'Lifeguard' Full Support Briefs By Reis

'Lifeguard' Full Support Briefs By Reis, c. 1950s, USA. Photography by Tigz Rice. The Underpinnings Museum.

Date: c. 1950s

Origin: United States

Fabric: Cotton, rayon and nylon

Brand: Reis


Robert Reis & Co was founded in New York in 1885. The packaging of this pair of mid-twentieth century ‘Lifeguard’ underwear by Reis indicates that the high firm waistband will help the wearer achieve ‘trim military posture’. Much like women’s elasticated girdles of the 1950s, this underwear has a sturdy stretch panel made from cotton, rayon, and rubber designed to trim the waist and smooth unsightly bulges. In his 2010 book The story of Men’s Underwear, Dr Shaun Cole writes about the history of corsetry for men and the origins of the military posture marketing line:

‘Stays were, however, not just worn for vanity but also used for practical purposes such as in the army and many European accounts mention military men wearing stays, which helped them attain the correct posture. They were also to help support the male body during athletic activities such as horeseback riding and hunting and “violent exercise”, as noted in The Workwoman’s Guide of 1840.’


From the collection of Lorraine Smith

Museum number: LS-2019-002


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