Monday, May 04, 2015

Size the Day - Tudor Menswear: Wolf Hall misses.

Did you know?

First, did you know cod is the ye Olde English term for scrotum?

Did you know men were size conscious in the day?

I knew they wore tights and codpieces, but I just thought it was the bar-wear of the day... What?

During publicity interviews for the recent BBC TV adaptation of Wolf Hall, Mark Rylance joked that the codpieces weren’t big enough. US co-production sensibilities, he hinted, required the gentlemen’s appendages to be “tucked away”. This was strenuously denied – there had been no codpiece memo from PBS, apparently – yet critics couldn’t help noticing that all the male characters were discreetly treated in the groin area. Even Damian Lewis, who as Henry VIII might have been expected to sport a giant phallus to emphasise the priapic gusts on which the plot turns, appeared to favour a series of tunics that reached coyly to his knees.

But a quick flip through Fashioning the Body makes you realise just how big the codpieces could have been, if the programme makers had wanted to go in that direction. By the 1530s, the decade in which Wolf Hall is mostly set, there was absolutely no subtlety on the subject. Codpieces (from “cod”, the old English word for scrotum) had become so large that it was impossible for men to bend over to pull on their shoes. This might not matter much if you had people to do that sort of thing for you, but it inconvenienced peasants and labourers, who, surprisingly, were also keen on turning their genitalia into a metaphor of dominance and control. - source

"Is that a phone in your pocket of are you just happy to see me?"

I find it strange as regards modesty, how men were rarely held to account - that it was always women who were condemned for immodest dress, when in fact, male attire could be rather provocative as well.

Since that period, the style has come and gone, but manages to resurface from time to time, and may be making a comeback in our day.
In the Regency period, skintight trousers for men were teamed with narrow coats (rather than Henrician puffed shoulders and barrel chests) to create a long, lean line broken by a wide buttoned flap that puckered and pouched much like an impromptu codpiece. The effect was to draw attention to the phallus while nonchalantly pretending that it was the last thing on your mind.
Now, 200 years on, we have something called shapewear, which comprises not just the obvious waist-pinching, bottom-lifting contraptions for women, but also men’s underpants with padded crotch. The idea is to fashion a discreet bulge under skinny jeans. This, says editor Denis Bruna, is a reaction to the baggy, falling-down aesthetic of five years ago, which made young men look as though they were wearing nappies or even skirts. - ibid

BTW:  Just to demonstrate how important this was to men in the Tudor era:  Did you know that when a man was hanged, drawn and quartered, he was emasculated before drawn and quartered?

"So you see Sherman, this sheds an entirely 
new light upon what we had heretofore
known about the Tudor penal code."


  1. That Mr. Peabody, he's so risque after a couple of cocktails!

  2. I'm not sure I'll ever look at the Friday fish fry the same way again.

  3. "it inconvenienced peasants and labourers, who, surprisingly, were also keen on turning their genitalia into a metaphor of dominance and control"

    Yep...nothing has changed. ;p

    I remember reading a book by Isabel Allende (set in South America) about a woman who writes her memoirs and recalls in great detail one of her lovers who was a South American revolutionary. She goes on to reveal that he used to have his member measured against other possible rivals in that revolutionary world to see who was the better man.

    Maybe she meant "bigger man?" Machismo and being known as a *ockman is a big deal in many parts of the Latino world.

    1. I didn't know that.

    2. I had heard stories but then they were confirmed from former co-workers who came from Uruguay and Chile. They said that it was not uncommon for men to measure themselves with a ruler and then brag about it. As to whether that's true, I don't know.

      I have an uncle who has always considered himself quite the cm. He was a womanizer for many years and bragged about taking Viagra and eating oysters and all kinds of aunt was the long suffering type who stood by her man.

      Anyway, the book I read was called, "Eva Luna." Old book with strange characters. ^^

    3. My, my, Abbey Roads has really gone to the dogs...salacious ones at that. See what happens when you don't check in for a while! First Terry goes on and on about cod pieces (under the guise of historical accuracy of course) and then Yaya, our sweet Yaya starts talking about men's endowments!

      I have to go find some pearls to clutch....though I do love that men go on and on about that particular topic..I have always been more interested in a big, healthy investment portfolio!!! Now THAT's hot..

    4. Mack - I thought I lost you! Glad you're back!

    5. Mack!

      You're back! ^^ was an amusing piece, Terry's post and I thought I'd add a few things that I had learned along this path of life. ;p

      If I were gifted with a big, healthy investment portfolio...why I would travel the world and stop in each and every Church along the way. ^^

    6. Mack, are You channeling Paris Hilton? That's hot! She probably agrees with you about the investment portfolio.

    7. Mack, are You channeling Paris Hilton? That's hot! She probably agrees with you about the investment portfolio.

    8. Mack - saw your comments on Crux - now I know where you go when you aren't here. Thanks for being nice to me.

  4. I'm surprised that Masterpiece didn't have better costuming; two bathrobes and a beret don't make him look like a king.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.