A codpiece (from Middle English: cod, meaning “scrotum”) is a
covering flap or pouch that attaches to the front of the crotch of
men’s trousers and usually accentuates the genital area. It was held
closed by string ties, buttons, or other methods. It was an important item
of European clothing in the 15th and 16th centuries, and is still worn in the
modern era in performance costumes for rock music and metal musicians and
in the leather subculture.
From the ancient world there are extant depictions of the codpiece; for example,
archaeological recovery at Minoan Knossos on Crete has yielded figurines, some of which
are clad in codpieces. Most of what is objectively known about the cut, fit, and materials
of Renaissance clothing is learned from realistic portraits, clothing inventories, descriptive
receipts for payments of artifacts, or tailors’ cutting guides.In the 14th century, men’s
hose were two separate legs worn over linen drawers, leaving a man’s genitals covered only by a
layer of linen. As the century wore on and men’s hemlines rose, the hose became longer and
joined at the centre back but remained open at the centre front. The shortening of the cote
or doublet resulted in under-disguised genitals, so the codpiece began life as a
triangular piece of fabric covering the gap.
As time passed, codpieces became shaped and padded to
emphasize rather than to conceal, reaching their peak of size
and decoration in the 1540s before falling out of use by the 1590s.
Armor of the 16th century followed civilian fashion, and for a time
armored codpieces were a prominent addition to the best full harnesses.
A few of these are on display in museums today: the Metropolitan Museum
of Art in New York City has one, as does the Higgins Armory in Worcester,
Massachusetts; the armour of Henry VIII in the Tower of London has a
codpiece. In later periods, the codpiece became an object of the derision
showered on outlandish fashions. Renaissance humorist François
Rabelais jokingly refers to a book titled On the Dignity of Codpieces
in the foreword to his book The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel.
Through the same linguistic route, cods became
a modern slang term for the male genitalia.
Codpieces are worn in leather subcultural attire to cover and confine the
genitals of a man, sometimes while wearing leather chaps. The codpiece crossed over
from the leather subculture to become an established part of heavy metal fashion
performance costume when Rob Halford, of the band Judas Priest, began wearing clothing
adopted from the gay biker and leather subculture while promoting the Hell Bent for
Leather Album in 1978. Ian Anderson, front man for Jethro Tull, wore a codpiece during his
performances in the mid-1970s.
Gene Simmons of the American Rock Band Kiss often wore black and silver
costumes with codpieces. Shock rock performer Blackie Lawless, leader of the
group WASP, wore a codpiece that features a saw blade. Heavy metal singer King
Diamond has been known to wear a codpiece as part of his performance outfits.Electric
Six lead singer Dick Valentine can be seen wearing a brightly flashing codpiece in the
music video for the band’s 2003 hit single Danger! High Voltage. Metal singer Till
Lindemann of Rammstein occasionally wears codpieces on stage.
Black metal musician and Satanist Infernus
wore a codpiece as part of his attire during the Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam
era of Gorgoroth. William Murderface also wears a codpiece on
several occasions. Alice Cooper regularly wears bright red codpieces in concert.
GWAR front man Oderus Urungus wears a codpiece
called The Cuttlefish of Cthulu.
February 6, 2011 | Categories: Fashion, Fashion History, L'Histoire de Mode | Tags: 15th & 16th Century, 1930, 1930 by Chris Jackson, armor, armour, Chris Jackson, codpiece, Daily Updates, fashion, Fashion history, Hardcore Metal, Heavy Metal, jousting, L'Histoire de Mode, Leather, Metal, Rock n Roll, Role Play | Leave a comment