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Briefs — Briefs,   Goetz Anton, Volkswirtschaftler und Soziologe, * Eschweiler 1. 1. 1889, ✝ Rom 16. 5. 1974; Professor in Würzburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Berlin; nach seiner Flucht 1934 in die USA auch dort Professor, u. a. an der Georgetown University… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • briefs — [ brifs ] noun plural short tight UNDERPANTS for men …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • briefs — short, tight underwear, 1934, from BRIEF (Cf. brief) (adj.) …   Etymology dictionary

  • briefs — ► PLURAL NOUN ▪ short, close fitting underpants or knickers …   English terms dictionary

  • briefs — noun short tight fitting underpants (trade name Jockey shorts) • Syn: ↑Jockey shorts • Usage Domain: ↑plural, ↑plural form • Hypernyms: ↑underpants * * * briefs UK [briːfs] US [brif …   Useful english dictionary

  • briefs — jockey shorts jock ey shorts (j[o^]k [=e] sh[^o]rts), n. pl. [from a Tradename.] A type of men s underpants without legs, fitting tightly and held by an elastic waistband; also called {briefs}. Originally a tradename, the term has become common… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • briefs — noun A short type of underpants worn by men or boys. See Also: athletic supporter, boxers, boxer briefs, boxer shorts, gonch, jockstrap, jockeys, jocks, long johns …   Wiktionary

  • briefs — noun Briefs is used after these nouns: ↑bikini …   Collocations dictionary

  • briefs — plural noun Syn: underpants, pants, knickers, bikini briefs; N.Amer. shorts; informal panties; Brit.; informal kecks …   Synonyms and antonyms dictionary

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