One of life’s greatest inventions is, hands down, the thong. Thongs are fantastic, especially if you are going for a lightweight, low-visibility piece of underwear.
Who can we thank for this award-worthy addition to underwear? When were they invented? Where did they come from? If you find yourself with any of these questions or have just found yourself down a history rabbit hole, that’s where we come in.
Thongs are a fab choice of underwear if you want to wear something with no visible line, like if you’re wearing leggings or some other form of tight-fitting clothing. Thongs can also be clutch if you want to be a little cheeky (if you know what we mean!). Thongs are all around a style-changer. With all the different styles and fits, you’re sure to find one that’s right for you.
We’ve done all the research: Here’s the incredible history of the thong and everything you’ve ever wanted to know about it (and maybe even more!).
What Are Thongs?
First and foremost, what are thongs?
Thongs are an underwear style with a larger piece of fabric in the back and a small triangle-shaped piece in the front. These pieces are connected by a thin band of material, leaving the cheeks exposed.
Thongs have become a popular choice for everyday underwear due to their low visibility and cheekiness. There are many kinds of thongs, including G-strings, thongs with and without seams, thongs with lace, and so many others. For example, G-strings usually feature elastic straps rather than fabric. Tangas (another variation of a thong) tend to provide more cheek coverage.
Regardless of what kind of thong you sport, they’re flawless pieces to add to your underwear collection.
Now that we have established exactly what a thong is and how we wear it, here’s everything you need to know about the history of the beloved thongs.
Early Versions of Thongs
Early versions of underwear came in all different forms, from simple loin cloths to bloomers worn by men and women of the early 19th and 20th centuries. But before even bloomers came to be, ancient civilizations had been wearing and using different forms of underwear than we know today.
Ancient Civilizations and Undergarments
Before the wide variety of underwear designs that we know and love, we had early forms of underwear like loincloths. The loincloth was one of the first documented forms of underwear, popping up around 2,000 or 3,000 BCE (although records indicate the loincloth popped up in other locations too).
In Egypt, loincloths were worn by both men and women, with the earliest form called “schenti.” The schenti was technically outerwear worn only by the upper classes, as everyone else tended to go about naked.
The Ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to ever commonly wear and utilize the idea of underwear for protection and modesty purposes. Ancient artwork shows pharaohs wearing clothes over loincloths as early as 1189 BCE.
Medieval Underwear to Present Pantaloons
When the 15th and 16 centuries rolled around, underwear was mostly linen shirts. During the Medieval period, men’s underwear would split in two, somewhat resembling what we might recognize today. Women’s underwear followed suit in the 19th century with the increase of factory work.
As history went on, underwear got longer and was worn as a full-body piece like bloomers and long joins and other forms of full-bodied underwear. We then said hello and goodbye to the Victorian corset and cone bra of the 1950s.
So, how did we end up with one of the most popular underwear types being one of the skimpiest?
Let’s dive into it.
How Did We Get Thongs?
Once underwear found itself actually under clothes, it became an issue of modesty rather than functionality if an individual was to expose what they were wearing under their clothes.
Underwear has always been a sort of taboo subject, especially in the early 20th century when society as a whole couldn’t even bear to look at a woman’s ankles, let alone her undergarments.
How did we end up with thongs?
Many historians believe that the first thong bikini made a scandalous appearance at the World Fair back in 1939. The reason behind thongs making their racy debut in New York City was a law passed at the time by the mayor of New York. The law decreed that the nude dancers and showgirls of the city had to cover up their “intimates” during their shows. To get around this ruling, the dancers began to sport g-string thongs to “cover up” without covering up at all.
Who Actually Invented Thongs?
It wasn't until the 1970s when fashion designer Rudi Gerneich was the official person credited with the creation of the thong bikini. Soon, thong bikinis were all the rave all over the world.
Thongs soon became a popular trend in bathing suits and underwear styles and began to be more and more common amongst the average consumer, not just New York showgirls!
Thongs and Media Exposure
While thongs were never inherently sexy, they developed a sexy association during the 1980s.
Born originally out of practicality, the use and view of thongs have changed over the years. Underwear remained taboo even after the introduction of the thong, but especially when thongs helped to sell “sex” early on in its media debut.
In the early 1970s, sexy images were a major selling point in advertising, and part of that was the usage of thongs in media and magazines. We’ve come a long way since 1907, when a woman named Annette Kellerman was arrested for wearing a one-piece swimsuit that showed her bare legs on Revere Beach.
Thongs in the 21st Century
Thongs didn’t hit the mainstream fashion industry until around the 1980s. Thongs hit pop culture in a unique way when musical artist Sisqo released “The Thong Song” in 1999 and rose to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in 2000. Soon after, thongs became more and more prominent in pop culture and media as a whole.
Thongs are more popular and stylish than ever. Not only thongs — men and women are strutting their stuff on the regular, from Pride Parade to beach days to hanging out at home.
Thongs of Today
Today, thankfully, underwear is whatever we want to be. Society as a whole is on its way to being more inclusive and diverse, especially in the way that underwear and lingerie are marketed and promoted.
At TomboyX, we’re proud to be one of the designers who are striving towards inclusivity.
We’ve still got a long way to go as a society as a whole, but thankfully we are seeing a push towards inclusivity in terms of gender inclusivity and body types as a whole. Our bodies should not be trends, and every body is beautiful.
Thongs today, while they carry their “residual sexiness,” are one of the most popular forms of underwear for daily and everyday wear. Celebrities rock 'em during live shows, and they’re commonly worn on the beach or under a comfy pair of leggings.
Under tight-fitting clothes like bike shorts or leggings, thongs act like a magic trick — all the lines simply disappear.
A high-quality thong should be built to last. Take care of your undies (and your body) by washing all your underwear — from thongs to boyshorts and everything in between — after every wear. This sounds like a great excuse to add to our underwear drawer so that we’re never caught unaware on laundry day.
TomboyX Underwear: Anything But Basic Basics
Thongs today are made from a variety of materials with all different amounts of coverage. If you are searching for a pair of underwear with low visibility, comfortable with a little cheekiness… the modern thong is the underwear for you.
Check out our wide collection of super comfy thongs that we have here at TomboyX that are not only sustainable but accessible as well. In everything that we do, we take pride in being size inclusive, gender-inclusive, and always environmentally conscious and forward.
Our TENCEL™ Modal thongs are super-soft; this fabric is made from renewable beechwood trees (and a touch of super-stretchy Spandex). The durable flatlock seams lie flat under clothes and never irritate or chafe.
Big Moves From Small Underwear: Thongs
If there’s ever a trivia question about thongs, after reading this, you’re sure to win that prize money! Whether you wear thongs or not, it’s fascinating to learn about where things that are prominent or used daily today originally came from.
We’ve all got a history… and our underwear does too!