How a man in a bikini inspired a minister to invent briefs
John A. Magsaysay (The Philippine Star) - February 10, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - That one-minute Tom Cruise dance routine in the movie Risky Business all at once skyrocketed and ended the sex appeal of “tighty whities” as we know it (I mean, who could beat that?), but for the 138-year-old underwear brand Jockey, that legendary habit of showing off your skivvies comes with a history that is anything but brief.

Founded by the pious Reverend Samuel Cooper in 1876, the retired minister may not have had a clue that he was spearheading the largest underwear coup in history — the one that would set free and let loose all known limits and restrictions in the drawers department. It all started when Jockey invented men’s briefs in 1934, taking a cue from a French Riviera postcard of a man in a bikini, and took it a notch further with the Y-front the year after, making the union-suit — or top-to-toe underwear — a thing of the past while starting the evolution of underwear as we know it today.

“To talk about Jockey today, it’s important to talk about Jockey’s history, and how the brand revolutionized underwear,” explains Jockey brand director for Asia Enrique Cardenal. From Puritanical beginnings, Jockey was to be credited with the sensual onslaught of underwear billboards, being a pioneer in underwear advertisement when Joseph C. Leyendecker, illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post, created the “Man on the Bag” campaign, the first to feature male underwear in public print in 1910. Jockey also spearheaded the use of sportsmen as endorsers when it headlined slugger Babe Ruth in 1946, followed by batter Jim Palmer in the 1980s, and, more recently, NFL superstar Tim Tebow, who earned much collective dismay when he refused to drop his pants.

Taking its cue from mothers who lovingly embroidered their son’s initials on their knickers, Jockey started putting its name on the elastic waistband in 1947, predating designer, logo-crazed underwear by over four decades. Predating Victoria’s Secret, in 1948, the brand held an underwear fashion show featuring the “Cellophane Wedding,” a pair of male and female models in nothing but their Jockeys and cheeky plastic see-through outfits, which was quite eye-opening at its time. But it was not until 1969 when Jockey really left a revolutionary mark when NASA commissioned the all-American brand to be the first underwear to reach the moon, as sported by astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong aboard Apollo 11. 

By the ‘80s, Jockey tights gave way to designer underwear and boxers. But, unfazed by the competition, the brand unveiled Jockey For Her in 1983, which in Cardenal’s words, “utilized all the innovation, all the underwear know-how and applied to women’s underwear.”

So innovate Jockey did, shaping up modern underwear trends with technical fabrics, ergonomic fits, and completely breaking free from the traditional restrictions of basic knickers, so much that in its newest campaign, the brand asks its disciples to “Show You’re Jockey.” And no, this is not a call for indecent exposure, but just to display proudly what the brand believes is their strongest suit. “Our product development is based on the five pillars of Jockey: innovation, sport, international collection, heritage, and US originals — our heritage of being the oldest underwear brand on the market, so this is our strongest point. Our origins are from the US, and in this pillar, we come up with designs inspired by the US, the flag, and Americana.

“Behind every Jockey design, there are technical aspects that we do take into account,” he adds. “You don’t want to compress it too much, or you don’t want to make it too loose. You want the right support. For women, it’s the same. Breasts are a muscle, and if you don’t give excellent support to these muscles, it’s going to stretch over time, so, of course you want to give them the right support as much as you can,” he says. “When choosing underwear, you must consider comfort and quality, then you can go on thinking about design or innovation. Of course, some will also consider the price. But for Jockey, we have the mid-ranged styles and the top-range styles, but we don’t sacrifice on the comfort and quality, so you can get all these considerations no matter what price point.”

Now that Jockey’s market share in the country accounts for 60 percent men and 40 percent women, the brand further develops its appeal to the ladies by riding on the trend made more popular by the world’s leading pop stars. With shapewear — idealized modern-day corsets and underwear as outerwear — becoming a mainstay in the concert series of stars from Lady Gaga to Beyoncé, Jockey unveils its Seamless Shapewear line to bring the romance and regality back to under-dressing. The line of camisoles, slips, high-waist panties, and busty brassieres tones, slims and shapes the female form with an innovative lightweight nylon and spandex blend found in the covetous color-ways of Very Berry, Frozen Frappe, and Black Sugar, all with that Jockey trademarked No-Panty-Line-Promise. So well-received, in fact, was the Seamless Shapewear when it debuted in the States that iconic celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe christened it as a “major must-have” for the modern woman’s wardrobe.

As Jockey tries to shape up the future of female underwear under a brand name that was once strongly dominated by masculine affinity, brand director Cardenal admits it takes a lot of silky persuasion: “I will never tell them to give up their underwear, because that is very personal. But I could advise them to try it out. Try something new, and for sure, you are going to be satisfied,” says Cardenal on this risky business we call underwear.

AS JOCKEY ASIA ENRIQUE CARDENAL BABE RUTH BLACK SUGAR BRAND CARDENAL JOCKEY SEAMLESS SHAPEWEAR UNDERWEAR
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