Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman and many other superheroes wear their underwear on the outside. But have you ever wondered what’s the story behind this weird design feature that became popular amongst comic artists?
Let’s find out.
While there have been many theories on the origins of the “underwear-on-the-outside” thing (which technically speaking, shouldn’t be called underwear since its worn over the pants), we now know the answer and it comes from one of the most trustworthy sources: the famous DC comics editor Julius Schwartz. (the article continues after the ad)
In his 2000 biography Man of Two Worlds:: My Life in Science Fiction and Comics, the 1944-1986 DC comics editor, reveals the inspiration behind this trend. As it turns out, superheroes wear their underwear over their pants because they were modeled after the clothing of aerial circus performers and wrestlers in the 1920s-1930s:
Because these incredibly gifted athletes amazed people with their fascinating stunts and enormous strength, it made sense for superheroes to adopt their clothing style of donning their underpants over their tights. After all, superheroes that fight crime should have an outfit that resembles incredible power, right?
Of course, these circus performers weren’t actually wearing underwear over their clothes but shorts over their leggings but this is of little significance:
The first cartoon that was designed having this style in mind was Flash Gordon in 1934 who was the inspiration behind the creation of Superman in 1938.