Sisqó may have been inspired to write an entire song about them, but he wasn’t the first to love thongs. The history of the barely-there underwear dates back to way before their heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s — and their origin may surprise you.
42000 BC: The ancient thong didn’t look quite like it does today — worn by hunter-gatherers throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe, some were made from the fur, feathers, and skins of their prey.
200 BC: The skimpiness of the thong is appealing not for its aesthetics but for its functionality — Japanese swimmers and sumo wrestlers don the garment, called fundoshi.
1939: The thong as we know it is born! The contemporary version of the whale tail makes its debut at the World’s Fair in New York City, when then-mayor Fiorello LaGuardia tells the city’s nude dancers to cover up. They do…technically.
1970s: Thong underwear doesn’t really leave the strip club until designer Rudi Gernreich invents the thong bikini in 1974. A year later, they’re sold as underwear too, but thongs show up more often on beachgoers in Brazil than in Americans’ underwear drawers.
Early 1990s: The thong goes mainstream in the U.S.…and it’s more practical than provocative — at least according to manufacturers, who try to market them as a seamless undergarment meant to be worn under slim-fit pants. But not everyone’s main concern is visible panty lines.
Mid-Late 1990s: Monica Lewinsky helps make “thong” a household word — and not for the anti-VPL factor. Lewinsky reports that she flirted with Bill Clinton by lifting the back of her suit jacket to reveal the straps of her thong underwear. But she’s not the only one who’s flossing — Victoria’s Secret holds its first public runway show, and consumers flock to its cheek-baring lingerie.
Early 2000s: Frederick’s of Hollywood says thongs now make up 90 percent of their underwear sales. In 2002, 123 million thongs are sold in the U.S., more than doubling the number sold just four years ago. We are at peak thong, people.
2010: Going full-cheek is starting to lose its appeal — lingerie line Eberjey tells Cosmopolitan that boy shorts (which reveal just the bottom of the booty) are their fastest-selling item, more than doubling the sales of their thongs.
2015: Our love affair with the thong may be almost over. Research company NPD Group reports that thong sales have decreased 7 percent over the last year. Sales of briefs, boy shorts, and high-waist underwear have grown 17 percent.
2016: False alarm? In May, Vogue declares that the thong is making a comeback…but we’ll believe it when we see it (and feel it).
There you have it — a brief history of itty-bitty briefs. Whether they’ll make a comeback or not remains to be seen…but trendy or not, we say wear what you want: thong, granny panties, or nothing at all.