The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Cafe Society

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 08-16-2006, 12:07 AM
shizaru shizaru is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Why do Superman/Batman wear underwear over their pants?

Being a big superhero fan from my youth (and since my wife is visiting her mama and I'm all alone right now) I've been entertaining myself by watching my DVD's of the old George Reeves Superman show and Batman the Animated Series. A question that I've had for some time came to mind....why do superheroes wear underwear over their pants?

I know that sounds like a silly question, but its one of those things that I've never understood. Even as a kid I would ask my parents that. (My grandfather used to tell me they were swimming trunks in case they had to go swimming...but that doesn't explain why they have them OVER their pants). Is there a reason for it?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 08-16-2006, 01:01 AM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
I Am the One Who Bans
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 78,236
To protect their, uh... "truth, justice and the American way?"
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 08-16-2006, 01:02 AM
scotandrsn scotandrsn is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Because both their parents died when they were very young, and they were never taught correctly.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 08-16-2006, 01:03 AM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
I Am the One Who Bans
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 78,236
You saying people in Kansas wear their underwear on the outside? That'd explain a few things.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 08-16-2006, 01:12 AM
Cherry Garcia Cherry Garcia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
In case they get in an accident, their underwear stays clean?

WAG: Most comic heroes were created in the 30's and 40's and the artists (and editors) felt it drew less attention to the crotch area. It's my guess they were first drawn that way to allay censor concerns over modesty. If you draw a superhero in a form fitting leotard you have the problem of the reader wondering what's underneath. Do you show a bulge, suggesting genitals? Is he naked under there? If they're wearing underwear outside, it makes it clear they're not going "commando." After that, the style was kept due to tradition.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 08-16-2006, 01:55 AM
dougie_monty dougie_monty is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Gardena, CA 90248-3235
Posts: 8,090
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cherry Garcia
In case they get in an accident, their underwear stays clean?

WAG: Most comic heroes were created in the 30's and 40's and the artists (and editors) felt it drew less attention to the crotch area. It's my guess they were first drawn that way to allay censor concerns over modesty. If you draw a superhero in a form fitting leotard you have the problem of the reader wondering what's underneath. Do you show a bulge, suggesting genitals? Is he naked under there? If they're wearing underwear outside, it makes it clear they're not going "commando." After that, the style was kept due to tradition.
I always used to wonder what the costume was made of. From the countours it looked as if it were plastic, but they'd really sweat under that.
Then there was Batman's cowl, and I never knew what that was made of; and the "goggles" or whatever worn by Robin, and Green Lantern and Speedy, which made them look as though they had no eyes! (cf. Little Orphan Annie]
Remember this dialog from a Bill Cosby album?
Superman: Look, I told you I'm Superman; can't you see this red S on my chest?
Cop: Yes, and I'm gonna give you a red S and a black I if you don't come out of that phone booth!
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 08-16-2006, 02:30 AM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Dutch in the Netherlands
Posts: 8,063
Something Awful has an hilarious review of superheroes' fashion here.
Quote:
Dr. Thorpe: There are certain nerds that complain that comics aren't taken seriously enough as an art form. In this edition of Fashion SWAT, we're going to show you why those people are idiots.
Zack: One of our readers suggested that we apply our discerning sense of style to the outlandish costumes of various super heroes and villains. Thanks for the idea, Johnathan! This issue we're going to "Biff!" and "Pow!" our way through more than a dozen of the most ridiculous hero costumes you have ever seen.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 08-16-2006, 02:53 AM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Jinan, China
Posts: 7,763
They don't. They wear them over tights. It's not like they're blocking access to pockets or anything.

Why do they do this? Because that's what wrestlers and circus aerialists sometimes wear, and that's what their costumes were originally based on. This, according to Julius Schwartz in his introduction to an early Batman TPB.

Batman stopped doing this for awhile in the 90s, and Captain America has ditched the tights and briefs for navy blue combat fatigues. It still varies by artist, though.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 08-16-2006, 04:43 AM
Raguleader Raguleader is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
I propose this theory:

They do so because they can.

Seriously, would YOU walk up to Superman in the street and say "HEY MORON! DON'T YOU KNOW YOUR UNDERWEAR GOES UNDER THE PANTS?"

