Why Superheroes Wear Their Underwear on the Outside

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Why Superheroes Wear Their Underwear on the Outside

While there have been many fantastical proposed origins of this seemingly odd modish style amongst comic artists -my favorite of which being that most superheroes lost their parents at an early age, so they had no one to tell them underwear goes UNDER your clothes -the true origin is pretty simple. According to Julius Schwartz (famed editor of DC Comics from 1944-1986 who edited the most famous of all external-underwear superheroes, Superman), this was simply modeled after the garb of aerial circus performers and wrestlers of the era in which the first superheroes proudly donned their underpants over their tights.

Now, it should be noted here that the wrestlers, circus performers, and superheroes weren’t actually wearing underwear, but rather tight underwear-like shorts over their leggings. As superheroes are generally incredibly gifted athletically and perform amazing acrobatic stunts while crime fighting, it was natural enough for this style of dress to get adopted by the earliest superhero artists for their characters.

Two of the earliest major representations of this can be found in Flash Gordon (1934), which in turn was partially the inspiration for the garb of Superman (1938), with the principle difference being the colors of their uniforms and the fact that Superman had a cape (as far as I can find, the first major superhero to wear one).

Of course, if you still want to think of the superhero tight-shorts as underwear, given that Superman and others often wear their uniform under their normal clothes, it kind of makes sense.

Bonus Fact:

The original Superman character envisioned by Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster was not the crime-fighting hero from another world we know today. Instead, they made him a bald bad guy set on ruling the world in the 1933 The Reign of Superman. In this story, a character by the name of Bill Dunn is waiting in a soup kitchen line when Professor Ernest Smalley offers him food and new clothes in exchange for his participation in an experiment.

The Professor proceeds to give him a potion that makes Dunn telepathic; he then becomes a super-man, and tries to take over the world. However, in the process, he kills Professor Smalley, only to discover later that his powers are temporary unless he has more potion to drink, which he can’t figure out how to recreate. Ultimately, the former Superman finds himself without his powers and back in the soup kitchen line.

A year after writing that story, Siegel re-cast the character of Superman, this time making him a hero bent on righting the wrongs prominent in society at the time. They also decided to switch Superman’s name from “Bill Dunn” to “Clark Kent,” after famed actors Kent Taylor and Clark Gable.

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33 comments

  • Question.
    Why did all Superheroes wear socks and not shoes or boots?

  • They weren’t socks as you couldn’t see their toes through them. More like a lightweight boot.

  • This may have been brought up before, but in the B&W series with George Reeves, the badguy empties his gun at Superman, then throws thye empty gun in a futile effort to hurt him. Superman, who was immune to the bullets…ducks. LOL

  • Drawing superhero characters for children in hospitals to color, in the 1940’s, I could find nothing that would indicate any kind of footwear other than socks. There were no soles, and one could see the complete outline of the foot.

  • DUNNO WHETHER THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A PIECE OF HUMOR, BUT I CUDNT HELP SMILING THRU OUT. SOME MORE WEIRD EXPLANATIONS WUD HAVE BEEN THE ICING (I M SURE …. WITH SUCH A JUICY TOPIC, NETIZENS MUST AV SPAWNED A MILLION THEORIES BY NOW…MEBBE EVEN SOME CONSPIRACY-THEORIES) 🙂
    PS: ANOTHER SIMILIAR QUERY….WHY DU CARTOONS SHOW FOUR FINGERS ONLY (N NEVER FIVE)?

  • Great video, very interesting. Quite a few typos in the onscreen text, though. You might want to have someone check that…

  • They don’t have wife and children, too O_o

  • Makes sense. But I also think there’s something missing–what about the fact that wearing underwear-like shorts also keeps the superheroes’ pants “up” so to speak. For instance, women wear stockings, but those stockings tend to go down slowly. I like to wear girl shorts on top of my stocking to avoid this. Just a thought, and experience thrown in there, haha. Great article by the way!

    • Superheros look sexy with briefs over their tights and I’m sure they feel really nice and snug on superheros. I wore a superhero costume, royal blue leotard and tights with bright red Speedo swim briefs over the tights. i also had a long red cape with the yellow belt and booties. My Halloween outfit felt so nice and fit me well, as I was somewhat thin those days. i wasn’t ready to give up those superhero leotard and tights that night, but in the end She got my superhero blue leotard, red briefs, blue tights and light blue colored briefs off me. it took her some time getting my superhero outfit off and really tickled while feeling all that clinging layers of spandex being stripped off. She certainly enjoyed getting my Halloween superhero costume off me that night. it was a lot of fun being a superhero for Halloween.

  • I’m not going to try to tell Superman or any of those other guys, where they have to place their skivvies, or how frequently they should change them. I don’t think they would listen to me anyway. (Just like any other sane person).

