Sunspel and the Invention of the Boxer Short

Loose, breathable and comfortable, the boxer short is a staple of the men’s underwear wardrobe. But that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, their popularity is relatively recent and Sunspel has played a key part in it.

The story of the boxer short begins 100 years ago, on the other side of the Atlantic, in a boxing ring. Jacob Golomb, the founder of the boxing brand Everlast, designed the shorts as a nimbler alternative to the leather belt-bound pants that most fighters wore. They found quick success when legendary boxer Jack Dempsey, aka the Manassa Mauler, endorsed them and shot to international Heavy-Weight fame.

Throughout the 20s and 30s, they remained popular in the boxing world, but the elastic waist and light cotton made them increasingly popular undergarments. They became standard issue in the US army during the Second World War and like T-shirts, the Parka, duffle coats and trench coats, they made the transition from the army to wider society after the war. Nevertheless, they remained strictly on the other side of the Atlantic.



That changed when in 1947, Peter Hill, the great grandson of Sunspel’s founder, went on his honeymoon to the States. There he discovered the boxer short and (perhaps in an attempt to impress his new wife) brought the design home to Britain. He wasn’t completely happy with it though and decided to use his tailoring skills to improve the design, adding a back panel, flattening and smoothing the seams and using the world’s finest woven cotton to create something that felt truly comfortable. Today, his is still the standard design for boxer shorts all around the world.

Despite the new design, boxers remained a niche style among men. However, in 1985 their fortune changed and they became an overnight sensation. It was all thanks to Levis who released an iconic laundrette advert. In it, heart-throb Nick Kamen strips off a pair of Levis jeans to the strains of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it through the Grapevine”. As he removed his trousers in front of the rapturous onlookers, he revealed a pair of crisp, white, Sunspel boxer shorts.


Today we have a range of boxer shorts and underwear to suit all tastes. They are made in a family-owned factory in Portugal which places sustainability, energy efficiency and high-quality production at the heart of everything they do and our boxers are made with 100% extra-long staple cotton for maximum comfort. When it comes to the boxer short, you can’t beat Sunspel.