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?

To protect their, uh… “truth, justice and the American way?” :confused:

Because both their parents died when they were very young, and they were never taught correctly.

You saying people in Kansas wear their underwear on the outside? That’d explain a few things.

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. :smiley:
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! :smiley:

Something Awful has an hilarious review of superheroes’ fashion here.

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.

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! :eek:

If Superman is doing something it’s because he’s a dick.

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.

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?”.

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.

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 ::

Doctor Manhattan pioneered that trend: he went from black leotard to boxers to a thong to his birthday suit.

Please. That isn’t underwear, it’s an outer garment. The proper sequence is underwear, tights, and then the contrasting color extremely short-shorts.

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.

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:


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)

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”.