  • The skin-tight outfits are because it’s easier than drawing regular clothes (and to show off muscles). According to one of the original artists, the undies on the outside was make sure people knew they were wearing SOMETHING, as colorists often got things wrong (the early non-panties heroes, the original Green Lantern, were often in trouble by censors because “he’s nekkid!”)

    Why women always wore swimsuits… well, because guys are drawing them and guys are buying them (though Black Canary’s comment that if they’re looking at her “charms” they weren’t looking at her fists).

    Personally, I think the New 52 Superman and Batman look… unfinished.

  • I think the main problem is lesser intelligent people calling it “underwear” instead of ‘trunks’ or ‘briefs’. If anything you’d think it’d fabric is thicker and what’s actually keeping the thin tights from falling down.

  • Leandro Martins de Lima

    I read somewhere that in fact one of Superman’s author the authors created the character as a way to escape the sadness for having lost his own father, imprinting his hopes of a superhuman character that could have saved his own father.
    I don’t remember where I read this though.

  • Iv’e worn red speedo swim briefs over blue tights, with a long sleeve, back zipper leotard and microfiber briefs under the tights on Halloween. They really feel and do look great. The feeling of red swim briefs over my clinging soft, warm leotard and tights keeps my lower anatomy snug and secure underneath. After a special adult Halloween party , Ill be helped out of my superhero outfit by a lady friend later that night. I’m in no hurry to give up all those sexy leotards, especially the red swim briefs over the tights. i like how my yellow booties are unzipped and taken off, then loose my red cape, as she slow unties and takes it off. I now feel like I’m loosing all of my superhero powers, when she eyes my red briefs, then joyfully unites the long drawstrings and watch me wiggle and pout like a little boy being taken out of his Halloween superhero fantasy. It certainly tickles my excited genitals well encased blue leotard and tights, as she pulls and tugs the red briefs down. My first layer is slowly coming off when she says “party’s over superman, we’re just getting started,” while smiling in all her beauty. She’s captured her superhero and stripping me down to the bare essentials. It was over, once she had my red swim briefs off, then the blue leotard is slowly unzipped and peeled down to my upper waist, then unsnugged and off, despite all my playful resistance. She stepped back watching me plead for my warm blue tights and undies, still snug and secure in them. It was a slow and gentle process being defrocked of my superhero leotard and tights. It was such a sensational feeling, as she slowly peeled the blue tights down my legs, then she happily freed my kicking feet. “Okay, Halloween’s over for you, superhero” finally getting the clinging white microfiber briefs off and I.m totally naked for her. It was a beautiful Halloween night for both of us, but I certainly liked wearing those superhero leotard and tights.especially the red swim briefs over them, keeping me warm, snug and secure on a very chilly night.

  • It’s fun seeing Superheros in comic books and movies. I got to dress up as a superhero in blue leotard and tights with red swim briefs over them on Halloween. They felt great wearing them and I wonder how Superman felt in his superhero outfit. After the Halloween party, I had to change, but wasn’t ready to take off my blue superhero leotard and tights yet. They felt so soft, snug and secure, especially with the red briefs. When it was time to change, I was helped out of my superhero leotard and tights and complimented how good They fit me. It was some what sad to have the red briefs come off, then the blue leotard, tights and blue underwear. It was a great fantasy for me to dress up in superhero hero leotard, tights and red briefs over them, a great Halloween costume night.

  • I was rather young, of college age and got to be batman in light colored grey long sleeve leotard with a very long back zipper, covered by a large dark blue cape with snug grey tights and shiny microfiber underwear briefs under my tights. I was also wearing a sexy dark blue snug speedo style swim brief over the leotard and tights. They really felt so nice and I often wondered how batman felt in his leotards with the swim briefs over the light colored grey tights. After the Halloween night costume party, it was time to change into pajamas and I wasn’t ready to give up my superhero leotards, as they felt so warm and snug on me, that very chilly night. Slowly layer by layer all those snug well fitting batman outside covering swim briefs, leotard, tights and microfiber undies were slowly stripped off by nanny, while squirming and child like pouting. Finally she got all my sexy, snug batman superhero leotard, tights with the outside briefs off me. it was certainly a lot of fun being dressed as batman, but feeling like a young boy loosing his favorite superhero attire and soon in pajamas that night.

