From The Dress Code
Class Basewear
Type Undergarment
Material Unknown
Length Unknown
Shape Unknown
Alias Unknown

A codpiece is a type of underwear that attaches to the front of the crotch of men's trousers.


The device consisted of a pouch, usually made of silk vet, with a flap that can be held closed by string ties, buttons, folds, or other methods.


From the ancient world there are extant depictions of articles of clothing designed to cover just the male genitalia; for example, archaeological recovery at Minoan Knossos on Crete has yielded figurines, some of whom wear only a garment covering the male genitalia. However, the codpiece, per se, appeared in everyday European fashion for men only many centuries later, associated with hose and trousers.


In fourteenth century European fashions, men's hose were two separate legs worn over linen drawers, leaving a man's genitals covered only by a layer of the linen drawers. As the century wore on and men's hemline fashion rose, the hose became longer and joined at the centre back, there rising to the waist, but remaining open at the centre front. Further shortening of the cote or doublet fashion resulted in more prominence of the genitals, so the codpiece began life as a triangular piece of fabric covering the gap to disguise that. Most of what is known about the cut, fit, and materials used for Renaissance codpieces is through portraits, clothing inventories, receipts for payments and tailor cutting guides.

As time passed, codpieces became shaped and padded to emphasize rather than to conceal, mostly the penis. It even became fashionable to design the codpiece to hold the penis in a position that insinuated that it was erect constantly.

Such excessive codpieces became an object of derision showered on outlandish fashions. The Renaissance author, François Rabelais, refers satirically to a book entitled On the Dignity of Codpieces, in the foreword to his 1532 book, The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel.

This fashion reached its peak of size and decoration in the 1540s before falling out of use by the 1590s.

Suits of armor of the 1600s followed civilian fashion, and for a time, codpieces were a prominent addition to the best full suits.


It was an important fashion item of European clothing during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

In the modern era, clothing devices with similar functions as codpieces are worn in some styles of underwear, in the leather subculture, and in performance costumes, such as for rock music and metal musicians. A similar device with rigid construction, an athletic cup, is used as protective underwear for male athletes.

Subcultural attire

A jock strap is another protective article of clothing that resembles a codpiece. Imitations of them made of leather may be worn in leather subcultural attire to cover and confine the genitals of a man, sometimes while wearing leather chaps. Rather than accentuating the male genitalia through exaggeration of the size of the wearer's penis and testicles, attention may be drawn to the genital area through decorative adornment such as metallic studs in such articles of clothing.

Heavy metal fashion

This type of clothing crossed over from the leather subculture to become an established part of heavy metal fashion performance costume when Rob Halford, of the band Judas Priest, began wearing clothing adopted from the gay biker and leather subculture while promoting the Killing Machine (AKA Hell Bent for Leather) album in 1978. Heavy metal singer King Diamond has been known to wear a similar article of clothing as part of his performance outfits. Black metal musician and Satanist Infernus wore this type of clothing as part of his attire during the Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam era of Gorgoroth. GWAR frontman Oderus Urungus also wore something he called The Cuttlefish of Cthulhu, that resembles the crossover article.

Pop music costumes

The Cameo front man Larry Blackmon sports such a crossover article of clothing that became his trademark in his videos "Word Up" and "Candy". Guns N' Roses front man Axl Rose wore one for most of the Appetite for Destruction Tour. Jethro Tull front man Ian Anderson performed in a similar article of clothing during the mid-1970s.

High fashion forays

Derivatives occasionally make an appearance on the haute couture catwalk. Jean Paul Gaultier, Thom Brown (2008, 2012, 2014) and Versace (2014) are designers who have used similar designs to explore themes of masculinity and sexuality.

See also

  • Koteka
  • Kynodesme
  • Willy warmer
  • 1500–1550 in fashion
  • 1550–1600 in fashion

New York Times interview with a codpiece maker