You say that kinda thing in the city and you might get beat up!
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 08-16-2006, 04:48 AM
Derleth Derleth is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
If Superman is doing something it's because he's a dick.
__________________
"Ridicule is the only weapon that can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them."
If you don't stop to analyze the snot spray, you are missing that which is best in life. - Miller
I'm not sure why this is, but I actually find this idea grosser than cannibalism. - Excalibre, after reading one of my surefire million-seller business plans.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 08-16-2006, 05:04 AM
Foldup Rabbit Foldup Rabbit is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
I figured it's because heroes have to wear leotards. Why? Because leotards offer comfort, flexibility, minimal chances of snagging on things and a limited degree of warmth. A full-body unitard in one solid colour is uninteresting to look at. Heroes started having their tailors add embellishments. Capes, logos, goggles, belts, underwear. Suddenly, heroes are capable of being benevolent protectors of society and fashion forward.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 08-16-2006, 05:44 AM
shizaru shizaru is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Maybe one day there will be a hero that will just wear fruit of the loom briefs and nothing else....tightie-whtie man or something.

As much as I like comic books though, the underwear thing does look kinda silly. And yes, if I were Lois Lane interviewing Superman I'd ask "Whats the on-the-outside-underwear thing about?".
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 08-16-2006, 05:53 AM
Lord Il Palazzo Lord Il Palazzo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Simple, they don't want to go commando (not enough support for the sidekicks if you know what I mean.) However, they also want to avoid embarrassing panty lines under their tights. Thus they where their briefs on the outside. Problem solved.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 08-16-2006, 06:08 AM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Dutch in the Netherlands
Posts: 8,063
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Il Palazzo
However, they also want to avoid embarrassing panty lines under their tights. Thus they where their briefs on the outside. Problem solved.
You gotta admit, it does seem like a good idea. Might catch on outside of superhero fashion as well. Wearing the short-sleeved tee over the longsleeved one was a huge success too, after all.

:: imagines grungy Nirvana-fans dressed in t-shirt-over longsleeved T-shirt, and wearing boxerbriefs over jeans ::

:: giggles ::
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 08-16-2006, 06:09 AM
Scissorjack Scissorjack is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Auckland
Posts: 6,670
Quote:
Originally Posted by shizaru
Maybe one day there will be a hero that will just wear fruit of the loom briefs and nothing else....tightie-whtie man or something.
Doctor Manhattan pioneered that trend: he went from black leotard to boxers to a thong to his birthday suit.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 08-16-2006, 07:07 AM
kittenblue kittenblue is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Posts: 6,496
Please. That isn't underwear, it's an outer garment. The proper sequence is underwear, tights, and then the contrasting color extremely short-shorts.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 08-16-2006, 07:40 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Dictator:From Now On, Underwear will be changed Every Half Hour. In order to Check on this, Underwear Will Be Worn On The Outside!

Woody Allen: What's Spanish for insane?

-- Woody Allen's movie Bananas


Superheros are just following el jefe's guidelines.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 08-16-2006, 08:10 AM
ddgryphon ddgryphon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Well, in the 19th and early 20th century athletic wear didn't mean anything like it does today. The original mystery men like Superman and Batman had their costumes based on circus and athletic costumes (essentially tights with trunks to hide the super-jewels and magic power rod that they had to pack into their skin tight costumes).

I looked for some classic fitness gear and circus costumes the best I came up with was ths:

http://www.german-hosiery-museum.de/...ten1886_02.htm

The costumes were a natural outgrowth of what athletes and circus performers wore at the time -- and heroes of the era were naturally a combination of those two things.

I still want a picture of someone pointing to Batgirl and screaming CAMEL-TOE!

