Underwear has been used for so long that historians are not sure who invented it. The first form of underwear was the simple loincloth. The oldest evidence of people wearing loincloths dates back 7,000 years. This example was made of leather and consisted of a strip of cloth that went between the legs and up around the waist. Later, loincloths were made of fabric such as cotton or wool. Another form of loincloth was more triangular-shaped and used loops or strings to affix the material over the genital area. Another form of loincloth was simply a piece of cloth held in place with a string or strap around the waist. It was free-flowing and sometimes worn in combination with a rear flap.
In warm climates, the loincloth was worn as outer clothing. People belonging to high classes could wear some adornment, but, generally, it was too hot to wear any other clothing over it. In colder climates, warmer clothing could be worn over the loincloth.
During the Greek and Roman periods, many men did not wear underwear beneath their robes, called chitons. Some mosaics from the time, however show men and women wearing loincloths and some women wearing breastcloths, a form of early brassiere.
During the Renaissance, clothing styles changed drastically. Men and women began to wear clothing in layers. Early shirts, called chemises were worn under jackets by men and gowns by women. Early trouser-like garments called braies were also worn. Women eventually began to wear petticoats under their dresses.
Modern underwear began to be popular after the inventions of more efficient spinning wheels and the cotton gin in the late 18th century. This allowed clothes to be mass produced. Men began to wear pantaloons instead of hose which were loose enough for underwear to be worn beneath them.
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