"Boxers or Briefs?" has become a political litmus test for presidential candidates, but what does the answer really tell us? Quite a lot, argue Elaine Benson and John Esten in Unmentionables: A Brief History of Underwear
. The question posed to Bill Clinton
in 1992 may seem silly, but undergarments have a distinctly political part to play in history. During the women's movement, it was not effegies of men that women burnt, but bras, a daily reminder of difference--if not inequality. The history of underwear is an exposition that marks out the roles of culture and nature, the position of women, and the American love affair with the T-shirt. This thoroughly illustrated volume covers all, from the first fig leaf to the newest Fruit of the Looms and from bloomers to panties, revealing a side of humanity not often seen in public.
Without flogging the idea to death, Elaine Benson ... and John Esten ... suggest we are what we wear underneath it all.... The text is full of fascinating tidbits about the fripperies we take for granted.... The biggest news flash in Unmentionables
? We finally learn what Scotsmen wear underneath those kilts. The answer is not "nothing." -- The New York Times Book Review, Judith Newman