So That’s Why Superheroes Wear Their Underwear On The Outside

Why did Superman wear his frilly red underthings on the outside of his body stocking? The fine folks at Today I Found Out offer this simple, sensible explanation.

Technically the answer is they do not wear their underwear on the outside. If it’s on top, then whatever is underneath it becomes underwear, so really their super-clothes are in the right place, if not particularly fashionable.

I always figured Superman did it to keep people from focusing on how much he looks like Clark Kent. “You know who you look like… whoa, what’s with the red panties?”

But no, as the TIFO folks explain, it’s because circus performers had no idea how to wear shorts, and it infected comics.

This helpful factoid and much more can be found in TIFO‘s The Wise Book of Whys, which sounds like super bathroom reading.


  • The other reason I’ve heard is because of the printing and drawing techniques of the time benefiting from having the hands, briefs and boots in different colours to use as reference points. It’s also funny that the key differences between Flash Gordon and Superman are said to be the colour and cape, *not* the fact that FG also has no “underwear” on the outside. Bonus Fact: The earliest incarnations of Superman could only jump really high, not fly. This is why there is the strange sounding (for someone who can fly) line “Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”.

    • Superman powered up quite a bit over the years – he could not fly, had no super-breath or heat vision, pretty sure X-Ray vision was a late addition, and his strength and speed were much less than it has been recently. His “gaining power from the Sun” was added later.

      His recent incarnations have had him exceed light speed, strong enough to move planets, and so invulnerable that he could swan around within the Sun and survive handily. I recall one comment on the Justice League that the others were just there to pick up the Kryptonite…

      I found his death by Doomsday hard to believe partly because a punch to hurt Superman would need similar impact to a nuclear explosion, and partly because as Doomsday could not fly simply tossing him into space (possibly with a gust of super breath to maintain distance) would have been a much simpler and less risky strategy.

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