We all wear undercrackers, well, most of us and as guys we have a choice. It wasn’t that way when I was a kid. Back then, once we were out of nappies (diapers), mum bought us the same underwear as she bought my father. And didn’t we look good … especially in winter, in our long-johns. I had ‘em, but never got a neat pair like my grandfather’s, the ones that had a button flap in the back. For some reason, we were not allowed to talk about the flap!
Growing up in the industrial north of England meant that by tradition my mum did the washing every Monday. Before she scored an electric washing machine, she had a tub and a mangle. For really dirty things, she had a gas boiler. Into this, once the water was bubbling, went the disgusting, snot-filled hankies (we always had colds in the north, from the smog). Why our grundies needed boiling I could never work out but they regularly joined the snot-rags in the boiler.
Drying the clothes was a Monday afternoon ritual down our cobbled street. The women ran their washing lines across the street and secured them to hooks driven into the wall of the house opposite. Both families could share this washing line which was raised in the middle by a wooden prop with a notch in the end. The prop kept the bed sheets from trailing on the ground. Sometimes there would be 20 washing lines hung across the street when the coalman drove down with his truck. When the coalman arrived on washday was the only time I heard the women in our street swear. All but the woman five rows down who I once overheard mum say wasn’t paying for her coal with cash … or the milk, either!
Undercrackers were never hung in the middle of the line, it was too public. They had their own space over the back yard, out of sight near the wall. It didn’t stop my mum from looking at what everyone else was wearing under their clothes and on Monday tea time there would be whispers of: “the shame” “disgusting” “that’s what they get up to” “how could she” passed around the table. If we joined in, we got a slap.
Our grundies were never stained (oh, the shame), no, stains were boiled out with the snot in the hankies, but they did turn gray over time, on the line, thanks to the soot from the factory chimneys. When they had passed fifty shades of grey, they were bleached. After hundreds of bleachings they went into holes and now were dried as close to the wall as possible. When the holes became too big, mum dried them on a clothes-horse around the coal fire. When they fell apart, she used them as rags for polishing the sideboard.
You brought great shame on the family if you were run over and killed by a bus while wearing dirty undies. It was OK to be dead as long as you’re undies sparkled when they laid you out.
As we grew older, the long, baggy-sided kecks of early childhood gave way to tighter, more comfortable attire. Then dad took to wearing string vests and matching underpants, and that meant I had to wear the same. The shame … I no longer undressed with the rest of the lads for school gym.
At 16, I told my parents I was leaving home and left them and my string underpants behind.
And I discovered girls! I never scored (well, not much) but I had to be ready. I now wore undercrakers that were tight, high-cut, not budgie-smugglers, per se, but cut full enough to … er, hide a wayward rooster. Black, was the color of choice with a few pairs of red and blue thrown in for luck.
Around this time, I bought my first suit. When the tailor asked, “Which side do you dress?”
I said, “It depends on which side of the bed I dropped my clothes the night before!”
We weren’t sophisticated in the north, just randy.
Going to sea set me free in more ways than one. Yes, we had to wear long-johns in the cold North Sea but once I left chilly Europe behind, I just about did away with clothes all together.
Life in the Caribbean was wonderful; no shirts, no shoes no undercrackers!
Like a woman ‘going commando’ can be caught out by a gust of wind, or a steep flight of steps (I can hear mum saying “the shame”), wearing shorts and nothing else is only safe if they are a good length. Same goes for a sarong. To be told by an attractive woman, while sitting at the bar, that “one wheel” is hanging out is a show stopper.
Nowadays my wife buys my undies (I’m from Yorkshire and buy nothing unless I can help it.) The last lot I thought rather sexy until I found they had moved the label from the back to the side and spent five minutes every morning for a week hopping around on one leg.