  • This time, I was dressed in all bright orange long sleeve, back zipper leotard, bright orange opaque tights and shiny white ballet style undies too. It was a rather cold day and was wearing warm snug button up denim kiddie style bib overalls. I had a late doctors appointment that day and her last patient for the day. I also had a change of clothes with me long sleeve baggy shirt, lose fitting trousers and baggy boxer shorts as underwear to change into after a complete physical examination by the lovely female doctor. My moment of embarrassment came, when told by her that I was to to be complete undressed before being examined by her. She and her young female nurse were eyeing my layers of warm and snug winter attire. Once in the exam room, she would slowly open all the buttons on the snug denim bib overalls. Both her and the young nurse noticed my outlined bright colored orange leotard and tights, as the lady doctor continued unfastening and unbuttoning my warm snug overalls and it really was tickling me a lot. I felt like a superhero being taken out of character when she watched the snug overalls front unbuttoned bib and shoulder straps separate and drop down to my lower front waist and back. After a lot of pulling and tugging, my well fitting overalls were soon off and I was only in my very snug and soft bright orange leotard, bright orange opaque tights with outer black nylon briefs over them. They both really liked my superhero outfit and looking forward stripping me out of my orange leotards and outer black briefs. After a lot of wiggling and bashfulness, the lady doctor and helping nurse, finally had me out of my outer black briefs, bright orange leotard, tights and clinging white ballet undies. i really liked being in those warm, snug and sexy superhero leotards as the female doctor, with her nurse’s help, completed my physical exam. It wasn’t fun wearing those baggy clothes and underwear home after being snug and warm in my superhero outfit.

  • Did superheroes wear other snug outfits or seasonal clothes, besides their tight, full covering superhero spandex leotards? Yes they do especially in the very warm weather like in Florida. Those superheroes will wear very tight and sexy Speedo style swimsuits that fit them well. and have great bodies too. Sometimes they wear a summer style singlet, revealing all of their well shaped and strong superhero male assets. When it’s time for them to change into regular warm weather street clothes, they take their time stripping off those shiny bright colored tight swim briefs, or peeling off those clinging one piece summertime singlets., revealing their sexy strong male anatomy. It’s a rare sight for many women,but really love seeing them stripping off their sexy tight summer outfits.

  • Many superhero really like just tight sexy swim briefs or a very well fitting singlet in the warm climate and warm weather, like in Florida, other than those warm snug superhero leotards and tights worn only in cold weather and Northern cold weather climate.

  • My two male friends and I really enjoy being dressed as superheroes at a Holiday costume party. One of my favorite outfits is a long sleeve, back zipper bright yellow colored leotard that fits closely with bright yellow matching opaque tights. I’ll wear full size black briefs over my tights with shiny white nylon style panties. under the tights. They feel so nice too and do get somewhat aroused wearing my superhero bright yellow leotards with the snug black briefs over them. My two male friends are dressed in similar outfits in other bright colors with a cape matching colored briefs over them and really like wearing their superhero outfit, even as underwear in cold winter weather. The fun, yet time consuming part comes when it’s time to change out of our well fitting superhero costumes and put on boring, baggy underwear and lose fitting outer street clothes. The backstage show time ladies are waiting to take us, one superhero costumed young guy at a time and help getting each one of us out of our superhero outfits. It was a long and slow , yet a really enjoyable process for the backstage females. All one could hear, were childish whining,with a lot of yelping, as they are being stripped out of their superhero leotards and outer briefs and soon naked, then changing into baggy street clothes. I was last to have my very snug outer black briefs, bright yellow superhero leotards and sexy nylon undies to be stripped off me by the backstage ladies, first the soft snug outer briefs were worked down and off, then my bright yellow leotard was unzipped and peeled off, then the tights are stripped off by them. Those ladies certainly had me very aroused getting those sexy superhero black briefs with the bright yellow leotard, tights and undies off my squirming young male body and resisting them from coming off, but to no avail, as the two would tell me to hold still saying ” Hold still now, so we can get this costume off.” They finally had those snug and secure superhero leotards all off me, like with my two other friends eventually changing into baggy and boring street clothes. My two friends did feel somewhat sad having their superhero costumes stripped off them, but did like the way the backstage ladies were treating them, while feeling those warm, snug superhero costumes coming off layer by layer, despite their childish resisting and being naked for only a short time before putting on those baggy, boring lose fitting underwear and street clothes. I wondered about the creators of those comic and movie superheroes at the time and like my male friends, really liked dressing up in a superhero outfit for a Holiday costume party in the 21st century.

  • Again, it feels so snug and warm in superhero spandex leotard, matching opaque tights and snug royal blue swimsuit style briefs over them. I’ve often wondered over the years if one of those comic strip superheroes were real, could they have had those super powers and fly with their bright colored leotards and large cape. I guess that superhero fantasy with many young guys is why, like me dress up for a Halloween costume party as batman or superman. It’s said that the ladies really like the way those superhero costumes look and fit on us guys. As said before wearing those sexy, warm and well fitting leotards with the rest of our superhero accessories, certainly feel really good, yet getting them off does take some time and for the ladies and they certainly enjoy getting us guys out of those sexy superhero leotard, tights including the long cape, playtime power belt with the dark blue briefs over the tights. Again as said earlier, they make good winter underwear and very erotic being stripped off each one of us layer by layer til the lovely ladies soon have each guy completely out of their superhero costumes and now naked and erect for a short time, before changing into baggy underwear and loose fitting street clothes.

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