Because in that outfit, I don't know how she could avoid it. (http://users.indytel.com/~thompson/samples/batgirl.jpg)
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 08-16-2006, 08:56 AM
Loopydude Loopydude is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Whether or not Superman and 80's Madonna had similar fashion sensibilities, do you ever wonder how those costumes even survive? I figure maybe the unitard portion is a more conventional fabric, but the portion that looks like a pair of briefs is made of some super-strong carbon composite so that, after the end of a battle involving flame throwers and artillery shells, Superman's chest may show a little, but his super dick isn't hanging out through a tear.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 08-16-2006, 09:11 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Quote:
Whether or not Superman and 80's Madonna had similar fashion sensibilities, do you ever wonder how those costumes even survive? I figure maybe the unitard portion is a more conventional fabric, but the portion that looks like a pair of briefs is made of some super-strong carbon composite so that, after the end of a battle involving flame throwers and artillery shells, Superman's chest may show a little, but his super dick isn't hanging out through a tear.

The old continuity had that Superman's suit was made from the cloth SuperBaby was wrapped up in, unwoven and re-woven to shape. It was Super the same way he was, and so could put up with normal Superman wear and tear, like going through supernovae and magma and regular exposure to hot and speeding bullets. I'll bet they didn't change that stuff, because the alternative would be Stan Lee's "unstable molecules".
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 08-16-2006, 09:37 AM
Revenant Threshold Revenant Threshold is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Thanks for the link! I'm going to have to work "billowy disco Jesus" into conversation somehow.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 08-16-2006, 10:00 AM
Biffy the Elephant Shrew Biffy the Elephant Shrew is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Over on the left
Posts: 11,757
Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
The old continuity had that Superman's suit was made from the cloth SuperBaby was wrapped up in, unwoven and re-woven to shape. It was Super the same way he was, and so could put up with normal Superman wear and tear, like going through supernovae and magma and regular exposure to hot and speeding bullets. I'll bet they didn't change that stuff, because the alternative would be Stan Lee's "unstable molecules".
Actually, as I understand it (never having actually read this in a comic), the alternative was that Superman's invulnerability forms an aura that extends maybe half an inch outside his skin. Consequently, his tights were protected, but his cape could get torn up in action.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 08-16-2006, 10:08 AM
Ellen Cherry Ellen Cherry is offline
Rich as a Lannister
Moderator
 
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Near Eskippakithiki
Posts: 11,270
Quote:
Originally Posted by ddgryphon
Well, in the 19th and early 20th century athletic wear didn't mean anything like it does today. The original mystery men like Superman and Batman had their costumes based on circus and athletic costumes (essentially tights with trunks to hide the super-jewels and magic power rod that they had to pack into their skin tight costumes).

I looked for some classic fitness gear and circus costumes the best I came up with was ths:

http://www.german-hosiery-museum.de/...ten1886_02.htm

The costumes were a natural outgrowth of what athletes and circus performers wore at the time -- and heroes of the era were naturally a combination of those two things.
<snip>
Those boys' boys could use a house!
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 08-16-2006, 10:13 AM
Otto Otto is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Madison WI
Posts: 22,506
Quote:
Originally Posted by shizaru
Maybe one day there will be a hero that will just wear fruit of the loom briefs and nothing else....tightie-whtie man or something.
The Spectre has been working that look since 1940.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Biffy the Elephant Shrew
Actually, as I understand it (never having actually read this in a comic), the alternative was that Superman's invulnerability forms an aura that extends maybe half an inch outside his skin. Consequently, his tights were protected, but his cape could get torn up in action.
The original explanation was the super-blankets. When John Byrne did his "Man of Steel" mini-series in the mid-80s, one of the things he retconned was changing the blanket explanation into the aura. IIRC the aura was art of Superman's invulnerability and also protected people he carried while flying from friction. This was part of Byrne's overall attempt to move Superman's powers from the realm of the physical to the psionic. I believe that the aura has been retconned back into the blankets, along with most of the other Byrne-era retcons.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 08-16-2006, 11:34 AM
dwc1970 dwc1970 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by shizaru
Maybe one day there will be a hero that will just wear fruit of the loom briefs and nothing else....tightie-whtie man or something.
Meet Captain Underpants.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 08-16-2006, 02:07 PM
rjung rjung is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Beaten by dwc1970!

(Oh, and the new Captain Underpants book was released yesterday. Get it or be branded an unloving parent forever... )
__________________
--R.J.
Electric Escape -- Information superhighway rest area #10,186
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:30 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.